Reimaging Digital in Social Housing

Easter 2020

What do you all think are the opportunities and continuing risks for digital technology in social housing? I bet you all have an opinion. Here are a few of my emerging thoughts. At Golden Marzipan our thinking is influenced by our use of the #navigatingthecrisis 5R framework.

We have started to reimagine the future and we think there will be three areas of rapid progress and one big reverse!

Agile Working

Well done to all ICT teams who responded at lightening pace to ensure that majority of staff could work from home and collaborate with their colleagues using tools such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, Zoom and G-Suite. Even more impressive were the organisations which managed to create virtual home-based contact centres.

Things may be still a bit clunky around the edges and there are plenty of amusing moments on video conferencing as we balance our mental health, kids, pets and wi-fi settings with “getting on with work as normal”.

Lots of people are predicting the end of the office building but the insights from our breakfast briefings with leaders is that people are keen to get back to the office for social reasons so I anticipate a much more mixed economy of home-hub-office-flexi working. This impacts on how people are managed and empowering HR policies.

But to quote one of our Zoomers: “the sector has achieved more in two and bit weeks than has been achieved in the past 10 years in adopting new technology”

Accelerated Channel Shift

If staff can adopt technology quickly then why can’t our customers. The feedback from customer service and communications teams is that our mindset is eventually changing and people recognise the value of self-service portals, smartphone apps, chatbots, artificial intelligence and Alexa style voice channels.

The barriers to adoption are falling away, the technology is improving and customers are more enthusiastic. A bit more simplification of ways of working that remove forms, declarations and signatures and its now easy to see a path for rapid transformation of transactional services.

Customer Data and Insights

Well we all know what the logarithmic curve of a chart looks like now! Sadly! Maybe these will become a symbol of bad news and we’ll never look at a bar chart ever again?

We have seen new apps which are utilising personal data in ways we have never seen before. Our concerns about privacy have been set aside (for the moment) in favour of more details about the virus and its impact. Some housing associations have been capturing data about self-isolating to help repairs access.

The government briefings have also demonstrated the usefulness of leading indicators relating to travel, hospital capacity and economic measures. What’s the sector’s equivalents?

This is an area where the lack of good data has exposed our ability to respond to customer needs. My repeated questions about how customers are feeling about their services is responded to with anecdotes but not much hard data is available yet.

Reverse… Vulnerable Residents

All that talk of Alexa and IoT devices helping the vulnerable and elderly is not adding much value at the moment. The primary objective is about care and whether that is social, hospital or residential that needs people! Maybe people with good technology, but people first!

I’m heartened to hear that some organisations have started outbound telephone / video services and campaigns to check on the vulnerable (assuming they had the correct data) and this I foresee as an expanding and richer service from housing associations going forward.

Well what do you think. We are currently planning Reimagination Round Tables. If you would like to be involved or would like a copy of our more detailed #navigatingthecrisis briefing pack then please contact me at steve@goldenmarziapn.co.uk

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