The importance of digital services has never been more apparent than in today’s society. Whether shopping online or collaborating across the globe, digital services provide us with new opportunities and as such, it is no surprise that more organisations are embracing them than ever before.
According to research from Fujitsu looking into the UK’s digital landscape, over a fifth of us will always opt for a digital service when offered it. In addition, online banking and online shopping reign supreme as the most used and valued digital services every day (both around 67 per cent).
The current landscape
Despite this growth, there are still obstacles when it comes to digital services because fully exploiting digital and the Internet of Things requires a huge change in thinking. For housing providers in particular, if they don’t take advantage of digital services, other organisations could enter the market and provide better services such as assisted living.
Over the last few years, the entry barriers into the new markets have come down. A company can now come into existence and create a new infrastructure very quickly using various cloud and digital services. The cost of entry and time to launch a new business has also dramatically reduced as people can access these services more easily. Organisations need to be looking over their shoulder to see who might steal a march on them.
As well as this, the housing sector as a whole is also facing disruptive challenges. After the election, the government announced that it would force housing providers to sell homes at a below-the-market value despite warnings that the policy could cause not-for-profit organisations to go bankrupt. This will have a huge impact on the sector; however, it has also opened the door for housing providers to talk about services they had not previously considered, such as outsourcing, shared services and digital transformation.
Market forces are now coming together and, with the great change of technology and what is now available such as social media and analytics, together with drastic financial cuts, mean that a dramatic digital transformation is coming. There are three levels in which a housing provider can transform.
Digitisation of the business
It will be the IT department who will drive major change; IT outsourcing, exploitation of the cloud and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just some of the areas that can provide new opportunities, for example in the management of physical assets. Utility companies have already started to embrace IoT through sensor technologies to better monitor their assets and arrange maintenance visits when needed.
Transforming the end-user experience
It’s about transforming the end-user experience for both tenants and employees by providing new channels and moving to an omni-channel approach. In addition, IoT can support assisted living, helping to create a smart house that allows people to live independently. By monitoring where people are in the home, making sure they haven’t fallen, are still moving, have a heart rate and more provides vital means to monitor people’s health. Everyone seems to get obsessed with assets and objects when it comes to IoT, but it’s actually about the connectivity to provide organisations with data. Exploiting this data through smart analytic processing and drawing insights is where organisations can do things differently and create a unique experience for tenants.
Reinventing the business model
Finally, housing providers need to reinvent their business models and think about how they can disrupt the market before someone else does. Uber is one example of a company that entered a market and ended up leading the way. The housing sector should be asking “what is the Uber equivalent in the housing market?” They may not know the answer, but it’s about asking the question and being prepared to disrupt to really make a difference.
As the digital landscape continues to develop, there are more ways than ever to innovatively interact and engage with organisations. This is particularly important for housing providers that are now facing various market changes and need to start doing things differently. It’s about all these forces coming together to embrace digital transformation. It’s not about picking and choosing which one to embrace, but considering them all to achieve savings and become a truly digital organisation.
David Rosewell is the head of digital offerings in the UK and Ireland at Fujitsu.