This is a slightly-abridged version of a blog-post written by Tony Smith, an independent housing IT consultant at Acutance Consulting, on his ‘Tony Smith: That Housing IT Guy’ blog (tonysmiththathousingitguy.blogspot.co.uk), following the Housing Technology 2017 conference in March.
I remember in my days at MIS-AMS, at an NHF IT Conference at Olympia (remember those?), a man in tweed, spookily-named Tweedie too, visited my stand. He explained he was starting a new social housing ICT magazine and was I interested, as a supplier, in getting involved?
I was, and for many years we sponsored the bottom inch of page one, a very specific piece of magazine real estate. There had been different attempts at bringing out a social housing ICT magazine before, with varying degrees of success.
Who would have thought that, ten years on, Housing Technology would still appear every other month and grow to around 40 pages per edition. Also that, what started from small conference beginnings, would end up as probably the ‘one’ for anyone interested in social housing ICT. What an achievement for Alastair, George and their wider team.
This years’ event was the largest yet, with nearly 500 attendees. More than one attendee commented to me that the event was on the verge of being bigger than the Oxford Belfry venue that it’s been anchored in for the last few years.
If you were elsewhere last week, you missed a cracker. The opening keynote presentations on both days were very good. Comedian and comedy writer Bennett Arron (or Arron Bennett, as some call him), author of the Channel 4 documentary ‘How Not To Lose Your Identity’ was an outstanding start.
The sessions had a great mix of the new and what’s just a wee bit over the horizon. It highlights that at last ‘big data’ might be just about becoming truly useful for UK social housing providers. Suppliers who can exploit it properly and RSLs/RPs who can successfully make it work for tenants and customers will be truly ahead of the curve. Those bog-standard, out-of-the-box resident portals ‘going digital’ look pretty last century compared with Alexa (or similar) answering your queries or verifying you are safe in your supported accommodation via your ‘headless’ device.
It was great to hear how some housing providers (Soha Housing, for example) are pushing ahead with voice analytics for CRM because many still haven’t properly leveraged standard CRM yet. Full marks to the former and ‘could do better’ to the latter. Transformation featured in many sessions, which is quite apt considering the pressures all housing organisations are experiencing with LHA caps, rent reductions, housing benefit cuts and universal credit rollout. There are many ways to tackle it, depending on your budget and how long you want it to take, as was evident in a number of sessions.
My favourite session on transformation had a touch of the ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’ from Torus Housing. I was part of the transformation of getting nearly 30 ICT and service applications, boiled down to a core sourced from just three main suppliers. Transformation takes a certain belief and lots of imagination, as you dive down the ‘rabbit hole’ into the unknown. Make the wrong transformation choices and you may well encounter ‘the pool of tears’. I was involved in that project and acted as a critical friend.
Well, it was a roller-coaster conference and I met and chatted to so many friends, people I have worked with, suppliers, business-change managers and a number of directors. A great pinnacle of a decade for Housing Technology and I for one will be looking forward to #housingtech2018.
Tony Smith is an independent housing IT consultant at Acutance Consulting.