These are testing times. A macroeconomic downturn, the repercussions of Covid and the war in Ukraine have all combined, worsening many existing challenges the housing sector already faced.
To help define these challenges, the government published the Housing Sector Risk Profile. Focussing on 3 key areas, this blog will take a practical look at the benefits IT and technology can provide, helping providers to navigate the risks outlined in the report.
The risk profile states that ‘Boards must set a clear strategic direction and priorities for their organisations,’ this ‘especially important’ when providers are facing the uncertain operating environment outlined in the introduction.
It goes on to state the obvious, that providers will face competing needs for resources and that they will be judged by multiple stakeholders. Tenants, media, local and national government.
With the stakes so high, strategy must be based on good information. Furthermore, as wider circumstances are unstable, agility is called for. If strategic adjustments are needed, the information they are based on must be up to date. If not, decision making will suffer.
Simply put, the best way to harvest complete, fresh information about your organisation is through a provider’s technology layer.
The right-sized cloud platform, that connects your workforce, tenants and all your sources of information, is not only likely to save you money, it can also generate the key information needed to set an informed, transparent and agile strategy.
Using the appropriate Microsoft licenses with your cloud platform will greatly improve your information and collaboration with the use of tools like Teams and a modern database like Dynamics, which can help you keep tabs on physical assets, tenants’ needs and how they interact.
We’ll discuss the benefits of Dynamics and Teams below. It is worth remembering that as well as tools that enable action, they are also useful sources of data. Once these data sources are in place, they can be connected to an information dashboard like Microsoft Power BI (Business Intelligence).
This game changing tool can show decision makers what is going on across their organisation at a glance. It is thorough, and best of all, live. Meaning it updates in real time, giving your decision making the single view, up to the minute information that agile strategy demands.
New supply and development
Providers are vital to delivering desperately needed new social housing, indeed tenants and the government are relying on them to do so.
However, the post-pandemic supply chain issues, labour shortages, energy and price increases are making this a very challenging objective.
The Risk Profile Report states that ‘Providers will need to consider carefully how to assess and prioritise investment in new development, ensuring that investment appraisal approaches remain up-to-date, and projects are tightly managed.’
How can technology help here? Once again, the cloud is crucial. Many organisations see the cloud as providing cost savings as a pure IT cost. Yet as this report from Accenture states, that is just the beginning.
Cloud is now a central tool to manage your supply chain. As suppliers digitalise their information it becomes immediately available to your supply chain managers and decision makers. This can help identify and solve issues sooner, making it available where needed. The boardroom, office or the building site. This makes agility possible and both project and financial risk far easier to manage.
And the impact is considerable. Leaders reported to Accenture that their cloud use resulted in a 26% increase in demand forecast accuracy, 16% reduction in supply chain operating costs and a 5% increase in revenue growth and profitability.
Stock decency and safety
In the wake of high-profile failures of housing stock standards, resulting in unnecessary death, the pressure is on for providers. Making sure your entire stock meets requirements is a matter of urgency; to stave off negative media attention, be compliant as rules change, and most of all, serve and protect your tenants.
To quote the risk profile ‘Understanding performance against requirements requires a detailed knowledge of stock condition, and boards will need to ensure this is underpinned by accurate, up-to-date, and robust data.’
Once again, the information layer must play a vital role here. Of course, databases have long been used as a solution, but modern databases (that work best in the cloud) are no longer static pools of information. They can be leveraged to create labour and expense saving heuristics (automated action and frameworks) that can help optimise housing standards.
Microsoft Dynamics is a database that can be used to sync a great deal of information and automatically generate actions. It can help providers track parts and assets across their stock, powering so called ‘predictive maintenance’. Predictive maintenance helps providers strategize repairs and maintenance, resulting in significantly reduced asset downtime and better efficiency and safety.
If ‘Internet of Things’ sensors are placed in stock (essentially alarms with a connection to the internet) it can alert providers immediately to dangers and potentially, in the gas of gas leaks or fires, save lives.
Eventually, once clouds and databases are in place, it could be useful to create a so called ‘digital twin’ – a working digital model of your entire stock that will help providers monitor their properties, assisting them to plan, budget and keep people safe.
Yet even something simple, like being able to communicate effectively with your tenants, could have a transformative effect. A common tool, like Microsoft Teams, could help your staff and tenants communicate effectively, activating repairs as necessary.