In the lead up to Housing Technology’s 2019 conference and executive forum, Aareon’s head of business development, Ian Lockwood, discussed some of the conference’s main themes and how they affect housing providers’ technology plans.
Going back to basics, how should housing providers use their ‘traditional’ IT applications and infrastructure better and more innovatively?
IT systems have now evolved so far beyond their original brief that the definitions of ‘traditional’ or ‘back to basics’ themselves have changed. While the deployment of housing management systems is a great deal more sophisticated now, I would argue that the only effective way to get the very best out of them is through high-quality, real-time integration.
For example, Aareon has invested heavily in seamless integrated systems that enable housing providers’ front-line staff, management and tenants to access all the key information they need online in real-time whenever they want. This enables cross-functional support, so that housing staff can deal with a wide range of tenant issues, from rents, ASB, maintenance, care or estate issues, not just those within their immediate silo.
How are housing providers using IT in original, innovative and counter-intuitive ways?
While the original housing systems were ‘B2B’-focused for use by housing providers’ own staff, the current self-service app and portal revolution will demand slick, consumer-friendly ‘B2C’ interfaces. These will increase digital inclusion and value-for-money while keeping housing providers’ costs down.
This juxtaposition of the corporate and consumer worlds requires a whole new investment in top-class systems and only those vendors with the resources to fund such development will succeed. Aareon has been and continues to invest in this approach – we predict that the customer interface for self-service housing systems will be transformed into a polished, proven and expanding set of self-service tools.
What IT & business ideas have housing providers copied or used from beyond the housing sector?
The use of technologies in the online consumer and B2C sectors is a useful guide to what might filter through to social housing. This follows a trend, as the housing sector has already incorporated smarter technologies such as IoT, digital-by-default, frictionless computing, machine learning and big data. However, with the introduction of self-service tenant portals, apps and 360-degree dashboards there is a need to borrow even more intensively from the consumer side, so that accessing your housing, maintenance, care or community data should be as simple and friendly as accessing a programme on, say, Netflix. This high-quality usability is an area where Aareon is investing heavily to develop an extremely user-friendly customer interface.
How can housing providers avoid yet more ‘data silos’?
There are so many innovative applications that are attractive to housing providers, but it’s vital to ensure that we don’t create yet more silos of data stored within niche, stand-alone solutions. Integration with housing providers’ core HMS/ERP solutions is critical, so thought must be given to the availability of integration tools such as APIs.
Ian Lockwood is head of business development at Aareon UK.