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Report: Landlords are at a ‘digital crossroad’

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Social housing providers need to prepare for a new era of productivity according to a new report conducted by Service Insights Ltd, commissioned by BCN.

The research, which gathered insight from employees across the sector, explored how data is currently being used and how it is impacting the day-to-day lives of people who are working on the frontlines.

While some housing providers were further advanced than others in their journey towards digitisation, the pervading message was that data challenges are often the norm for sector workers and that they often fundamentally remain unchallenged.

The challenges facing the social housing sector

Poor quality data management was detectable across all housing management functions covered in the study with just 38.6% of respondents agreeing that they found it easy to access the data sources they need to perform their roles.

Awareness of available data (79.4%) and the ability to trust data (45.5%) were also highlighted by respondents, reflecting the wider issue of data management that’s impacting areas of the social housing sector.

Silo culture, poor recording and a lack of understanding were all cited as contributing factors by respondents. The complexity and limitations of existing data management systems emerged as a key concern however, with one in four (24%) of respondents suggesting that their current technology provided a barrier to improving data quality.

Social landlords find themselves at a crossroads

One of the most surprising findings from the report was that current data management technologies, which are supposed to help employees, can actually act as a hindrance to their efforts. But while the challenges are numerous, the report identifies opportunities that the sector can take to transform data from a weakness into a strength.

Social housing finds itself at a crossroads. By investing in a sector-wide strategy that standardises practices and improves data management at scale, social housing landlords can not only address their current issues but lay the foundations that will enable them to harness the AI-powered tools that are in our future.

Failure to act however could see the sector cut adrift from the innovation curve, leaving landlords and tenants to tackle the data inequalities of a “digital poorhouse” for decades to come.

Joel Adams, social housing sector lead at BCN, said: “While the data challenge for many social housing providers is complex, those that are taking steps to solve the issue are seeing transformational results – improving efficiency and service for tenants, while gaining access to the insights that are so crucial to more effective decision making.”

Dr Simon Williams, managing director at Service Insights Ltd, added: “As services become more technologically oriented, whether it be customer-facing or back office functionality, the quality of these systems and the ability to gain information from them is a key factor in providing good service to tenants. Maximising the use of technology can enable better service decision-making and improve customer experience.

“The sector finds itself at a crossroads. As we look to the future there’s a concern that those who are currently behind the innovation curve will be cut further adrift from future technology opportunities. With the emergence of AI-powered tools, data will play a key role in the future of social housing. By taking steps now providers can lay the foundations that unlock data-driven opportunities well into the future.”

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