Like many housing providers, Riverside is investing significant time, effort and money to harness the power of digital technology and become more agile as a business. This requires us to both look forward to the future as well as deal with the IT legacy of the past so that we can drive improvements for customers.
Step-by-step, we are getting technology right so that it really works for our 100,000 residents and 2,700 colleagues. And the time is right… in 2012, 50 per cent of Riverside’s customers had no access to the internet but by 2018 this had halved to 25 per cent and is continuing to fall.
Riverside’s mission is to transform communities and create opportunities for our residents by maximising the numbers of households accessing online services, enabling them to live more independent lives with digital choice 24/7.
We have strengthened our IT team and assessed which of our 250 different business applications needed improving or consolidating. Historically, our focus has been on customers and growth but not on exploiting technology; only 25 per cent of our technology was where it needed to be, so we’ve had lots of work to do.
We established our ‘IT foundations programme’ to deliver a resilient, secure and cost-effective IT capability, laying the foundations for the future. This encompassed bringing new skills and ways of working into our IT operating model, driving standardisation and simplification, and increasingly enabling agility and control.
Riverside has also created a digital plan for our customers, which is in progress with a key output being our new online portal My Riverside, making processes available online as a choice for our customers, so that they can easily view and update some of their personal details, self-serve for repairs, pay rent and view balances.
Working with customers, we scrutinised the customer contact journey and are looking at what we need to improve further. We started with online repairs for our customers and are currently in the middle of this process, integrating fully into our back-office systems. We’re working our way through our processes and prioritising around complexity and benefit overlaid across our different business areas.
As a leading national housing and care provider, Riverside works with 156 local authorities across the country. This creates massive challenges in terms of integrating technology. In 2019, we installed internet and wi-fi across 200 of our care and support schemes and we have helped hundreds of customers to become digitally included.
We are now close to completing our IT foundations programme which has enhanced our systems so that nearly 90 per cent of them are fit-for-the-future in terms of resilience and performance.
Our journey continues as we aim to harness the power of future technology beyond our immediate priorities and agreed roadmap. Where next? Beyond the internet of things and chatbots, we can see a future where, for example, our buildings will be able to report their own repairs… exciting times ahead, building on the great foundations we are laying now.
Alison Stock is the director of IT & Change at Riverside Housing.