In partnership with Housing Technology, Rackspace recently held a dinner for senior housing IT executives. During the evening, the conversations were centred around a wholesale move towards digital, for both tenants and housing providers. There’s an understanding across the sector that organisations must engage with tenants in new and modern ways. This has led to housing providers rethinking their business strategies and embarking on ambitious journeys to enhance their service delivery methods.
Getting the right tools for your customers
This line of thinking dovetails with recent regulatory demands from the UK government. Such demands have enforced rent reductions and removed revenue streams. Again, digital transformation provides a solution; efficiency and engagement, respectively, reducing costs and catering for tenants who are increasingly digitally-aware.
Such digital transformation is a challenge. This is something that digital consultancy agency ORM (a Rackspace partner and co-presenter during the dinner) is helping housing providers with, so that they can become more efficient in delivering customer-centric experiences using the latest technologies. Managing partner and founder Peter Gough noted that in the past housing providers had technologies and systems working in silos, rather than together. They used technology as an approach in and of itself, rather than to understand their customers.
But as customers have become more digitally native, housing providers have increasingly wanted to meet that need. Gough said, “More than ever, housing providers must think differently and take a customer-centric approach with best-of-breed tools. Self-service and convenience must be at the front of everyone’s minds.”
Therefore, it’s vital to pool the right technologies – build some, buy some – to create the best experience for customers, and solutions agile enough to deal with future industry changes.
Get the right support
During the evening, housing executives explained that they sometimes struggled to fulfil their ambitions. They spoke of a ‘me too’ approach to housing-sector ‘tech stacks’ and being frustrated with the traditional housing software providers that, although they have historically dominated the market, have been slow to introduce new collaborative technologies.
Such systems and providers can’t support everything we’ve talked about. Yet, customers now expect to pay rent via mobile apps, book repairs online, and rely on everything from a housing provider to be a connected, user-friendly experience.
The guests also had concerns about in-house teams feeling under-equipped – sometimes lacking expertise, resources, tools and processes to start and maintain a transformation journey. A key aim should be to focus efforts on areas of differentiation rather than those that merely keep a business operational.
So, don’t feel that you must be tied to the approaches of a key application provider. Go and build best-of-breed and take what you need to deliver the right solutions for your customers. But be mindful of when and where you need help and figure out the best delineation of responsibilities. This might be in building and managing infrastructure or gaining insights on how to move from legacy systems while enhancing security provisions.
When it comes to support, upskilling and enhancing what you already have, a partner can augment your existing in-house expertise with external help and guidance. Such a partnership can save you time and money, making your organisation more flexible and agile, meaning you’ll better adapt to whatever happens next.
‘Landlord as a service’
During the Rackspace and Housing Technology dinner, such a sea change was suggested by a leading housing provider’s CEO. He chatted about blockchain, predicting a future when distributed technology would enable someone to easily switch landlords. It was a ‘cat amongst the pigeons’ moment, an idea that challenged the core business model of housing providers and how customers are managed; such a change would represent massive industry disruption.
But when you look at the utilities market, you realise that people were until really quite recently stuck with a sole energy provider. Then things quickly changed and only organisations who’d adapted in time were able to immediately reap the rewards. Although it’s easy to scoff at the notion of ‘landlord as a service’, it may well be the future.
Leon Blakely is a senior business development manager at Rackspace.