Frost, filming and Photobook. All the stories from our Photobook User Day

Looking out of my bathroom window I could see frost covering the roofs of neighbouring houses. It was dark and cold – but it was going to be worth it as I prepared myself for the journey to London for our second Photobook User day.

After some much needed porridge, I headed to meet colleagues at the station. A quick selfie and we were off.

The selfie was not just to boost our spirits, it marked the start of our social media takeover! Tasked to tweet, film customer comments, and provide a live account of what we discuss, we were ready and buzzing for the day ahead!

Arriving at our venue for the day, kindly hosted by Photobook customers, Tower Hamlets Community Housing, I was looking forward to meeting customers, listening to their user stories and collecting the feedback we need to keep improving Photobook for the future.

Photobook began life as a 160 page paper document. Born out of our Estates Services Club many years ago, the paper document gave people a common and consistent way of assessing the quality of an estate. Example photos and gradings were provided as a benchmark for rating places and prioritising action.

Whilst popular and well-loved, the paper document was starting to feel dated and old-fashioned – and so, the Photobook app and web portal was designed and launched. Delivering the same service as the paper version – but with many more features and flexibility that has seen people reducing time, removing duplication of work and delivering instant reports and performance monitoring.

The User Day provided a perfect platform for sharing successes, best practices and user stories. But it also allowed customers to challenge the developer face to face – asking about future features, suggesting improvements, sharing little gripes that would make their experiences even better. Photobook has always been about co-creation and collaboration, and today was set to celebrate just that.

Capturing the themes and topics of the day, our social media focused solely on Photobook – and it was fantastic to share so many customer stories in between the set sessions.

“Why did you decide to use the Photobook?” was easily answered by colleagues from East Kent Housing, just before a fantastic presentation from Catalyst, who explained how they have saved time and money, as well as managing workloads of their staff.

With Photobook, it was clear to see they loved the idea of being able to change forms via the web portal, implementing their own grading systems in line with their business priorities.

A swift coffee break and a chance for me to ask Homes for Haringey “How has the Photobook changed the way you work?” Gethin Segel was happy to respond with.

Next up was a presentation on behalf of Castle Vale Community Housing (CVCH), part of Pioneer Group. Sharing their motivators for change, they wanted “a more efficient, environmentally friendly and cost-effective way of producing daily reports.” Photobook is now helping them with a variety of tasks, such as reporting repairs, raising fire risk assessment works, recording daily block and scheme inspections, reporting on fly tipping, vehicle checks and more. It was great to hear that Photobook “has vastly improved our service over a short space of time and is well liked by staff who find it one of their most useful tools”.

As lunch approached, I asked colleagues at Estuary “What results have you seen from using the Photobook?”, Paul Murphy had this to say.

Richard Smith from Origin Housing also volunteered to share “What would you say to those implementing Photobook”, find out what he said.

The videos were going well, social media was capturing the day and customers were engaged and genuinely interested in how others were working.

The final session of the day opened our minds to the potential of Photobook. Estuary Housing saw beyond estate inspections and shared a case study about how they are using Photobook to support their income and expenditure processes. A real eye-opener and it certainly got the room talking!

Wrapping up a fantastic day, I asked Sheena Monilal at Tower Hamlets Community Housing “What do you get from attending the Photobook user days?” summarising their experiences she said.

It was a great interactive day, with lots of great stories and enthusiasm shared by everyone in the room. As we left for the train home, I spoke to our newest customers, South Essex Homes on the way out, they were very much looking forward to getting started – we look forward to hearing their story at the next User Day.

If you’d like to find out more about Photobook, please get in touch at photobook@housemark.co.uk.

By Manveer Hundal

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