Around three years ago, Qlinker was presented as the first digital housing provider in The Netherlands, with the experience of 100 years of social housing, yet also without the restrictions of 100 years of social housing. Qlinker’s lead architect, Marcel Vogel, explains the out-of-the-box thinking and innovation behind Qlinker and the successful letting of its first 136 properties.
While ‘traditional’ housing providers have been busy digitising their business operations in recent years, this idea is in the actual DNA of Qlinker. After all, automating processes and working methods is much easier when you’re starting from scratch, especially when you compare it with an existing housing provider – that’s also one of the reasons that Qlinker was founded. Of course, we still have to deal with the same laws and regulations, which means that some things haven’t yet been successful, such as fully automating accountants’ files.
Starting a housing provider from scratch means that major innovative steps can be taken to increase customer satisfaction. For example, tenants can use the Qlinker app to carry out the entire process from searching for a home to signing a lease on their smartphone. We think out-of-the-box as much as possible, focusing on the tenant in everything. After all, it’s their process, not ours. For example, available homes are posted on the site of the regional housing allocation system, but the tenant searches and finds the homes via the Qlinker app.
My team and I are responsible for all of Qlinker’s process design and we aim to really do things differently where possible. For example, when we deliver a new home, the whole process is completely digital. We also make delivery videos and a digital housing guide in order to make the handover of the keys a festive, personal moment.
Another example is the delivery of documents, something that customers can do entirely via our Rental Passport. As a result, the tenant doesn’t have to come to our offices. If everything goes well, the new tenant can complete all of the tenancy and moving-in formalities within 10 minutes.
To support our digital processes, Qlinker uses the ISRES Data Roundabout. This handles the data traffic between all of the underlying applications. We are also looking at how we can add new innovations such as a process engine and business rule engine next to the Data Roundabout in order to increase the efficiency of Qlinker. The aim behind these ‘engines’ is achieve ‘straight-through processing’, almost totally removing the need for human intervention.
Unlike some other technologically-advanced housing providers, we have deliberately chosen not to use robotic-process automation (RPA) – in our view, RPA is a means of dealing with application imperfections, whereas we want to use applications where the data exchange takes place using APIs, making the use of RPA redundant.
We have now rented out our first 136 properties – this has given us some valuable experience. In the next stage of Qlinker’s evolution, we will be adding that experience to the improvements suggested by our tenants, ‘under-the-hood’ upgrades and expanding our tenant experience via the Qlinker app – after all, being 100 per cent digital means that Qlinker can easily focus on continually improving all aspects of our service without being held back by any ‘legacy’ analogue processes.
Marcel Vogel is the lead architect of Qlinker (The Netherlands).