The housing sector is grappling with a range of new technologies, from chat-bots, digital transformation, cloud and off-premise hosting to the internet of things, machine learning and advanced reality modelling. Against a background of competing business priorities, deciding which of those might be applicable to your organisation is difficult in itself, aside from the related requirement for sufficient skills to ensure their effective implementation.
Keeping pace with business priorities
As business priorities and processes change, your systems won’t necessarily be revised to take those changes into account. While your staff will be aware that the systems aren’t working for them, the reasons why won’t always be clear or straightforward.
There’s also a reluctance to start again with systems – there will inevitably be costs attached to doing so. Not least, the first question is usually around budget availability, and then there’s the time and need for available and capable staff resources.
No need to start from scratch
In our experience, the appetite for new technologies can lead to a ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ attitude as some take a gung-ho approach, in the mistaken belief that this is the only way forward.
On many occasions, we’ve been asked to help housing providers who are convinced that the technology they already have – be it a housing management system, CRM system or a host of other solutions – is not fit for purpose.
What do you already have?
Before looking to bring in new capabilities, it’s worth reviewing what systems you already have and how these are performing against your business objectives. We’ve worked with a number of housing providers and reviewed their existing systems to ensure that they are actually being used properly before resorting to investing in new kit.
Optimise existing systems
In many instances, on closer inspection (and once we’ve established the business’ needs and future goals), we’ve been able to advise that there’s little sense in changing the core components; often the answer lies instead in exploiting existing systems to meet the overall objectives.
This can mean re-training staff to use core systems, to reinforce functionality and capitalise on efficiencies, such as speeding up or streamlining work processes.
Also, in some instances, it’s been necessary to exploit more of the functionality that’s already available in the existing systems that have, so far, been overlooked. And, on other occasions, by liaising with the original technology providers, we’ve managed to find solutions.
Take care of the basics
New technologies in the early stages of being introduced into housing, such as AI, will definitely have a positive role to play and we’re excited about the prospects of these sorts of implementations. However, sometimes just taking care of more fundamental, ‘everyday’ IT systems is what housing providers are crying out for.
There’s also the bonus of being in the know. One thing that helps us to advise our clients is our collective experience of not only the pressures of working in a housing environment but also the systems that are out there, how they work and how well they integrate with other systems.
Jenny Shorter is a senior consultant for housing IT services at Sovereign Business Integration Group.