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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

'I'm excited by the ways data and technology can be harnessed to help us'


What is going digital and how are social landlords going about it? Incommunities chief executive Geraldine Howley explores some of the findings from CIH's new Going digital: gearing up for the future report - produced in partnership with Incommunities and Halton Housing.

My year as President of CIH coincided with the announcements of the one per cent rent cuts and the phased introduction of universal credit, one of the biggest changes in the welfare system in a generation. These changes in circumstances have had a huge impact on housing associations and their tenants and created a situation in which we, as a sector, need to embrace digital technologies.

But what is going digital and how are we achieving it?

Many housing organisations, including my own, are going through a business transformation process to future-proof our business, improve customer service and extend our digital offer. We wanted to understand how and why housing association can and are using digital technologies.

Incommunities, working with Halton Housing, decided that we needed to have a clear picture of where we, as a sector, were. We commissioned CIH to ask a few key questions to try and establish where we are as a sector. These were:

a) What are the drivers for “going digital”?

b) Do organisations have fully end-to-end digital solutions – with no general human interaction in a request prior to delivery of service? How is this working?

c) How are organisations using data to predict the impact of business changes or policy changes?

It is interesting to see from the work how widely our experiences as a sector differ. It seems that one size does not fit all and the shift to a digital service will allow us to personalise our services to customers in a way larger organisations may have struggled with in the past. Although the older generation may be more reticent to engage with digitalisation in the first instance the research shows how working with tenant engagement groups and identifying why people are apprehensive can have a huge impact. A number of organisations have used the shift to educate and engage tenants, as well as allowing them access to technologies that can have a significant impact on their lives, allowing access to job searches and online savings as well as helping tackle issues around isolation.

There are clearly significant cost savings to be made by moving to a self-service approach however this must be balanced with tenant satisfaction. It is clearly recognised, even by those ‘hard-shifting’ to digital technologies, that some of our tenants will never make the transition to digital.

I personally am very excited by the way in which data and technology can be harnessed to help us, as landlords, develop an understanding of our tenants and the challenges they may face and use that to help us communicate and liaise with our tenants effectively to improve their lives and neighbourhoods.

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