I’m not a real ninja. Let me just state that from the outset. I’d like to be, but I have a bad back, I’m from Hartlepool, and I’m not physically very agile…
…Or am I (raises ninja eyebrow)?
The word agile is used a lot at the moment, in different contexts and often meaning completely different things. For me, it means having the ability to react quickly to your surroundings. That could be as a product, a company or as a developer. Many of us do this without even realising it.
With innovative new technologies being developed at a fantastic rate, a variety of cloud-based platforms now offer quick, flexible and cheap solutions to housing providers across the globe. So why do some of us use the proverbial bad back to shy away from trying tech in an agile manner?
Hands up if you’ve tried streaming, mobile forms, webchat, instant messaging, dynamic scheduling, cloud apps or a talking avatar? Not many hands up there, I bet. It’s what your tenants want even if they don’t know it, so why not? Sure, you might get the odd naysayer sneering that your organisation is crazy for using such things but, as we all know, crazy people change the world; what did people say the first time they saw Jimi Hendrix play guitar with his teeth? Or the first time Einstein mentioned relativity? Or when… well you get the idea.
Crazy isn’t always bad. Only sometimes; ever heard of the banana-fuelled car? No, me neither.
Why should we be tech ninjas?
Even if trying new apps or cloud-based solutions can’t give you exactly what you want straight away, at least trying them on an agile (there’s that word again) basis can get you out of the starting blocks. It seems like everybody now has a tablet, smartphone and laptop at their fingertips and are using the thousands of apps available on the various stores day and night. So why don’t businesses do the same? You could argue that “economies of scale are to blame”, “it’s difficult to implement such things”, “you have to be very careful” and “what if you embrace Twitter one month and then everyone stops using it the month after – what a waste of time that would be!” (by the way, people are not going to stop using Twitter any time soon).
Well, as it happens, you don’t need to develop your own digital platforms from scratch, you don’t even need to be the first ones to use it within your sector, you just need to embrace it and see potential in its benefits, such as a few of these examples below.
A great example of the rapid increase in social media uptake is the mighty Facebook; it started off way back in 2004 and now has nearly one and a half billion users. If you work that out (and yes, I am sad enough to do that) that’s around four people joining Facebook every second non-stop for the past 11 years – not a bad take up, really. So can you believe there are some organisations out there that still don’t have a corporate Facebook account? Think of all of the tenants you could be engaging with via that platform that you currently can’t reach because you’re not sure Facebook “fits your company image”. The same could be said for many of the other growing social networks – Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Youtube, the list goes on and on.
I’m not suggesting you open up 47 social media channels but you should be thinking about your tenants and their preferred ways of communicating. Pick the right ones and consider a social media management tool to make keeping an eye on them easier; Sprout Social or Hootsuite are both good examples and are cheap and easy to implement.
If only there was a nice quick way for your company to deal with easy, frequently-asked questions as soon as someone visits your website. It would save everyone a lot of time and hassle. Hang on an agile ninja-related second, there is. It’s called webchat and it’s already taking over websites like nobody’s business. Now with some cloud-based platforms such as Tawk offering free services, why wouldn’t you offer this channel to your tenants? A real no-brainer. Give it a try. Be a ninja.
Only 12 months ago staff in my organisation were going out to visit tenants with a pen. And a bit of paper. And a smile. They were then writing things down, coming back to the office and typing up their notes into our back-office system. Mobile devices have already changed the way businesses across the globe operate. If you don’t already operate mobile working, then you are missing a trick – it will save you and your tenants time and money. If you’re not sure exactly what you want or where to start, why not try some cheap interim measures to get you going? Look at cheap Android devices, then look at online scheduling platforms (such as Booking Bug). It might not be the long-term answer for you but it’s relatively cheap to get going and will give you a steer for how to progress. Combine this with a cheap or free forms platform, like Google Forms or Device Magic Forms and you are ready to go. Like an agile ninja from planet Technology, ready to dart and dodge wherever you need to.
Up Periscope? No, that’s not a euphemism, it’s a video-streaming platform from Twitter. Imagine streaming your latest initiatives live to your tenants and instantly getting their feedback. Some say “it’s too early to rely on this platform”, others say “give it a try, it might be perfect for you”. Some people say all of this and more, while streaming to you live from a field in Tamworth.
Everyone’s got an app, surely? Nope. Many companies are put off having an app because they think you have to pay some developer bundles of cash to build one for you but that’s no longer the case. As with the growing popularity of drag-and-drop website design platforms, there is a now a similar surge in easy-to-use online app builders. Check out iBuildapp, appypie and apps-builder for examples of how cheap and easy it is to get your app groove on.
Okay then, I want my ninja suit!
I realise that while I am very lucky to work at such a forward-thinking organisation, Red Kite Community Housing, that embraces technology with open arms, some of you may not have that support and have internal hurdles to overcome, but don’t give up, tech ninjas don’t quit!
When most people look at new technology, they tend to have one of three reactions:
- Wow, that’s cool;
- I could use that to do this;
- I don’t understand and I’m scared, so I’ll pretend it’s rubbish.
You can class yourself as a tech ninja if you can get firmly in the “I could use that to do this” category. Soon your organisation will be in a much better place, your tenants will be much happier with the ease at which they can access your services and, of course, the more tech ninjas are out there, the more improvements, developments and innovative concepts we will produce.
Remember, all ninjas have to start somewhere. Now excuse me while I fade mystically into the shadows… Ouch, who put that lamp there?
Adam Rigg is a new media and channel specialist at Red Kite Housing.