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Blutek launches Blubrik User Group and online user forum

Over 15 staff representing clients who use the BluBrik software met at the Housing Federation in July to launch the BluBrik User Group. Following the success of the user group meeting, BluTek also launched an online user forum for the user group's exclusive use. As a result of the enthusiastic response from our clients, the next meeting of the BluBrik User Group is scheduled for October.

For further information please contact Russ Altendorf on russ.altendorf@blutek.co.uk

GreenSquare Group recognises that work flow is the way to ensure that investment in software really delivers

GreenSquare Group has chosen BluTek as its technology partner in a major redesign of its core development systems. The project will implement the suite of BluBrik systems covering Development & Planning, Project Management, Sales & Marketing, and Defects Management.

The systems will fully integrate the business processes from initial feasibility assessment right through to sales and marketing using the innovative BluTek WorkFlow™ engine.

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Richard Reynolds, Financial Planning & Analysis Manager, GreenSquare Group, said, “We wanted a true technology partner not just a software package supplier and were impressed by BluTek’s approach, capability, and relationships with existing clients. We believe that the built-in WorkFlow engine that the systems utilise will help us to improve our business processes in an increasingly complex development programme – and deliver the efficiency gains that most systems only promise. The result will be a better service to our customers, management team and our board.”

BluTek provides all its systems on a ‘Software as a Service’ basis. This approach minimises clients’ risks and investment costs; and speeds up implementation. BluTek looks after the software system and the clients’ data, and the software is accessible by the client’s staff from any location where internet access is possible, including mobile access.

Southern Housing implements BluTek sales & marketing system

Brockenhurst, UK, November, 2011 — Southern Housing Group has begun using a web-based 'software as a service' system from BluTek for its property sales and marketing activities.

Mark Sutton, sales and marketing director, Southern Housing Group, said, “When we began our initiative to improve efficiency and increase income from the sale and marketing of our property portfolios, we knew we needed a very specialised system. We spent over a year looking for one that would not only automate and control our marketing and sales processes, but also help us to invent new processes that we could easily manage from the point of handover through to the eventual property rental or sale.

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"We were amazed when we came across BluTek's sales and marketing system. It was not only affordable and slick, but because it overlaid workflows on top of the customer relationship database, we could actually get the system to follow our work processes, monitor the activities of our staff, and keep control of sales targets from start to finish."

Southern Housing Group worked with BluTek to map the workflows needed to create sales and marketing campaigns, follow up on leads and ensure that the entire sales and marketing team are fully in touch with each other and with prospects and clients. The system also integrates with the Civica Universal Housing system used by Southern Housing Group.

Southern Housing Group capitalises on their new Sales & Marketing System...

Brockenhurst, UK, November, 2011 — Southern Housing Group is the latest housing association to implement the new Sales & Marketing System from BluTek.

According to Mark Sutton, Sales & Marketing Manager SHG "...When we began our strategic initiative to improve efficiency and increase income from the sale and marketing of our property portfolios, we knew we would need a highly specialised system. We spent over a year searching for a system that would fit the bill, one that would automate and control our good marketing and sales processes, but also help us to invent new processes that we could easily manage and monitor from the point of handover right through to the eventual rental or sale of property..."

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"...We were amazed when we came across BluTek's Sales and Marketing System. It was not only affordable and slick – but because it overlays a workflow approach on top of the customer relationship database, we had everything we needed. We could actually get the system to follow our work processes, monitor the activities of all our staff and keep control of sales targets from start to finish. On top of getting a fantastic system, the whole project was handled professionally by BluTek and by using a combined workshop and training session approach it only took 6 months from placing an order to going live. I cannot recommend this system highly enough and I am very pleased that SHG were ahead of the game in adopting the system..."

SHG collaborated closely with BluTek to map out the workflows that are essential for creating effective sales and marketing campaigns, to follow up on leads and to ensure that the entire sales and marketing team are fully in touch with each other and with prospects and clients. The system also interfaces with Civica’s Universal Housing System, and could be made to interface with other housing management systems, as required.

BluTek provides all its systems on a 'Software as a Service' basis. This approach minimises clients’ risks and investment costs; and speeds up implementation. BluTek looks after the software system and the clients' data, and the software accessible by the client from any location where internet access is possible, including mobile access.

IT decisions – Putting the cart before the horse

Brockenhurst, UK, November, 2011 — Pete Mylett, CEO, BluTek —The task of selecting the most appropriate software for the business is now decades old. Yet, as a supplier, we still see a very wide range of approaches to this very important investment decision.

I am keen to see potential customers doing a really good job of selecting software – especially if we are in the running. You might say that this is not altruistic; we obviously think we would win if the selection process is rigorous and challenging and not the usual 'come in and do a demo' type of invitation.

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But what do we mean by 'rigorous and challenging'? Well for a start, look at the rigour of the analysis you have carried out to nail down the business problem, issue or process that you are trying to address. Therein lies the first clue to 'rigour'; if your analysis is good then you will have done a lot to improve your chances of selecting the right system for your business.

Have you actually carried out an analysis of the issue you are trying to address? For example, do you know:

  • Do you have standards for this decision?
  • Do you have benchmarks for this decision?
  • Do you have a way of identifying the return on this decision? (i.e. solving the issue that you have addressed in your earlier rigorous analysis)

How challenging will you be when comparing software packages? I won’t dwell on the usual things you should list in your selection checklist (e.g. how many customers does the supplier have?) and instead I will jump directly to the more subtle challenges that selection teams seem to ignore, but where I believe you could really find out what your potential supplier is made of. Let me give you a few pointers to illustrate what I mean:

  • Is the supplier‘s solution focused on business processes or simply on databases? It is always a good idea to periodically review your business processes. A great opportunity for such a review is when selecting a new software package. However, there is a limit to the extent to which you should re-write your processes to match theneeds of a supplier’s software package.
  • Ask the supplier whether it is prepared to (or able to) adjust its package to fit with your requirements.
  • Is the supplier prepared to engage with you on reviewing your business processes?
  • How much adjustment can be carried out using built-in settings, and how much will need potentially expensive software modifications? Most importantly, ask to speak to some of the supplier’s existing customers to see whether its promises of bespoke software additions really happen and at what cost.
  • If your processes suit a workflow-modelling solution, does the package use workflow and if so, can the workflow be modified by you or does it require input from the supplier?
  • Was the supplier‘s solution specifically designed from the start to improve communication, coordination and information flow across all the relevant departments of the business?

I strongly believe that it is one of the roles of an IT/IS department to break down barriers between the different departments within a company, and therefore to be focused on providing software solutions that create effective communications, improve coordination and speed data flow.

How many times do you see different versions of a spreadsheet purporting to be the same, but containing conflicting data, different data categorisations, different time ranges and so on? Spreadsheets were a great invention but they are not and never will be software solutions. Spreadsheets have their place, but software solutions will ensure that there is only one version of the truth and that it is accessible by all relevant and authorised staff.

We all need to capture and process huge amounts of information, so it is very frustrating, inefficient and error-prone to ask staff to enter the same piece of data more than once. In my view, this should be an important goal of any IT/IS department. So when looking at a new package, consider:

  • Is the supplier willing to work with you to look at how its products will fit in with your existing systems?
  • Does the package communicate effectively within its own modules as well as with third-party systems?
  • Is the supplier prepared to spend time mapping data flows with your staff in order to optimise coordination, accuracy and speed?
  • Are there any areas even within the supplier’s software solution where data is entered more than once?
  • Is the supplier willing to write new interfaces where these do not already exist? If the supplier is willing to write new interfaces, check how well these are implemented with some of the supplier’s existing customers.

BluTek does have the unusual perspective of 'gamekeepers turned poachers' since we can field two ex-CIOs as part of our sales activities, as well as other staff who have held senior IT posts. But I hope you can see that you can be imaginative, rigorous and challenging when you call a supplier and say, 'would you like to come in and give us a demo?'

Pete Mylett is CEO of BluTek

Cloud computing & software as a service

Brockenhurst, UK, September, 2011 — Pete Mylett, CEO, BluTek — Early in the 20th century, manufacturers began to rely on electricity as a means of powering their machinery. They therefore needed to build and maintain power plants filled with complex machinery. The need to run 24 hours a day meant expensive threeshift rotas for staff and complex maintenance routines to minimise downtime and disruption. Whenever innovation or production targets dictated, more power was installed involving lengthy, expensive and risky upgrade plans.

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Fast forward to the beginning of the 21st century and we know that 'electricity as a service' is the norm. Manufacturers no longer need their own power plants – they use utility companies that specialise in power production and supply.

Computing power is now vital, not just for manufacturing but for every type of company whether they deal with physical products, services or information. Luckily we haven’t had to wait a century for this critical component to be available as a large-scale utility. Originally every company bought and maintained its own computing power but within a few decades we have seen the arrival of large-scale utility computing suppliers – otherwise known as cloud computing.

Cloud computing is the provision of flexible, reliable infrastructure on demand and applications for rent. It has arrived, and it is safe and affordable. Many housing providers still burden themselves with the cost of providing in-house data centres and hosting complex and critical applications within them, as well as all the staff and costs associated with this strategy; you have to ask yourself, why?

Cloud computing defined
First, let’s clear up some terminology. The analyst company Forrester defines cloud computing as, "a standardised IT capability (services, software, or infrastructure) delivered via internet technologies in a pay-per-use, self-service way". Within this definition Forrester goes on to indentify three classes of cloud services:

  • Infrastructure as a service (IaaS) – infrastructure services and platforms that are used as places to deploy software applications;
  • Platform as a service (PaaS) – platforms and middleware components that enable developers to build real cloud applications;
  • Software as a service (SaaS) – software you can rent with a performance and service guarantee.

Not only is there a clear cost benefit from using IaaS, but also when you compare the performance of in-house infrastructure against the performance of IaaS suppliers, there's no contest. The companies providing this type of service are specialists, with world-class, secure, high-bandwidth and geographically-diverse locations. This doesn't mean that cloud providers are perfect, but it does mean that your company probably couldn't afford the equivalent IT infrastructure and technical support team.

Don’t do it yourself
Len Peters, CIO of Yale University, recently completed an MSc thesis on the application of cloud computing, and he said, "The thesis proved irrefutably that the public cloud is a better economic model than doing it yourself, particularly if you look at IaaS because the unit cost of cloud computing is lower than dedicated, owned capacity. Additionally for those of you like me, we have used too much capital investments on infrastructure and can now move to pure operating expense."

When you consider PaaS, things start to get more, well, 'cloudy'. This type of service has typically been used to satisfy short burst (e.g. peak demand) or short term (e.g. application development) requirements. For example, a company wants to develop a SharePoint application and needs to get on with developing the application before or during the actual implementation of the operating software, middleware and connectivity to support the application.

Application as a service

It would probably be more accurate to think of SaaS as 'application as a service' as it refers to the rental of a fully-standardised, ready-to-run application which is itself hosted by the software supplier or by an IaaS supplier; Salesforce.com is a wellknown example of this.

The beauty of SaaS is that all three cloud-computing categories are taken care of. The in-house capital, IT resources and management time associated with infrastructure, platform and application software are all converted into a single rental charge. This charge is easy to identify in the business P&L, is simple to control over one or more financial accounting periods and the service performance for all three categories is wrapped up in one SLA with the SaaS supplier.

An added bonus is that the cloud-based application will be updated and improved over time at little or no cost, to keep pace with changing legislative and compliance requirements, for example.

Choosing the right cloud supplier
So, when looking at potential SaaS suppliers, consider the following:

  • Do the suppliers offer service and performance guarantees and if so, how realistic and how appropriate are they?
  • How good is the connectivity and network path between your business users to the SaaS hosting sites (i.e. right from the desktops to the data centre), and can the suppliers help you improve that if necessary?
  • Can the suppliers offer access to the application from all your business sites as well as to staff working from home and to field-based workers?
  • How focused are the suppliers on the housing sector, or are they trying to standardise their application services across many industry sectors?
  • Do the suppliers have a track record of service as well as price competitiveness?
  • What are the suppliers' commercial terms, and what will be the net impact on your bottom line?
  • Make sure that you understand the exit penalties (if any) for the early termination of contracts.

We certainly live in interesting times and interesting times require innovative and far-sighted strategies for success – just repeating the old ways of doing things will not be enough!

Pete Mylett is CEO of BluTek.

Advanced software package simplifies treasury management

Purpose-designed for housing associations, local authorities and property developers

Harrogate, UK, June 22, 2010 — specialist software design and consultancy company BluTek has launched an advanced software package that enables organisations to implement many of their treasury management practices – including those governing risk, approved instruments, reporting requirements and management information.

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Known as BluBrik/TMS, the software extensively automates everyday financial management tasks, freeing up personnel for more added-value work such as analysis and risk management. It provides an ideal, low-cost solution for housing associations, local authorities and other property developers seeking adherence to professional treasury management practices.

According to Russ Altendorff, BluTek’s Business Development Partner, “Many RSLs have grown in size and structural diversity over the past few years. The financial management challenges that they now face – especially in the current economic climate – are acute and frequently involve relatively complex transactions. BluBrik/TMS is purpose-designed to provide such organisations with a simple-to-implement and simple-to-use means of centralising all static data about their loan portfolio. The software also helps them improve operational efficiency by using workflow techniques combined with automation of deal administration, deal monitoring, cash management, accounting and reporting.”

BluBrik/TMS accommodates all common transaction types, including direct and on-lent loans, investments and derivatives. Organisations can monitor their actual and projected cash flows online, and can import cash flow data direct from their general ledger or the fully integrated BluBrik/Development system.

BluTek’s BluBrik/TMS software runs under Windows on any industry-standard PC with internet access, using a standard web browser to access financial records maintained on a secure, off-site web server. The software can either be used as a standalone package, or as an integral part of the company’s BluBrik development management system, which facilitates complete lifecycle management of multiple and mixed property development portfolios. Based entirely on standard PCs, secure web-based data servers and modular software modules, BluBrik can be configured to meet the precise needs of organisations, regardless of their size, and can be reconfigured at any time to accommodate changes in business activity.

A 6-page brochure highlighting the benefits of BluTek’s BluBrik/TMS software is available free of charge, and can be requested by emailing the company at

BluTek appoints Russ Altendorff as Business Development Partner

Brockenhurst, UK, April 13, 2010 — specialist software design and consultancy company BluTek today announced the appointment of Russ Altendorff as Business Development Partner. He will assume immediate responsibility for co-developing strategic channel relationships within BluTek’s existing customer base, as well as assessing potential new business opportunities for the company’s expanding range of IT solutions for property portfolio management.

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Russ has over 35 years’ experience of strategic business development, and has held senior management roles with a number of world-class organisations, including Travelex Plc, where he was CIO and a main board director; and London Business School, where he was CIO and a member of the Management Board. Russ was also the driving force in the realisation of public sector performance and procurement innovation through his role as a Director of the London Metropolitan Network, where he Chaired the award-winning Business Development Group. He was also an active member of Microsoft's National Security Council in the UK. Russell holds a Business degree and is a Chartered Accountant, having trained with Deloitte Haskins & Sells in London.

“We are absolutely delighted that Russ has agreed to join us”, says Pete Mylett, Managing Partner of BluTek. “His business acumen, combined with his extensive knowledge of advanced IT systems, will prove to be key assets in helping us to grow market share.”

Advanced software package simplifies management of housing stock defects

Ideal for housing associations and other property developers

Brockenhurst, UK, January 25, 2010 — specialist software design and consultancy company BluTek has launched an advanced software package that simplifies the management of defects in newly-built housing stock. Known as Defects Manager, the software extensively automates the identification, notification and tracking of housing stock defects. It provides an ideal, low-cost solution for housing associations and other property developers seeking to improve their operational efficiency.

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Historically, many housing associations and property developers have handled building defects management using a combination of email, telephone and fax. This makes it difficult to follow the progress of current defects resolution, and compounds the problems of measuring contractor performance and evaluating the reliability of fitted equipment. BluTek’s new Defects Manager software overcomes all these issues by centralising the defect records on a web-based server, supported by secure user access.

Defects Manager features a purpose-designed user interface to minimise data input error and to provide clear and unambiguous visual feedback. Once details of a housing defect have been entered into the system, the software automatically contacts the appropriate contractor and employer’s agent (EA) by email, notifying them of the issues that need to be addressed. Each contractor and EA can access only their specific file within the centralised defects record database, allowing them to update its status. Organisations can easily monitor progress and obtain contractors’ key performance indicators (KPIs), and at the end of the defects period, the software can automatically pass all reported defects back to the organisation’s housing management system if desired.

The Defects Manager software runs under Windows on any industry-standard PC with internet access, using a standard web browser to access defect records maintained on a secure, off-site web server. The software accommodates literally every aspect of housing stock defect management, enabling organisations to expedite problem resolution while maintaining a clear audit trail for quality control.

BluTek’s Defects Manager software can either be used as a standalone package, or as an integral part of the company’s BluBrik development management system, which facilitates BluTek: Advanced software package simplifies management of housing stock defects 2/2 complete lifecycle management of multiple and mixed property development portfolios. Based entirely on standard PCs, secure web-based data servers and modular software modules, BluBrik can be configured to meet the precise needs of organisations, regardless of their size, and can be reconfigured at any time to accommodate changes in business activity.

A 6-page brochure highlighting the benefits of BluTek’s Defects Manager software is available free of charge, and can be requested by emailing the company at Email:

Advanced software module simplifies handover phase of housing development

Maps multiple-sourced data onto physical real-world view, to provide comprehensive online report for an entire housing scheme

London, UK, September 15, 2009 — A2Dominion Group, one of the UK’s leading providers of high quality housing, has enhanced its development management system by bringing online a new software package designed to simplify project handover. The software, created by specialist design and consultancy company BluTek, automatically collates management information from multiple sources and uses it to produce a single, online report for an entire housing scheme. The report provides a very detailed, real-world view – it effectively emulates the structure of a housing scheme, such as a street containing a mix of property types – to provide project managers with an ‘at-a-glance’ overview, backed by comprehensive, up-to-date information. Any of this information can subsequently be exported to customised, task-specific management forms.

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The handover software is a new optional add-on module for BluTek’s BluBrik development management system. This application-specific IT system provides Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) and housing developers with a very efficient means of handling the entire development process, from feasibility assessment and cash flow management to handover and defects management. Based on standard PCs, web-based data servers and modular software, BluBrik provides a highly flexible, cost-effective and scalable solution. The system is specifically designed to ease the process of collaboration between departments within an organisation – data only needs to be entered once, and is then automatically made available wherever it is required.

According to Doreen Wright, Director of Programme & Quality for A2Dominion, “As part of our strategic business plan, we are in the process of deploying a fully-integrated IT system across the entire group. The addition of the BluBrik handover module marks the latest phase of this deployment, and highlights our commitment to using the best available tools to maximise the quality of our services. The new software provides a very efficient means for our Development Team to share information with other partners and client departments in a controlled and timely manner, and reduces our administrative overheads significantly.”

For historical reasons, many housing developers currently continue to use decentralised information management systems that have evolved over time in a piecemeal fashion, as their organisations have grown. The problem with this fragmented, non-integrated approach is that it is notoriously inefficient, which can lead to errors, decreased productivity and staff dissatisfaction. Work invariably ends up being duplicated many times over, with different versions of the same documents being held by various people at various times, and with no-one being confident that they hold the latest version. Worse still, from a management perspective, it is impossible for anyone to see a complete snapshot of a project until all the information has been collected and verified at the very end of the process – which is often way past the deadlines of associated management teams and other parties with vested interests in the information.

The BluBrik handover module obviates all the problems associated with decentralised systems. Forming a fully-integrated element of BluTek’s BluBrik development management system, it accepts data feeds from other modules within the software framework, and collates the information into a single comprehensive online report, with a full audit trail. The report can be made visible to anyone within the organisation from the moment the scheme has been approved by the Development Team, and is then progressively populated with more data as the project evolves. Data only needs to be input once, eliminating time-consuming and error-prone work duplication, and is propagated automatically to all associated modules. A powerful auto-inheritance feature further minimises the need for manual data entry – users merely have to specify any exceptions to automatically-populated menus.

The handover module makes extensive use of hierarchically-structured context-sensitive menus to simplify information management, only showing questions that are relevant to each particular context. Easy-to-use ‘drag and drop’ functions further expedite editing, and again, these are context sensitive; for example, a property can be added to a block or a street, but a house cannot be added to a block. All menus employ colour coding to highlight information that has been inherited and to indicate whether or not it can be changed at this level. Auto-notification of impending events or deadlines enables users to disseminate information precisely when and where it is needed.

Typically, information needs to be made available to the Marketing Department about six months ahead of handover, to allow sufficient time for the preparation and planning of advertisements and promotional materials; the Housing Management Team and the Letting Team will then need to know about three months in advance, and the Property Maintenance Team will also need to be kept informed so that it can budget for future property maintenance. The system prompts client departments via email when forms should be available for their use. It also prompts the person responsible for providing the data some time before the cut-off date, to check that all the required information has been entered.

Following in-house acceptance trials and final product customisation by BluTek, A2Dominion took the handover module live about six weeks ago. To quote Doreen Wright again, “The software positively encourages collaboration with client departments from an earlier stage in the development and the response from our staff has been extremely favourable – they feel that it has turned what was previously a very tedious part of their work into a significantly less complicated task.”