Last week we attended Community Housing Cymru’s (CHC) Annual Conference in Cardiff. As CHC commercial members we were keen to learn more about the challenges and opportunities for the sector, particularly in the digital transformation space. Looking at the regional context in which housing associations and other housing sector organisations work, Wales is small enough to move fast when it comes to transformational change, but big enough to make a difference with the right focus and the right skills. As a business based in Wales we have an ambition for Wales to be at the forefront of digital change, providing better services for the current and future generations. The opportunity for real transformation in the housing sector in Wales is significant.
It was great to see a conference so well attended from across the sector and the morning of day one provided the perfect backdrop for our session on transforming through digital.
Some of the challenges facing the sector were laid out in Housing Horizons, a twenty year vision and a fascinating proposition to consider, with focus on the right level of roadmaps and incremental plans given the uncertainty around the delivery timescales involved. The highlight though for us was brilliant insight from Ben Page who set out some of the high level insights gained from users and their perception of the sector. Talk of units rather than homes and what aspects they actually valued as opposed to the assumptions held within the sector, evidence from user research not historical opinion. This provided a perfect lead for us in our session on people and user need being at the centre of transforming through digital. Lots of questions about where to start on a 20 year vision……start with what users have told you they value most!
So day two and we were very happy to be filling one of the ‘solutions’ workshop slots for delegates. There were plenty of pertinent questions and discussion from the group and a real recognition of the need to do things differently. As Steve Evans of Charter Housing and Pobl Group tweeted:
So what are the key points that stood out for us from our session and the conversations we heard in the wider conference?
- Listen to your users. Speak to them and understand their needs.
- Tenants use technology in their everyday lives, they are used to instant messaging and instant responses. How do housing associations respond to that need?
- If your only reason for digital transformation is saving money you’ll be doing it wrong. Service improvement should be your reason.
- Technology is here and user needs are changing.
- Transformation starts with user need then outcomes, customer and service transformation – not a technology solution.
- Your internal culture change is as important as your service change.
- Openness and transparency are key – both internally and with your users.
- The home is a key factor in health and wellbeing, greater collaboration needed on user needs across other sectors such as social care.
The question after any session like this is ‘What next?’ How do we bring like minded individuals together to drive some of this change?
In the session we proposed a housing hack around some of the issues evidenced as high on users agendas. Perhaps a collaboration across a whole user journey by those within the wider public services, from gaining insight at build planning stage through to maintenance processes?
Are you a housing association in Wales thinking about where you start with your digital and service transformation? You can contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @peragowales – we’d love to have a chat with you.