This issue marks the end of our fourth year of publishing Housing Technology, and despite the wider economy, technology developments in the social housing sector have never looked rosier.
Not only is housing higher on the agenda at the most senior levels of government, our view is that the sector’s adoption and use of IT is now catching up with and eclipsing other public and private sectors; with the best will in the world, we couldn’t have said the same thing four years ago.
Some of the important trends we’ve seen include:
- Technology-centric strategies – to reiterate our ‘IT as an value-adding utility service’ dictum, housing providers’ IT teams are no longer just keeping the lights on; their services inform and are at the heart of all core business strategies and decision-making.
- Social housing is moving up the political agenda – the presence at the recent Conservative party conference of many senior housing executives points to an appreciation by the government of the growing importance of the sector, pace. George Grant’s (publisher of Housing Technology) meeting with the government’s cabinet minister for housing at the conference.
- Mobile working is the norm – for everyone apart from the very smallest housing providers, the expectation is that maintenance and repairs workers will use some form of handheld device, and office-based staff will have the facility to work from anywhere, in both cases still with the ability to access core housing information.
- Silos should be dead – there are fewer and fewer standalone IT applications; most housing providers have removed the artificial walls between applications, making it easier for them to gain an holistic view of any given scenario while also removing the cost of manual and often duplicated processes.
- A focus on digital inclusion – to paraphrase our forthcoming Digital By Default 2012 report, around 50 per cent of the digitally-excluded populace live in social housing; housing providers are at last realising that promoting digital inclusion will not only help their tenants but also deliver business benefits through lower operational costs via greater use of online channels, thereby matching moral obligations with business imperatives.
- Cloud-busting – housing providers seem very willing to embrace the benefits of cloud computing; compared with other private-sector businesses, they often need to support many sites across counties or regions while giving IT access to diverse groups of workers, for which cloud-computing is perfectly suited.
- Geographic & spatial information – we still find it surprising that geographic information systems are not more widely used; housing providers using some form of GIS cite amazing savings and advantages.
- Finally, social media – in short, if you aren’t at least monitoring it, you should be. With the right strategy, social media will help you engage with some of your harder-to-reach tenants, give you a better view of your corporate standing, and alert you immediately to any complaints (or, indeed, compliments) from tenants.
After four years, thank you for your support. Please contact us with your views, suggestions for articles, and other editorial ideas.