Unlocking the full potential of digital transformation in social housing: a CEO’s guide

As affordable housing demand continues to rise and sector pressure to modernise and improve efficiency and customer experience grows, many housing associations, like those in other sectors, are turning to digital transformation to help them overcome these challenges.

However, realising the full potential of these investments can be difficult, as you will be aware. A recent study by McKinsey found that organisations only realised 67% of the potential financial gains from digital investments, even when they are successful.

As a modernising CEO of a housing provider, you are likely to be under increasing pressure from key stakeholders who want to see relatively immediate business benefits from these investments. This guide will provide six key actions and a series of questions you can take and ask to accelerate the results of your investments in digital technology.

1. Creating a Clear and Comprehensive Digital Vision and Strategy

 The first step towards realising the full value of your digital transformation investments is to create a clear and comprehensive digital strategy. This strategy should lay out the specific goals and objectives of your digital transformation efforts, as well as the steps necessary to achieve them. It should also include a detailed benefits realisation plan for using technology to improve your organisation’s operations, customer service, and overall performance. You might be interested in our Executive Guide to Creating Your Digital Strategy.

2. Involving Key Stakeholders in the Process

Involving key stakeholders in the process is another important step in ensuring that your digital transformation investments reap the full benefits. This includes staff, customers and other partners such as local authorities and housing associations. You can ensure that your digital transformation efforts align with the needs of your organisation and its stakeholders by engaging with them to better understand their needs and concerns. This could include forming a digital steering governance group made up of key stakeholders from different functions and external partners to guide and support the digital transformation process. Having a critical friend as part of that group may help provide some independence.

3. Investing in the Right Technology

The right technology investment is also critical. This entails selecting technology that is compatible with your current systems and processes and that is well-suited to your organisation’s needs and goals. To select a long-term, sustainable, and scalable solution, the long-term costs and benefits of various technology options must also be considered. This should include extensive research and analysis to identify the best technology solutions for your organisation’s specific needs, such as property management, customer relationship management, or a data analytics platform. Being a member of technology forums is a must. Have a read of our blog on 10 Key Digital Trends for Social Housing in 2023.

You’ve probably heard of or used ChatGPT, the natural language-powered chatbot that can have lifelike conversations or generate written text that most people would mistake for humans. Similarly, DALL.E-2 has become an internet sensation, astounded by its ability to generate images and illustrations based on words fed to it.

ChatGPT can be used by social housing in a number of ways to improve customer service and streamline operations. Eg, the model can be integrated into your organisation’s website or mobile app to provide 24/7 assistance to tenants, answering frequently asked questions and troubleshooting common issues. ChatGPT can also be used to automate repetitive tasks such as rent collection, maintenance requests, and lease renewals. Additionally, the model can be used to analyse data on tenant satisfaction, identifying areas for improvement and providing insights for decision-making.

4. Implementing Change Management Processes

Along with making the appropriate technological investments, it is essential to implement change management procedures to make sure your investments in digital transformation are fully rewarded. This entails putting together a comprehensive plan for how your organisation will implement new tools and practices as well as providing staff with training and support to ease their transition. It also entails communicating with customers and other interested parties to let them know about upcoming changes and how they will affect them.

According to the latest Lloyds Bank annual Consumer Digital Index, 22% (c.8.6m) of working-age adults don’t have the Essential Digital Skills for Work. That’s almost a quarter of the labour force without the skills deemed essential for the modern workplace. They also concluded that there are c.10.2 million (20%) of the population who lack digital foundation skills. So having a digital training and inclusion plan is essential.

Your culture-change process must also involve promoting an innovative and experimental culture. Giving staff members the tools and support they require to experiment with new concepts and technologies while also encouraging them to think creatively and take calculated risks. Take a look at our most recent guide on using Design Sprints to foster a creative culture.

5. Monitoring and Measuring Progress

It is critical to track and measure progress throughout the digital transformation process, and to make necessary adjustments. This includes tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) like efficiency, cost savings, and customer experience on a regular basis and using the data to identify areas for improvement. It also entails reviewing your digital strategy regularly and making changes as needed to ensure that it remains aligned with the goals and objectives of your organisation. Consider establishing regular performance reviews and dashboards to track progress against key performance indicators and make necessary adjustments to your digital strategy.

6. Ensuring Robust Cybersecurity Measures

Establishing a strong cybersecurity framework that can shield the organisation and its customers’ data is crucial. This includes regular software updates, employee training, and testing your security systems regularly to identify and fix vulnerabilities.  You should consider collaborating with a cybersecurity professional or business to implement data encryption and multi-factor authentication, and conduct regular security audits, given the recent high-profile nature of cyber attacks both in the sector and outside. The government’s National Cyber Security Centre has provided free cyber security services to all UK social housing providers

Key Questions

To ensure that your digital transformation investments are being used effectively, you should also ask your management teams some specific questions. Some of those key questions include:

  1. What are the specific goals and objectives for this digital transformation project, and how will we measure success?
  2. How are we leveraging data and analytics to gain insights and make informed decisions?
  3. Are we effectively utilising automation and AI to improve efficiency and productivity?
  4. How have we involved all stakeholders, including residents and partners, in the planning and implementation of this project?
  5. How will we ensure that the technology we are investing in is user-friendly and easy for staff and residents to use?
  6. What steps have we taken to protect our organisation and customers from cyber threats? How will we monitor and respond to any security incidents?
  7. How will we ensure that customers/staff are trained and supported in the use of new technology?
  8. How will we integrate the new technology with our existing systems and processes to ensure a seamless transition?
  9. How will we monitor the progress of the digital transformation, and identify areas where further investment is needed?
  10. How do we communicate the benefits of digital transformation to tenants and partners?

By following these six key actions, and having answers to these key questions you will begin to gain a better understanding and some peace of mind that your investments in digital technology will lead to meaningful and sustainable results for your association. Don’t let the opportunity for digital transformation slip away – act now to unlock its full potential.

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