It’s now two years since Steve Lamb and I left the ‘client side’ of the housing sector to work in a technology business which specialises in supplying IT solutions to the housing sector. These two years at Housing Support Pro have flown by, bringing new challenges, opportunities and inspiring new ideas. Our business continues to prosper, but not necessarily in the way that we envisaged.
As gamekeepers turned poachers, so to speak, Steve and I have been struck by the conservatism of those looking for IT solutions in the housing sector. Sometimes there is a drive for a solution, it’s a priority for growth and yet 10 months down the line, we are still awaiting the green light to install this supposedly business-critical system. On the flipside, as a demonstration of our team’s speed and agility, from an initial kick-off meeting with Mint Commercial and Healthcare in Cheshire, all parties came together and we helped to introduce a new Sage payroll system for 300 staff within five days.
Our cross-sector work and commercial partnerships across the globe have thrown up an interesting check list of positive and negative observations, with respect to the social housing sector:
- There is a lot of cross-sector sharing and joint working, but it comes with a price.
- There is a mixed response when it comes to innovation and taking risk.
- Procurement in the private sector has a basis in trust, relationships and proven track records.
- There’s a lot of technology going on across the world in other sectors that can readily transfer into the UK housing sector.
- No matter which sector you work in, good project management and getting employees on board is critical.
- Other sectors are not as rule-bound when it comes to IT suppliers and products.
- Smaller housing providers often have other priorities that get in the way of the innovation that produces financial savings.
- GDPR will come as a big shock to many housing providers.
- Public-sector procurement is a mystery to lots of small business owners.
- Decision makers are not always best placed to understand the benefits of new ideas and innovations.
Peter Fitzhenry is managing director of Housing Support Pro.