It is easy to grow numb to the constant barrage of new technologies that appear on the market, each promising to transform (or, more frequently, “revolutionise”) the business landscape. But our examination of some of the more important technological trends makes a strong argument that something significant is gaining ground. Underneath the hype, there are clear signs that in addition to digitising current manual practices, the housing sector is now, at last, being transformed with new kinds of digital ways of working.
An organisation’s operations and customer behaviour typically change fundamentally when digital technology is integrated across all of its functions. By doing so, it is possible to deliver services to tenants more effectively, streamline internal procedures, and work more efficiently.
As a result, Digital Transformation (DT) has emerged as a significant trend in the social housing sector, and we anticipate it continue doing so through 2023 and beyond based on our own experience and a survey by Inside Housing, which highlighted that 32% of respondents said that DT was a top priority, and 65% of leaders said that it was essential to their personal development. The following are our top 10 key trends that, in our opinion, (Professor Alan Brown & the GM Team), will have an impact on social housing providers in DT in 2023:
1. Increased use of data and analytics
The utilisation of data and analytics has increased: associations are gathering more data than ever before, including details on tenants, properties, and maintenance requests. Effective data management through DT has long been a priority for housing associations; in fact, the Social Housing Annual Review consistently ranks data quality and governance among the top ten risks and challenges. Further, a review of Governance downgrades highlights that the majority are associated with poor data management/reporting. Organisations can improve their decision-making and services by analysing this data to discover patterns and trends. A predictive maintenance system, for example, could examine data on previous maintenance requests, weather patterns, and the age and condition of a property to identify potential problems and schedule maintenance before they occur. Platform Housing Group, for example, were looking for quality data to make decisions. They have developed their own in-house data quality. It provides a data confidence score to the board, which is used as a key performance indicator.
2. Adoption of digital platforms and tools
By utilising digital platforms and tools such as customer relationship management (CRM) and maintenance management systems, associations can streamline their operations and improve tenant communication. These platforms can be used to manage tenant data, follow up on maintenance requests, and engage tenants in real-time conversations. Tenant engagement platforms, for example, provide tenants with a central location to access information and communicate with their providers. These platforms may also include forums, news feeds, and other features to help tenants stay informed and connected. In addition to centralised platforms, housing associations are increasingly using Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp as channels for tenant engagement, demonstrating how DT can create new opportunities for greater access. We see these as key to meeting the demands of the social housing white paper
3. IoT Implementation of smart technology
These technologies have the potential to improve tenants’ living conditions because they can be adjusted to their individual preferences and controlled remotely. As an example, sensors could be used to track appliance usage, detect potential equipment/boiler problems, or monitor a building’s temperature and humidity to detect/predict potential maintenance issues. Midland Heart, for instance, is conducting research to better understand how tenants interact with technology and what digital innovations can help them get the most out of their new homes, such as AR, sensors, an interactive app, and smart sockets that reduce energy consumption through machine learning.
4. Emphasis on tenant engagement
DT can also assist social housing organisations in improving their tenant engagement. Organisations could communicate with tenants and gather feedback through digital channels such as social media and messaging apps. To collect data on tenant satisfaction and identify areas for improvement, digital surveys and feedback forms can be used.
5. Integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies can be used in the sector to automate repetitive tasks and improve decision-making. Chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to automate customer service tasks, allowing staff to focus on more complex issues. This can improve residents’ experiences by providing them with faster and more efficient assistance. Automation technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA), can assist organisations in automating repetitive tasks, freeing up staff time for higher-value activities. This can improve operational efficiency and effectiveness while also freeing up resources to focus on more strategic priorities. For example, at ELHA the vast majority of transactions relate to rent and repairs, and both of these have been fully automated so that for the majority of repairs, there are only two people involved: the customer and the operative who attends.
6. Mobile app development
Mobile apps can provide tenants with a convenient and accessible way to interact with their housing organisation. Apps could be used for tasks like paying rent, reporting maintenance issues, and accessing tenancy information, similar to the latest banking apps. Mobile apps can help customers to request and track maintenance and repair work more efficiently. A tenant could use an app to submit a maintenance request, track its status, and receive updates on the progress of the work. Other important functionality could include, ASB recording & reporting, two-way messaging, group broadcast messaging, community events etc.
7. Adoption of cloud-based solutions
Cloud computing allows organisations to store and process data and applications off-site, removing the need for on-premises infrastructure and allowing for greater flexibility and scalability. This can help businesses save money while also improving operational efficiency. For instance, Raven Housing has created more user-friendly, integrated systems by overhauling its IT infrastructure and shifting to cloud-based solutions. This has resulted in a “significant increase” in the number of digital customers, the elimination of almost all manual processing, and the ability for colleagues to access information and work from any location.
8. Greater focus on cybersecurity
According to the findings of RSM’s “Health of the Sector Survey,” 25% of housing associations experienced a cyber attack in the previous year, but only 7% suffered financial loss. Clarion, Bromford, and Forviva are just three high-profile organisations that have recently been attacked. Ransomware attacks are arguably the most serious cyber threat facing housing providers today. To protect against potential threats such as data breaches and cyber-attacks, the sector will need to prioritise cybersecurity as it becomes more reliant on digital technologies. This necessitates the implementation of strong security measures such as two-factor authentication and regular security audits. The government’s National Cyber Security Centre has provided free cyber security services to all UK social housing providers.
9. Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) technologies
Enhanced digital visualisation approaches are beginning to be used by associations to provide immersive training and onboarding experiences for staff, as well as to improve communication with tenants. VR/AR could be used, for example, to provide virtual tours of properties or to demonstrate how to use appliances or equipment.
10. Increased adoption of remote work technologies
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend towards a much more diverse set of working practices across teams, which we expect to continue in the sector. One example is Yorkshire Housing’s innovative “Hub Home and Roam” initiative. Housing providers will most likely continue to invest in technologies such as video conferencing, cloud-based collaboration tools, and virtual reality training to enable employees to work remotely, mobile technologies such as smartphones and tablets will continue to play an important role in the social housing mobile access landscape.
In general, these trends imply that social housing organisations will need to continue to embrace digital technologies to enhance the tenant experience, increase operational efficiency, and better meet customer needs. Social housing providers can position themselves to take advantage of the opportunities that DT offers by staying current with these and other emerging technologies in 2023.
If you want to see how some of these technologies can be used to provide a better customer experience, read the blog below.
Review your ICT Governance
If you would like to assess your current digital capabilities, you can use our online Good ICT Governance Assessment; over 30+ housing associations have now used it.
You will be evaluating your organisation’s digital strategy against the above ICT Governance standards that we have developed. We’ve used a maturity scale with levels ranging from Unaware to Assured.
There are approximately 70 statements. You don’t need to think too hard about each statement; in most cases, your instinct will suffice. It should only take about 20 minutes to complete.
We will send you a confidential benchmarking report once you have completed it, this will show you how you compare against the following parameters, Digital Strategy, Project Management, ICT Services, Resources & Partnerships, Data Management, and Business Continuity.
For more general 2023 Digital Tech Trends, take a look at: