At Hoppinger we help our customers to digitally lead the way in their market. Preferably with disruptive solutions that make life easier for end users. This is only possible if our customers are eager to innovate and are willing to take risks. If the SSH - a leading player in student housing - comes to you with the ambition to break the beaten path together and work smarter and more innovatively based on the latest technology, then you only want one thing: collaboration. A challenge after our hearts!
Leading the way digitally
The ambition of the SSH went beyond the usual software on the market. So they started looking for a supplier of modern technology that could reduce manual operations in the back office to zero. A partner that would renew the entire digital infrastructure, make it future-proof in order to innovate together and further increase satisfaction among students and stakeholders. With each other's experience and insights, we have given a strategic, conceptual and technical interpretation to this ambition.
The SSH is one of the largest providers of student housing in the Netherlands. With around 19,000 rooms, studios and homes in cities such as Utrecht, Tilburg, Groningen and Rotterdam, they provide housing for Dutch and international students. With us as a partner, the SSH wants to make a few big steps in their digitisation: digitising back office processes, creating an optimal digital service for students, contractors and universities, and innovation based on data.
The focus is continuously on a number of main objectives:
- Increasing satisfaction among students and other stakeholders;
- Standardising and automating back office processes, with the ultimate goal of reducing manual handling to zero;
- A technical architecture and a data landscape as a robust basis for new digital developments in the future.
The starting point
The SSH already had numerous digital applications. From living space distribution systems for regular and Short Stay rentals, to various websites, supply portals and landlord portals. Sounds good in itself, but it also had some drawbacks: the landscape consisted of too many systems. They were not all integrated with each other. And the data was also insufficiently structured and therefore not usable for data analysis or BI applications. All those different platforms did not make the 'Student Journey' optimal.
Analysis & strategy
In order to be able to move from the existing situation to the dream situation, we started with a thorough analysis of the organisation, the processes, the data, the digital landscape, the various stakeholders and of course the student’s 'jobs to be done'. With that input and the defined long and short term goals, we entered the ideation phase. How do we realise all the goals of all those different stakeholders as well as the organisation?
Ideas & roadmap
Many ideas came from that. Low-threshold ideas, such as UX adjustments, but also ambitious solutions, such as eliminating certain back office processes, AI-driven chatbots and a complete rebranding of the personal environment. By testing these ideas for added value within the complex business case, we drew up a roadmap together.
Foundation for data and technology
In an extensive process such as this, it is essential to design a well-thought-out system architecture and data structure. Together with a delegation from the SSH IT team, our software architects and database architects have designed an Enterprise Architecture that meets all the requirements of a modern digital architecture.
Loosely coupled, highly aligned
Our principles for a future-proof digital architecture have also been applied in this case: enterprise-level technology, an architecture consisting of components that can be integrated via APIs, high security and performance as well as a high-quality user experience. The technical foundation in brief:
- Data is stored in the system where that data should be stored: content in a CMS (headless SharePoint), financial data in the accounting package, resources in the ERP and business-specific data in a separate PostgreSQL database.
- We integrated all that data via Microsoft Graph/OData APIs and the Azure Service Bus. This makes it available for BI applications and for interactions with internal and external end users.
- SSH's own business logic has been realised outside those back office systems: we always use a healthy balance of standard software and low-code (Microsoft ecosystem) and custom software (.NET Core/C#).
- The actual interfaces with the end users are made as so-called Single Page Applications (SPA), developed with TypeScript and React, which ensure a fast and smooth user experience.
Hoppinger thinks along as a partner: together we arrive at new and valuable applications, using the latest technology.
- Ronald de Lange, IT manager SSH
A big first step
Usually we are a big believer in keeping the first step small, the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) thought, the teaching of Design Thinking. A quick go-to-market, immediately collecting and analysing data, and then the next steps. In our collaboration with the SSH, however, step 1 was to replace almost all existing basic applications. The MVP was therefore no longer so 'minimum', but a significant first step as part of an extensive digitisation strategy. This is what we do in the first phase:
- Completely new website with renewed brand identity
- Introducing a virtual assistant to the students
- Supply portal integrated into the website
- 'My environment' for tenants, on desktop and mobile
- Notification system and message box in my environment
- Back office application for registrations, housing allocation, hosting, contract formation, online payment and communication processing
- Integration with DMS, ERP (Wocas) and accounting package
- Database for custom data
- Integration with Data Warehouse for BI applications
- Chatbot for quick answers to frequently asked questions
- Cleaning and migration of existing data
- And everything in the cloud (Azure Platform)
We are on our way
A robust technical architecture as the basis for the future: that stands. Also with the restructuring of the data, we guarantee both the quality and integrity of that data. In the primary back office process, the adjustments will ensure that the number of manual process steps is reduced from 12 to 1. We can automate this last step in collaboration with other parties involved. So already a huge time saver! Time that can be spent on providing service to students and achieving that other main objective: increasing satisfaction among students and other stakeholders.
Now that horizon 1 is almost ready, we are already looking at the second and third horizons of the digitisation strategy of the SSH. In the coming period we will be working on:
Short Stay for international students
All processes and interactions surrounding the so-called Short Stay, often international students or PhD candidates who stay in the Netherlands for 5 to 7 months, are added to the various components in the landscape. In this way we also create an improved student journey for Short Stay students and we digitise the underlying processes.
Data and AI-driven communication
To further optimise student satisfaction throughout their entire student journey, we are working behind the scenes on an application that enables the SSH to send automated mailings to large, but also very selective groups of students. For example, to all students who live on a certain floor of a complex. Then it would of course be nice if, not only the back office of the SSH but also the students, could see all this communication clearly in their tenant portal. For this we use Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central in combination with Microsoft Teams for 1-on-1 communication, and an AI-based chatbot for automated answering of questions.
The ecosystem of the future
Horizon 2 and 3 are much more about innovation and disruptive thinking. What will the landscape of offering (social) student housing look like in 5 or 10 years? What role does the SSH play in this? What can we do now to be at the forefront of that development? In this way we keep each other sharp, we use each other's knowledge and we continue to focus on scalable innovation.