Data quality, architecture and governance are integral to streamlined and optimised working in the social housing sector. Despite this, uncertainty around how to implement an effective data quality programme means many social housing professionals side-line this workstream, instead focusing on other front of mind challenges like the cost-of-living crisis, arrears and rent caps. But ultimately, it’s accurate data that will help solve other challenges, providing the intelligence to make more strategic decisions and optimise all aspects of housing provision.
I recently attended a housing conference with around 150 leaders in social housing. During the event, there were many presentations on the need for solutions to drive transformational change to help improve tenant satisfaction, optimise management of housing stock, deliver operational efficiencies and more. But when I talked to delegates, the immediate focus in terms of technology seemed to be more foundational. This led to lots of interesting discussions, specifically on standards around data quality and the challenges in adoption.
The Social Housing Strategy Forum on 24-26 May was a great opportunity to debate this further. As part of the event, we offered a series of informal, 20-minute meetings to discuss data quality standards, technology adoption and how strategies that drive transformational change can facilitate your strategic business plans. Here’s an overview of why data is so important for the social housing sector and how to harness it.
The key to intelligent business decisions
To stay ahead of new regulatory reporting requirements, it’s vital housing associations reassess their data architecture. But data standards shouldn’t be framed as just a regulatory tick box exercise. Examples of how they’re already helping to improve the social housing sector include the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) for spatial data and ISO19650 (or BIM) for detailed building data, to help manage housing stock and field staff routing. Another example is the Housing Association Charitable Trust’s work to make UK Housing Data standards methodology more accessible for social landlords.
In line with the Social Housing White Paper and the Building Safety Act 2022, these initiatives recognise data as the ‘golden thread’ that runs through an entire social housing organisation. They also reinforce the importance of data when making intelligent business decisions.
The key to improving customer experience and your reputation
Investing in data science helps organisations to accelerate long-term goals and drive engagement across all aspects of the value chain - from tenants to staff and suppliers. The right data infrastructure in place enables:
- Tenants to access information and services in record time
- Staff to respond to tenant enquiries at the first engagement
- Data mining to deliver more predictive, responsive services based on current needs
- Simplification and optimisation of the resources required to manage the supply chain including a reduced need for repeated site visits
- Dramatically accelerated time to insight and reduced decision-making timescales
- Confidence in the reference data needed to commission works
- Self-serve business intelligence capabilities underpinned by data-powered cloud and AI solutions – take a look at our white paper on Conversational AI to find out more.
No matter where an organisation is on its journey, all of these optimisations are possible. Realising them comes down to getting your approach to data standards and architecture right.
Harnessing data within your organisation
When kick-starting the next phase of your data programme, there are four key areas that I encourage my clients in the social housing sector to be mindful of:
An effective data improvement plan
Every housing association is different, with an individual set of circumstances and priorities. Data-driven improvement plans are equally unique and should begin with a clear benefits case and an Enterprise Information Landscape assessment. This review should cover any business imperatives that are supported by information, processes, and people, working backwards from these objectives to identify the data that will accelerate progress towards each specific goal.
Data mapping to deliver cohesion
Thanks to mergers, acquisitions and business growth, many organisations find themselves grappling with a myriad of separate systems and processes. Mapping out business entities, work in progress, historic (inactive) entities, business constraints around downtime and processes that may be broken helps to unpick this landscape. With this overview, it’s possible to create a cohesive approach based on a single data model, with all systems feeding into this.
Communication - the key to success
Organisations often find people are comfortable with current ways of working and don’t see a need to change. To encourage engagement, communication should be regular, concise and avoid technical jargon. Clarity around what is being migrated, implementation plans, the programme approach to application configuration, who’s in control of any systems and everyone’s role in the new model – from the board to the end user - is essential.
Always link back to business value
Throughout the project, the board should communicate the strategic direction of the business and sponsor how data strategy will fit into and enhance this future. Consistent, current data should act as a feedback loop – demonstrating value delivery in each area of the corporate plan and flagging areas that need attention. Operational projects like tenant surveys and social media listening can all be incorporated to support the board’s long-term goals.
Start your data conversation, today
Data optimisation is a complex journey, but the rewards are significant. As regulations shift, accurate data that supports smart decision making is a vital tool for housing providers.
At CGI, we use our heritage in data engineering to help you establish the right path to implementation and delivery. Our data and housing experts work in parallel to address your challenges in the market and develop the right architecture, governance, processes and systems to help you overcome them. No matter where you are in your data journey, our experts will draw from our test and data standards, to help accelerate effective changes.