From: Anthony Fellows, Interim head of housing, Yorkshire Housing
Sir – I have worked in the housing sector my entire career and over the years have seen attempts to implement new technology to improve business performance result in varying degrees of success.
I would not lay claim to be an IT expert and indeed often rely on my teenage son to keep me abreast of the latest developments, but I have led a transformation programme in a large national housing association and acted as a business lead in several corporate projects designed to make optimum use of business solutions. A key understanding for me is the realisation that the successful procurement and implementation of new business applications requires the ‘business’ to take ownership of the change and not seek to delegate responsibility to its IT experts.
It is too easy to delegate responsibility to others who may be experts in their field but are not experts in the delivery of front-line services to customers. I think it is important to recognise IT as an ‘enabler’ to support the business and not the default leader that makes and imposes its decisions on the business. In fairness, it would be wrong to tar all organisations with the same brush and I am sure that there are best practice examples out there. But in my experience, they will be the exception and not the rule.
The second important thing to understand is that the first step must be to understand and define the business requirements before preparing a ‘wish list’ of hardware requirements. For example, there may well be a strong business case for equipping front-line staff with technology to work remotely in neighbourhoods but before requesting a Blackberry and an iPad for all, there must be an appreciation of how it will be used and for what purpose. The temptation is to default to the identification of a solution without defining the business requirements which can lead to poor investment decisions.
The third point to consider is the value of small-scale pilots to trial and fine-tune potential business solutions in a controlled environment. This helps the business to mitigate risk, learn important lessons, and avoid attempting to ‘eat an elephant’ in one go.
My conclusion is that business users must take ownership and lead change projects while aiming to work in partnership with their IT colleagues and partners to ensure that the business solutions align with the business requirements.