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The technology challenge for housing organisations

The housing sector is in the grip of digital transformation. Change is occurring at a rapid rate and housing associations are challenged with adopting new tools that help them to meet increasing service demands, improve response times and operate more efficiently.

Webfleet is working with the National Housing Federation to help its members find solutions to these challenges for their vehicle fleets, so this blog puts a spotlight on the sector. Ahead of the upcoming Asset Management and Maintenance Conference and Exhibition, National Housing Federation CTO Carolyn Brown explains how housing associations can start to future-proof themselves.

It has been predicted that ‘the size of the digital universe will double every two years at least’ and, no doubt, there isn’t a sector that isn’t facing the challenge of dealing with the exponential growth of data.

Challenges around computing and network capacity at one end versus digital marketing and analytics at the other end.

Housing associations are multi-stakeholder, complex businesses working to service the needs of their tenants.  Social factors, such as people living longer, have a direct impact on our society’s housing needs and the consequent absorption of that need by our housing associations.

Efficiency and speed of delivery are essential to many service interfaces, from providing the bricks and mortar of homes to enabling tenants to report maintenance issues. And it goes beyond that to the internet of things (IoT), where software bundled into any internet-enabled device can help organisations to be one step ahead – faulty equipment sending out alerts, smart meters for energy use and so on.

We are all at different stages of our digital journey. Some Housing Associations are well advanced in that journey.

If we can all tap into this generation’s digital assets why don’t we or haven’t we? So the real question is not about if we can be ‘smarter’ for our stakeholders but why we aren’t all ‘smarter’ already?

Having somebody or a team of people in your organisation whose role it is to map that digital journey is a first step. From there it needs to be explained and communicated, absorbed into the cultural veins and fully supported by leadership.

Digital does not mean heavy investment with difficult-to-measure returns. Quite the contrary, the nature of data – and therefore digital – provides more measurements and analytics than silo processes will ever provide.

You don’t have to take giant leaps. Small ‘byte’ size, agile steps are a start in the right direction.  When you know what you want to start with, get the right people involved in getting you there.

Reputable and stable cloud service providers are the key to future proofing the digital journey. Get them on board and let them do the R&D that guarantees integration and functionality for the future.  That’s their bread and butter – it’s not that of the housing associations.

That said, the difficulty can often lie with the question of ‘where and how do we start?’ How about starting at the end? What’s most important to your main stakeholders, your tenants? Have you segmented and profiled them to understand and respond to their needs appropriately? An on-line form is easy for one person to complete whilst another will prefer to or possibly can only speak to somebody.

We want to know where everyone is on this journey of going digital. What are your key challenges to digitisation? Is it a skills shortage or a lack of resource?  Or, if you are way down the line, how did you do get there?

Please share your experiences so we can all tap into suggestions for approach, technology and partners.

The vehicle fleet is one area that is ripe for transformation. Too often, vehicles are viewed as a set cost or regarded merely a means for getting from A to B when, in reality, this is an area where improvements can be achieved that help benefit many areas of an organisation. Telematics technology can help to reduce cost and improve safety through improvements in routing and driver behaviour, while offering potential for improved service by helping staff to minimise time on the road and become more productive. Visit the Webfleet Knowledge and Insight Centre for helpful advice guides that explain ways in which you can improve the fleet operation for the benefit of the entire organisation.

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