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Digital Transformation in Social Housing

Our CEO Peter McAteer, was recently asked by Housing Technology magazine to discuss the role of digital transformation in social housing, and what it means throughout the supply chain, especially in light of the BSA and Consumer Code data demands.

Here are some the key points Peter asks us all to consider when it comes to the challenges of what in principle sounds easy – digital transformation.

Following years of experience in the tech sector, I have come to define true Digital Transformation as an opportunity for organisations to create efficiencies. It means the integration of digital technology into all areas of their operations, fundamentally changing how they work and deliver value to customers. It is however also a cultural change that means organisations need to challenge the status quo and often step out of their comfort zone. This interestingly is one of the areas that we’ve seen housing providers really struggle with.

We shouldn’t forget also that digital transformation will look different for every organisation, and is also based on the assumption of digital literacy across the workforce, i.e., operatives carrying out repairs and maintenance in people’s homes.

Why do digital transformation (i.e., the most common reasons)?

That’s an easy one to answer. Digital transformation creates efficiency, and an efficient organisation is a safe organisation; staff and clients are more actively engaged, and risk is reduced. It brings other benefits too, like reduction in costs, downtime, waste, avoiding double working, errors, and reducing risk. It can even impact on ‘softer’ things like positive culture change, more space for thinking and improved creativity. To improve quality, productivity, safety and sustainability, we are in an era that needs digital transformation to engage with leadership and change attitudes and behaviours across the sector.

Specifically for social landlords and local authority housing providers at the moment, the Building Safety Act and the new Consumer Standard Code are huge challenges. I believe these challenges can only be overcome through the acceptance and embracing of new technologies, especially when it comes to proving compliance, competency and tenant engagement. I don’t see how meeting these challenges will be possible any other way. Gone are the days of unread manuals on office shelves, multiple versions of EHS spreadsheets, intermittent supplier quality checks, and simple or outdated skill matrices. We are now in a world where regulators are laser focused on accessing granular compliance, competency stock condition and tenant satisfaction data.

What are the most important factors to consider/do for successful digital transformation programmes?

Firstly, digital transformation requires partnering with a specialist company like Sysmax for example, someone who knows the sector inside out. Research has shown time and again, that trying to create transformation from in-house teams only usually falls at the first hurdle. Once a partner is found, full buy-in from the whole leadership must be evident, or else again, transformation will not happen.

What do people (and housing providers) get wrong most often when doing digital transformation programmes?

Well, I’d say by far the biggest failure of social housing providers currently is to even take a first step on their digital transformation journeys. We hear a lot about limited financial, skill and time resources that are preventing change. This is something we’re trying to educate them about and show that it doesn’t have to be that hard. Literally, in a few hours, we can have an organisation on the path to full compliance with a ready-built data set covering core roles and compliance data.

Are there some tactical ‘quick wins’ towards longer-term strategic digital transformation?

Yes! Social housing landlords do not need to recreate the wheel! Digital transformation is hard enough without starting from scratch and with software like Sysmax now available, they don’t need to. Scaling up is easy. With hundreds of thousands of system interactions recorded, our digital data is ready to share across the entire sector now. Providing continuously evolving information to be shared across roles and the sector in moments. From a business perspective, a vast number of efficiencies can be made across many sectors whereby many hundreds of documents and procedures can be digitised, distributed, managed, updated, complied with and recorded in weeks. All shared across the sector to drive efficiency at scale with reduced cost for all participants.

All digital data and management is ready to share across the entire sector now. Instant access to all information can be made available on any connected device via our cloud-based solution, removing the need to house documentation in archaic filing systems.

We can literally get social housing landlords compliant with the Building Safety Act within days, and can tailor our systems to include the type of stock condition and tenant satisfaction data, information that each landlord needs for the new Consumer Code and Tenant Regulations.

What are the key a. business, b. technology and c. cultural/human aspects of digital transformation (answer in three sections please)?

The key aspect from a business perspective is that once the digital transformation journey as stated, the direction of travel must include continuous improvement. The digital mechanisms put in place have to be embedded in the organisation’s processes and culture and be available to the workforce, online and offline on any device, so that the performance improvement is continuous.
As I said earlier, digital transformation creates efficiency, and an efficient organisation is a safe organisation. Technology is being relied on more and more by the Government to whom housing providers are answerable and so they need to be on the same playing field and able to get fast results to data and provide the proofs required to whom they’re answerable.
Cultural / human
I believe there will be a natural cultural acceptance of digital initiatives being introduced by housing providers to engage and empower both staff and tenants through digital platforms and self-service functionalities. Digital transformation also eases administrative burdens and leads to improved job satisfaction.

How do you measure the success (or not) of digital transformation programmes?

There is a role for metrics such as user adoption rates, system usage, and user feedback to help measure and provide insights into the acceptance and effectiveness of digitalisation among employees and stakeholders. But for Sysmax, it’s even easier: we deliver peace of mind that our housing clients are compliant, competent, regulator-friendly and legal. Landlords we work with, have immediate access to be able to report from their own raw data and records and prove survey / satisfaction findings and benchmarking. And from April 2024, they will also be able to share information on Tenant Satisfaction, almost in real-time – which if they fail to do so, will see their RSH Gradings affected, and the potential for PIP, downgrades and even fines.

Do you have examples (pref. with metrics) of successful digital transformation programmes?

80% improvement in digital onboarding and upskilling for a client during Covid.

Many thousands of documents and procedures were digitised, distributed, managed, updated, complied with and recorded in circa 8 weeks.

Data digitised from core competencies for key roles to role-based compliance management of asbestos, sharps, working at heights and many more. All digital data and management of it is ready to share across the entire sector now.

Hundreds of thousands of system interaction records in a few months.

Continuous improvement of digital data is shared across the sector and updates to improved information shared across roles in moments.

AI prediction is possible given the large data staggered of where the next loss incident is most likely to occur. Preventative measures are then distributed and monitored for validated implementation across the key roles involved. This stops the loss before it occurs.

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