During early 2022, IntoZetta contacted a number of its existing software and services clients and organisations from the wider social housing sector, asking them to complete a survey regarding the use of data in social housing. The survey was designed to gather opinions and stimulate debate on the current use of data within housing providers, the common issues faced when managing that data, and the specific challenges for our sector.
22 organisations responded to our questions, providing an interesting perspective on data issues where common challenges exist, as well as those where respondents had radically different opinions. Over the coming months, IntoZetta will use insights from this first survey to create relevant content, which we will publish in Housing Technology and make available to our contacts in the housing sector through email and social media.
1. The social housing sector faces common data management challenges
100 per cent of respondents agreed that the social housing sector faces common data management challenges, with 86 per cent strongly agreeing. This result was not surprising and reflects common themes and issues that IntoZetta consultants identify through their work across the sector. Similar asset profiles, business processes, system landscapes and a history of mergers and acquisitions within the sector have resulted in common, sector-wide data issues, including fragmented and inconsistent asset data.
Creating a ‘golden thread’ for asset data is a challenge that’s being undertaken by the majority of the sector now, and it makes sense to collaborate and share best practice wherever possible, to elevate standards across social housing.
2. Housing providers need sector-specific solutions to sector-specific technology challenges
When asked about the need for housing-specific technology solutions, 64 per cent agreed that this was needed while 18 per cent disagreed and felt it wasn’t necessary. As one respondent put it, sector-specific solutions are desirable “…only in some specific areas of the business. A housing management system has a very specific purpose, whereas finance and HR systems might not need the same level of sector-specific capabilities.”
Several IntoZetta clients have selected housing management solutions based on software which is not specifically designed for the sector. These solutions have been tailored and configured across a number of separate transformation programmes, supported by a variety of partners and systems integrators, to address the specific requirements and key processes that a housing provider needs.
3. Housing providers are good at collaborating and sharing technology best practice
As a technology provider that focuses heavily on social housing, it was surprising to the IntoZetta data consultants that only 45 per cent of respondents felt that the sector was good at collaborating and sharing technology best practice. Of all the sectors that IntoZetta serves, social housing is the most collaborative in our experience, and we regularly connect data professionals and senior leaders to share their experiences and best practice.
The emergence of ‘housing flavoured’ generic ERP solutions, including Microsoft Dynamics 365, is a great example of the sector collaborating to ensure that it gets the solutions that it needs rather than simply accepting those that are offered.
During the past six years, IntoZetta has supported the migration of data for several transformation programmes, and with every new programme it’s apparent that both suppliers and clients are learning the lessons of the past and starting to create well-trodden paths.
4. It is suggested that the pandemic has advanced businesses’ digital transformation by eight years in just two years; has the housing sector advanced similarly?
The rate at which digital transformation has taken place during the last two years, against a backdrop of the pandemic, split the responses. While 32 per cent agreed with the statement (above), more (41 per cent) were unsure. One respondent commented that progress has been swifter in areas where change was not a choice, “IT departments could not resist against home working; necessity is the mother of invention or transformation in practice.”
Homeworking and the use of collaborative technologies were essential during the pandemic. It will be interesting to see which of the many changes that were driven by necessity become the new enduring normal and which are abandoned in favour of the habits of the past.
Overall, the survey covers sixteen data topics and a number of key themes emerged. It’s clear that housing providers are conscious of the need to tackle data management failures of the past and ensure that their data is managed as a key asset in the future. Only through effective data management will process efficiencies be achieved and tenant experiences be improved.
In the next issue of Housing Technology, we will share the answers to questions exploring data management practices within the sector, and the value that housing providers place on their data assets, such as, “within your organisation is data valued and managed like other key assets (e.g. buildings)?”
If you would like to be included in our next survey, and share your experience of working in the sector, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan Yarnold is a director of IntoZetta.