Earlier this year, IntoZetta contacted many of its software and services customers and organisations from the broader social housing sector, asking them to complete a survey regarding the use of data within housing providers. The first sets of results were published in the previous two editions of Housing Technology.
In this edition, we’re looking at the results of another group of questions which asked about data quality management and data storage practices within the housing sector and the value that housing providers place on their data assets.
“My organisation only stores and uses the data that it needs”
55 per cent of respondents disagreed with this statement and felt that their organisation stores and uses more data than is necessary. Data is often collected and retained because it has ‘always been gathered’, and sometimes there is a lack of clarity in terms of the data that is and isn’t necessary.
Only by analysing and documenting the data that is used to fuel business processes can you effectively separate valuable data from data that should be deleted or archived and no longer captured.
Systems and business processes consume data as a fuel, and when the quality of that fuel is high, employees can complete activities effectively, leading to business efficiencies and happier tenants. Understanding where high quality data is essential and where data is being gathered unnecessarily can help to focus your data management investment and avoid wasted time, effort and expenditure. As one respondent said, “we need to stop retaining information just in case we might need it one day.”
“My organisation has important information stored in documents and shared drives”
95 per cent agreed that their organisation has important information stored in documents and shared drives; this issue is common to almost all large organisations regardless of sector. As well as making the data less structured and harder to access, it can lead to parallel business processes and pockets of contradictory data emerging.
At a time when data security has become a board-level issue, the additional risks associated with data that’s stored and managed outside the organisation’s information security defences creates a significant info-sec and compliance risk. However, reducing the volume of information stored and used outside housing providers’ core systems remains a complex issue without an obvious single solution.
And in a sector where many are undertaking major transformation programmes and replacing core applications, it’s essential that those programmes’ solution design phase fully engages with operational teams and seeks to understand where and why current solutions have failed to prevent this issue historically.
“My organisation actively manages data quality”
Based on the survey’s responses, 55 per cent of housing providers actively manage their data quality. The sheer volume and complexity of data within areas such as assets and components makes the active management of data quality a significant challenge, so it is encouraging to see data quality management being prioritised.
It’s not unusual to find asset and component data fragmented across many systems, creating an environment where duplicate and contradictory data develops insidiously. Those organisations that have historically neglected the quality of asset data will now be grappling with significant challenges as they attempt to achieve compliance with new building safety laws.
“My organisation swiftly identifies and fixes data errors”
This question prompted a response with an equal split between those people who thought that their organisation did fix data quality issues quickly, those who thought it didn’t and those who were unsure.
The result indicates that data cleansing efforts vary by organisation and also by data type. Some data quality issues are time-consuming and expensive to fix, including those that require a property site survey or tenant engagement, and other issues where existing trusted sources can be cleansed more swiftly.
Measurement and ownership are the key building blocks for improving data cleansing results within any organisation. Measurement can be achieved through a wide variety of data quality tools on the market, which if used correctly, will swiftly allow you to create extensive data quality reporting across all key data entites. Ownership of data can be a more complex issue for some organisations, but it’s usually the teams that use data assets every day to carry out their work who are best placed to understand how data quality affects the business and how good data quality can be maintained.
In the next issue of Housing Technology, we will release and discuss the remaining questions from IntoZetta’s ‘Data in Housing 2022’ annual survey.
Dan Yarnold is a director of IntoZetta.