In a recent survey, we asked, “Has coronavirus and the consequent lockdowns accelerated your digital plans?”, and over two-thirds of respondents said yes. This acceleration in digital is being driven by being able to offer more services online and in better-defined ways. The rise of the ‘digital tenancy’ is huge for the housing sector and should be welcomed by both housing providers and tenants alike. The ability to report faults and arrange repairs, set up payment plans, onboard new tenants, make and take payments, support universal credit, and integrate data and straight-through processing are all part of the 2021 digital tenancy revolution.
Straight-through processing (STP) exists in other sectors and is used to successfully integrate disparate systems with each other. The housing sector should be no different, with a tenant enquiry, report or work request being initiated once and visible to all the relevant teams in order to deliver a positive outcome. Removing the need for manual interventions or to rekey data is a huge cost-saving and ensures that the accuracy of the data is maintained or even improved. A key part of STP is to allow the process to move unhindered through the data pools of finance, people and property and for them to be accessible to everyone.
Two trends in housing that have accelerated because of coronavirus are digital onboarding and online payments, both of which really benefit from STP. One of our customers reported that by the end of last year, 75 per cent of its payments were being processed through a tenant self-service portal and another reported a 900 per cent increase in payments through its portal during 2020.
Digital onboarding and online payments are just two areas of housing providers operations that either need and/or benefit from data integration and STP. In our experience, the most important requirements are:
- Data normalisation – The system gathers and normalises data from multiple and disparate back-office and external sources. This make the data reliable, accurate and up-to-date so more informed decisions can be made.
- Configurable APIs – Configure API imports, mapping, outputs and links to business-critical systems through a drag-and-drop interface; integration with the widest set of enterprise systems saves enormous amounts of time and cost. It also avoids the disruption and the cost of ‘ripping & replacing’.
- Bi-directional data transfer – Through the right integration platform, the ability to pull data into a single, configurable layer and push user-generated changes back into your business applications is vital. This means that all parties have a holistic, accurate and up-to-date view of all the relevant data.
- Scalable and future-proofed – The right platform must be designed to be capable of handling huge datasets with high-performance reliability and the ability to evolve and grow as usage increases. This pragmatic and evolutionary approach to integration (rather than a massive upheaval with all the associated pitfalls and costs) aids in future proofing because the platform should grow with the housing provider’s requirements.
As an example, VerseOne’s Autevo is a dedicated platform for end-to-end, line-of-business systems integration and identity management and addresses the key issues that housing providers face when setting up their digital tenancies. Through effective and seamless integration, one unified view of all relevant information is provided to all stakeholders. This drives down costs and improves service delivery.
Alan Neilson is the founder and executive chairman of VerseOne.