There is too much talk about threads, whether golden, process or data, in housing today and not enough conversations around how guidance is simply a signpost to make things easier and simpler for people to make their own decisions around critical areas such as risk management.
‘Let’s tether that horse to that post’
Interpretations around data are so variable. How we read instructions, coupled with how we marry those instructions into our day-to-day lives, dictates the outcome. For example, to some people the thought of ‘tethering a horse’ simply doesn’t make sense because, for them, tethering involves digital devices. Yet tether perfectly illustrates how a word can have different meanings and possible outcomes to different people depending on the word’s context.
How can we apply variability to data management when we have people who read and interpret data differently? It’s quite simply impossible. There are groups of people meeting to define ‘codes of practice’ and ‘guidance documents’ to help us manage risk management and in most cases, we take what they say as written in stone because we don’t want to misinterpret what they mean.
The first port of call when considering risk management is appreciating that data management in your organisation is the ability to know what to do, when to do it and how the person should do it. We get data from everywhere and the holy grail is to capture the different ‘bits’ and spend time working out which bits of data link to other bits of data.
Roll up, roll up…
The problem in our sector is that there are now too many companies standing on the metaphorical steps of the townhall with their big bells, shouting, “hear ye, hear ye, come and see our innovation”. When you look at their inevitable PowerPoint presentation, it seems amazing and you get roped into their sales channel, but you then spend the next few years regretting your decision to help an IT supplier build something that they told you they already had… that sounds harsh, but it’s very true.
I’ve spent many years in housing and my view has never changed; the silos we have create problems because we pretend those silos don’t exist or we ‘blame’ the silos when something goes wrong.
Voids, repairs, aids and adaptations, cyclical maintenance, finance, stock condition, capital investment programmes and whatever other service areas you have – they all capture data that everyone else can benefit from, but I am afraid because everyone is looking in the wrong direction.
Looking in the wrong direction
You’re all looking for the ‘solution to everything’ or ‘one system that fits all’, but you’re never going to find these things. There is tons of software out there, but you need to work with the IT suppliers to let the good, honest suppliers give you what they can give you and then harness that against your assets.
We need data management to be able to capture elements of data that help us protect people and property based on the prevailing legislation – that’s as clear as day. We also need to understand where interpretation sits in the decisions we make and take a backwards step to find a new way. Most importantly, we must accept that what’s written in committees doesn’t always sit perfectly in our organisations and that we’re allowed to challenge it.
Knee-jerk reactions & marketing guff
The future will be very interesting. Some IT suppliers are having knee-jerk reactions and getting things wrong. Others are buying up other companies and misleading people with ‘marketing guff’ while not actually delivering anything of real value… let’s see what happens!
Ryan Dempsey is the CEO of TCW.