Best practice for tenants’ data
Merge in turn
Two years ago, the Financial Times reported the merger of three housing providers, L&Q, Hyde Group and East Thames Housing, to form one of the largest housing providers in Europe. The new group employs 4,000 people, already owns 135,000 homes, and plans to build an additional 100,000 homes by 2026.
While such consolidation is designed to help the combined entity to save costs through efficiency gains, it is important to ensure that tenant records are seamlessly integrated. However, merging thousands of records, stored on disparate systems is no easy task.
Data integration challenges
When housing providers merge, there may be pockets of duplicated data stored on local hard drives, back-up systems, and cloud services. It is important to create a central data repository that is de-duplicated, cleansed and trusted. This is where master data management technology can be used to automate data cleansing rules.
Once the housing provider has reached a point where it has a ‘golden record’, data discovery technology can be used to automatically identify where personal identifiable information (PII) resides and implement processes and technology to ensure that it is secured.
This process helps housing providers’ governance and security by avoiding data sprawl. Working from a golden record makes data discovery a lot easier for reporting and auditing, employee collaboration, and the personalisation of services when housing support officers are on the phone, or face-to-face with tenants.
Benefits of good data governance
By allowing housing providers to detect where PII resides within their IT estate, automated data integration and cleansing can also aid compliance with GDPR because they can comply with any requests for tenants’ data to be deleted or returned to them in a portable format.
In addition to the obvious benefits of complying with GDPR and governance guidelines from the Regulator of Social Housing, a well-governed data repository can be used to reduce operational costs and improve the tenant experience.
For example, housing providers might enable tenants to view and manage all of their bills in a single portal, rather than forcing them to contact their electricity, broadband and facilities management providers individually. This improves the tenant experience and helps the housing provider to demonstrate good governance.
Data quality is key
Well-governed data can be offered as a service, allowing tenants to check on upcoming payments and pending repairs via portals and mobile apps. For this to work, it is critical for housing providers to know that their data is reliable.
Automated data-cleansing technology simplifies data integration and allows for content, such as repairs and arrears reports, to be automatically distributed to the right members of the housing provider’s staff, so that they can act upon it, safe in the knowledge that the data is current.
Big data for personalised service
An example of good data governance supporting improved tenant communications is where a housing support officer receives a call from a tenant called ‘Joanna Smith’ to report that the lock on her front door is broken. The housing officer can see that there are at least two Joanna Smiths on the system, each with very different circumstances and use the single data system to quickly confirm the tenant’s address and her tenant ID number, so that he knows that he’s dealing with the correct person.
With a well-governed data system, the housing support officer can see all the open cases on the tenant’s report. He can also tap into the field-service records and see that the repair team is on route and will be with the tenant within 12 minutes. While on the phone, he can ask the tenant if there is anything else that she needs. If the tenant reports that her boiler also seems to be broken and that they have been without hot water for two days, the housing officer can see that this is a priority because Joanna has three young children. He can reassure the tenant to tell her that, while the team that’s on its way is a carpentry team, he can open a new ticket for her and prioritise it with the facilities service manager.
Using trusted data to manage risk
From the housing provider’s point of view, a broken boiler is a Decent Housing Standard risk. So the housing office can escalate the repair and book a central heating repair team.
The new ticket can be opened and a report generated for the facilities service manager. All of this can be done in the system while on the phone to the tenant. If Joanna Smith calls back the next day to check on progress and another housing officer picks up the call, he will have access to exactly the same information and will be able to reassure Joanna and provide an update on when her boiler repair has been scheduled.
The second housing support officer can see the days estimated until the repair is complete, the days elapsed since the initial call and check with the facilities manager the earliest date when a team can be sent to the tenant.
The facilities manager can go into the same system and see a graph showing an upward trend on DHS risks and identify that there may be an issue with a particular boiler service company that provides planned preventive maintenance, or that boilers in a particular block of flats are nearing their end of life and need to be replaced.
A single view of assets
A well-governed data system will also show overall rent collected, rent arrears and the percentage of properties meeting the Decent Housing Standard. For governance of housing assets and suppliers, a member of the management team can use the same data repository to perform data analytics, allowing them to check on the housing provider’s performance and to assess any other risks that might affect grading.
Managers can use the same data repository to identify upward trends. For example, a number of calls from tenants relating to water damage can be checked to identify that they are within the same building and that they are within the same area of that building. This might indicate that a plumbing repair carried out on a water valve the preceding month was not completed to a satisfactory standard and that the plumbing contractor might need to be put into special measures.
All of this can be used to ensure that repairs are managed in a timely manner and that tenants are kept fully informed of progress and planned actions, thereby improving the tenant experience.
Using data for good
Using a single, well-managed data repository, a housing officer can instantly identify and provide a personalised service to tenants who call to request repairs, lodge a complaint, or ask for advice.
While many social housing tenants are in full-time employment and enjoy a reasonable standard of living, recent changes to the benefits system have severely affected some tenants. Good data governance allows housing support officers to communicate with tenants if their circumstances change, look back over their previous payment record and provide help where possible.
Automated integration and data cleansing technology allows information to be pulled in from any source, so that the housing provider has a full picture of the status of housing stock, tenants and service providers.
This provides a view of how tenants and service providers are interacting with the housing provider and can highlight any trends that might indicate underlying issues that affect tenants’ lives and enjoyment of the properties in which they are living.
Peter Walker is vice-president for EMEA (North) at Information Builders.