FINALISTS: Most innovative Consultancy

We are delighted to announce that we’ve been shortlisted at the Housing Digital Innovation Awards for Most Innovative Consultancy. After launching just over 18 months ago, being listed as a finalists alongside some big names in the sector is phenomenal.

This shortlisting recognises both our bespoke approach to client services and our drive to be ‘activists for change’.  With a genuine desire to help small to medium providers in the housing sector thrive by developing the industry’s capacity for innovation, we are creating a network of like-minded change activists who encourage and coach each other to improve. A big part of this has been the Golden Marzipan Breakfast Briefings, now in their fourth season. They have become a safe space for people to learn and share experiences that help them develop their own capacity for innovation. For more information see our events here.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate our clients and GM friends who have also been shortlisted in the awards: South Lakes Housing for Best Sustainability Innovation, West Kent Housing Association for Most Innovative Housing Provider, Prima Group for Best Customer Service/ Experience Innovation and Best Digital Transformation, Broadacres Housing for Best Fire Safety Innovation and Johnnie Johnson for Best Digital Transformation and Most Innovative Housing Provider.  

See for yourself what sets us apart with this sample of our award submission:

Please provide a brief description of your organisation and the services that you offer.

Golden Marzipan are specialist change consultants for the housing sector, but as our name suggests, we’re a bit different to the norm.

Our ‘Battenburg’ approach (hence the name) combines the key technologies – digital, analytics, process, and automation with a fifth ingredient that wraps around the outside, the marzipan, which represents the people and culture. So essentially if you want your transformation to be successful, it’s the people layer of marzipan that will get you the results and we never lose sight of that.

For each client, we pull together a bespoke collection of artisan practitioners. Working in both a hands-on and advisory capacity, the services we offer include transformation consultancy, through to vision alignment, virtual programme management and a rapid process transformation, that’s been specifically adapted for the housing sector from its origins in the proven Google Design Sprint.

However, that’s not what sets us apart …

One of our values is to be ‘activists for change’. We have a genuine desire to help the social housing sector thrive by developing the industry’s capacity for innovation, creating a network of like-minded change activists who encourage and coach each other to improve.

As part of this, we have created the popular series of Golden Marzipan Breakfast Briefings, now in their fourth season. Almost 1000 delegates have attended over 30 free sessions since its launch 18 months ago and they have become a safe space for people to learn and share experiences that help them develop their own capacity for innovation.

Demonstrate how you have used innovation to add value or create efficiencies for your clients.

Whilst ‘agile’ is a familiar way of working in larger tech organisations, often it has proved inaccessible to smaller HAs. We have developed a series of innovative agile sprints and workshops, specifically designed for HAs below 10,000 units, aiming to help leadership teams overcome big, critical challenges.

Advocating ‘progress instead of perfection, the 4-Day Agile Sprint, Vision Alignment Sprint and Rapid Response Workshop all deliver overwhelming benefits and efficiencies for our clients.

Magenta Living had to quickly change the way they responded to complaints. Following the 4-Day Sprint, they significantly reduced their complaints resolution time. Assistant Director, Fiona Astor says: “Golden Marzipan facilitated the conversations in a way that took all the barriers away.”

As part of our offer, we introduced clients to a virtual digital white boards, using Mural. This has been so popular that some of our clients are now using it in-house.

Whilst many HAs struggled to start or maintain momentum for their innovation projects during the pandemic, we rapidly developed a series of online workshops that helped our clients accelerate change and this brought with it efficiency savings and improved performance. Angela Cooke, British Columbia Housing says: “We implemented the changes in nine months during the pandemic, even though similar projects have taken between two and three years.

What separates your consultancy from others in the sector and what lessons can the wider industry draw from you?

We have a genuine desire to empower social housing providers to do more for their customers through change. It’s this ‘empowerment that’s our driving force and that sets us

apart. Unlike other consultancies we strive to develop the capacity for innovation in both our clients and the wider housing sector, ensuring smaller HAs are well-positioned to continually innovate and not be reliant on consultancy support. With clients we aim to transfer our knowledge, working alongside in-house teams to develop the confidence and transformation skills of leaders. This ‘teach a man to fish’ approach leads to clients having a more sustained approach to innovation, whilst we take a much more critical friend role and we believe this approach is so important, given the social nature of the sector.

Client feedback is testimony to this: “They’re not a management consultancy; they are a critical friend business” [Magenta Living]

“It’s almost like having a business coach where you can have those bigger conversations around how I take forward transformation and change the culture” [Southdown Housing]

“Golden Marzipan continue to sense check progress to ensure we don’t drop the ball. They also support us to focus on the right activity and they share good practice to ensure we get the best programme outcomes.” [South Lakes Housing].

And with the wider housing sector, we offer free Breakfast Briefings, creating a community of like-minded innovative change activists a place to interact, share, learn and grow.

In what ways are you looking to innovate in future?

As part of our drive to be ‘activists for change’ we are constantly looking for ways to help smaller housing associations innovate and be the best they can be. The latest chapter of this will be the launch of a new ICT good governance framework in 2022.

ICT governance is an emerging topic. As the fusion between business and ICT develops, ICT is no longer just about service provision. Instead, ICT governance is much broader and concentrates on transforming ICT to meet the demands of the business and its customers. We also believe, good ICT governance is the foundation for delivering strategic ICT.

In 2020, the Golden Marzipan team were trying to define what good ICT looked like. After discussions with clients and other specialists, it was evident that current social housing frameworks didn’t mention business-critical functions such as cybersecurity, data or indeed any standards relating to ICT governance. Quite astonishing given the appetite for digitisation of services by HAs and growing interest from the social housing regulator on governance breaches.

To address this Golden Marzipan partnered with 3C consultants to bring together a panel of leading ICT professionals from the housing sector to develop an ICT Good Governance Framework and assessment tool. Intended to be only a voluntary standard, the framework is written for a non-technical audience to ensure its accessibility across the business. It will provide organisations with a basis for mutual understanding, used as tools to aid conversations, establish value for money, service standards and good governance.

How have you supported your clients through the challenges of the past 18 months?

SHARING AND SUPPORT

We established Breakfast Briefings, a safe space for industry ‘friends’ to share stories, provide support and consider the options for the future. Described as “a shot in the arm during a challenging year” these sessions bring together guest speakers to share their knowledge and experience to help smaller HAs change for the better. “You have perfected the idea of bringing together the right people and the right speakers and an audience who are keen to listen and learn and contribute” Nick Atkin.

SECTOR KNOWLEDGE

With over 100 collective years of working in housing, we understand the issues facing the sector. So, when the pandemic hit, we could appreciate the challenges our clients were facing. We used this experience, along with our subject matter expertise to respond quickly – developing new services, changing others and providing a safe space for innovative housing professionals to share and grow.

BESPOKE APPROACH

Our bespoke approach to client services that uses a team of artisan practitioners enabled us to respond effectively to changing client needs during the pandemic. We aim to become part of the business with clients and see their success as our success. This close working relationship enables us to effectively help them to overcome challenges and spot future issues.

“Golden Marzipan really makes a difference and it’s beyond just having that professional kind of code. You genuinely do want to see a difference and I sense that it really matters to you.” Cath Purdy, CEO, South Lakes Housing

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