Digital Trends for Social Housing in 2021

For the first Golden Marzipan Ask the Expert episode (S3 E1), Steve Dungworth chaired a panel discussion on Digital Trends 2021 in Social Housing.

Our panel experts Nick Atkin, Chief Executive at Yorkshire Housing and Steve Allcock, Executive Director of ICT, Data & Digital Transformation at Johnnie Johnson shared their insights on what digital trends will be decisive for the housing sector in this 2021.

The Highlights (and Lowlights) of 2020

The year 2020 was the year of the great reset. One of the sudden stops, market shocks but also transformative change.

In the sector, housing teams across the country experienced a rapid, overnight transformation. It accelerated digital right up the chain.

In terms of digital transformation, as Steve pinpointed, “it was pretty successful as a year”. In that respect, Cloud strategy acceleration and the subsequent transition was a total success, he continued.

The process of embracing digital was a “very refreshing” experience, Steve Allcock stated.

But some of the challenges, he continued, involved “upskilling of colleagues” and remote connectivity issues.

Nick continued stating that the new normal has shifted the digital offer and the communication factor as well.

And, according to the sector experts, the housing comms will only continue to grow in importance.

Changing perspectives: The process of embracing digital was a “very refreshing” experience, Steve Allcock stated.

Digital Transformation

Digital transformation for the housing sector had to come rapidly.

As Nick pointed out, this era we’re living at the moment is “the most accelerated period of change in history”.

 “Every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years. What is coming at us is bigger than the original internet and you need to understand it, get on board with it and figure out how to transform your business.” 

Tim O’Reilly, Founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media

However, customer-wise, the story is different.

Some tenants, residents and customers remain reluctant. In this sense, many digital efforts to keep elderly, vulnerable residents connected had been a rising trend among housing associations, mentioned Steve Allcock.

For him, the value of digital is about offering people “choices”. He believes the answer lies in offering “flexibility” and “education” on the many benefits of digital.

Faceless comms will also contribute to reducing “operational waste” as he explained. Growing business have to think in sustainable terms workforce-wise.

Future-Proof Trends

What are the trends for 2021? Let’s think explore some of the most relevants:

1. A Data-Centric Culture

For many associations, data is simply unreliable or isn’t there yet to start.

In this a foggy territory, there are many grey areas regarding categorisation and management of data as it moves across the development chain.

For that reason, the UK Housing Data Standard can help to address the issue by using Business Information Modelling (BIM) processes.

2. Communication is Key

Understanding tenants behaviour and applying a customer-centric approach.

As Nick covered, to prioritise mobile-friendly content and interactions will make this transition a smoother one.

3. Fueled by Green Enablers

Climate change is now a big part of the agenda for this year across every sector.

Housing associations will need to plan and cater for greener home obligations and standards.

Explore more of the upcoming trends with our 2021 predictions

A Call for Unity

Our panel ended with a question about collaboration from our Golden Marzipan Chair.

It’s estimated that in the sector we spend at least £600m per annum on managing and implementing technology.

Was there a way for more collaboration to achieve better value for money?

Steve Allcock backed this up by highlighting the importance of investing by making data the centre of best practice. Andrew Giles also supported the idea of sharing and collaborating more.

The final word came from Nick who rallied us around using the existing spirit of collaboration within the sector to create more buying power and leverage with technology suppliers.

Also, there is an opportunity to utilising the combined sector data about the properties that we own and manage over 2½ million properties.

What do you think?

Golden Marzipan is passionate about improving the digital offer – please, get in touch if you feel the same and would like to add your voice to call for more joint working.

If you would like to discuss any of the items raised in this blog, contact

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