When Dame Judith Hackitt published the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report, she recommended the introduction of a ‘golden thread’ policy, including the digital standards that should underpin the implementation of a golden thread of information. When the Building Safety Bill becomes law later this year, building owners will need to demonstrate that they have effective and proportionate measures to manage safety risks across all high-rise and other in-scope buildings, and that, “the information stored in the golden thread will be reviewed and managed so that the information retained, at all times, achieves these purposes”. According to government figures, this will include approximately 6,000 high-rise social housing buildings in England alone.
It will not be a choice. The new more stringent regime will place legal responsibilities on those who commission building work, participate in the design and construction process, and those who are responsible for managing structural and fire safety. It will be the duty of those people who are responsible for a building to put in place and maintain a golden thread.
Asset & component data quality
Given the huge changes that the golden thread will bring to our sector, it’s unsurprising that we’ve seen an enormous increase in focus on asset and component data quality in our recent software implementations and pilot projects. While producing a golden thread undoubtedly presents some significant issues and challenges, it also brings opportunities and taking practical steps now can usher in improvements faster across your portfolio.
The first thing to stress is that although the new legislation identifies high-risk buildings where a golden thread will be required, data-quality issues are typically consistent across all properties within housing providers’ portfolios – after all, data isn’t just poor quality in the tallest buildings. It therefore makes sense to understand your data-quality landscape across all asset and component data, even though you may choose to prioritise the remedy of data associated with those assets impacted by new legislation.
By addressing data-quality issues across all properties, you’ll be able to implement policies and management of data holistically, providing the benefit of accurate and trusted information to the widest tenant audience.
Correlating poor data quality
Poor data quality is often anchored to the age of the property, its use, its ownership history and in particular the effectiveness of data-management policies over many years. It’s very common to find similar properties from the same housing provider with differing data quality fragmented across different systems and even within spreadsheets beyond the management of applications. This is particularly common among housing providers with a history of mergers and transfers of assets between providers.
As ever with data, context is king, so housing providers and their partners must bring the realities of the system landscape together with the business processes to ensure that the records selected to form the golden thread are accurate and fit-for-purpose.
Identifying a golden thread relies heavily on a robust understanding of that system landscape, and not just as a one-off exercise but as an ongoing business-as-usual activity. In practice, that means conducting a detailed data-discovery exercise and implementing controls and accountabilities to ensure the continuous review and maintenance of this information.
Where housing providers are already embarking on a data-transformation journey, such as those consolidating their landscapes into tools such as Dynamics 365, the opportunity to create a golden thread not only exists but is on the critical path of the programme.
A golden thread as a core deliverable
For example, during our work with A2Dominion, Clarion, Bromford and other housing providers, the work to establish a golden thread for assets was and is a core deliverable. By profiling the systems of those organisations and implementing a suite of asset-specific data-quality rules, we’ve been able to create a reliable and documented single source of the truth for each of them.
For those in stable environments, establishing a golden thread for all asset data still has tangible business performance benefits, such as fewer exceptions, improved customer service and reduced surveying and maintenance costs.
Looking after your data and your assets
The ongoing maintenance, as required in the Bill, is about treating data in the same way as your physical assets. Therefore, use a combination of data-quality rules, allied to a detailed data catalogue which clearly assigns responsibility and accountability for data across the business, to ensure the timely and regular maintenance of the data asset. This governance structure represents the human aspect of data management, often forgotten, but critical to ongoing success.
Ultimately, in addition to the Bill’s focus on high-rise properties, now is the time to see these emerging requirements as an opportunity across all properties. Understand your entire portfolio in more detail, demonstrate leadership and a clear sense of duty of care to all your tenants, and realise the benefits of doing so.
Implementing the golden thread won’t be easy; it will take time, resources, investment and new roles and responsibilities throughout your organisation.
Our experience strongly shows that it’s best to start early and start at the beginning. In this case, the beginning here is data quality; an accurate, trusted and actively-measured data environment forming the firm foundation to weave the golden thread.
Otherwise, things might just unravel.
Dan Yarnold is a director of IntoZetta.