The housing sector is changing, bringing with it a new range of subtleties and complexities. Suppliers to the housing sector are not renowned for their responsiveness to their customer needs but, now more than ever, need to think carefully about how and where they position themselves in developing their offers. Specifically, how they can successfully scale and support the sector, both now and into the future.
Some organisations are very clear about social responsibility within their communities. They invest heavily in supporting people to access wider support around training, education and jobs. These organisations need IT solutions which help them design and deliver that level of intervention and also be capable of tracking, and even potentially evaluating, its impact.
Other organisations have reduced their investment in wider support and are focussing increasingly on their role as a provider of homes. An increased emphasis on house building brings with it wider IT needs to underpin and manage the development, sales and handover process.
Furthermore, there are organisations diversifying their business models to encompass new income generating streams. This could include an increased emphasis on private rented sector provision or diversification into student or keyworker accommodation. This brings with it growing commercial and potentially short-term tenancy management requirements.
So, one size does certainly not fit all and IT suppliers to the sector need to be able to recognise variations and respond proactively with flexible solutions. Sadly, housing associations have very low expectations of their suppliers in this regard. Long term delays between function requirement and availability are expected as standard. There is also very low confidence in that the solution – when it does arrive – will be fit for purpose.
Suppliers need to work hard to build trust with housing associations - proving that they can provide functionality in a timely and proactive manner. Additionally, suppliers need to have the intelligence to understand the nuances of differing requirements and be able to design flexibility into their solutions for future growth as business models evolve and change.
Suppliers also need to design solutions that integrate new and emerging technologies, not as a test ground or pilot, but with a view to realising how the technology will impact on the long-term business benefits. Technology used to fundamentally impact service design and delivery and embed new capabilities in business as usual from day one. Including actively considering how data combined with technology can reshape low level care and support provision for elderly tenants, for example, or assist remote repairs diagnosis.
Now is a great opportunity for suppliers to position themselves as technical and business experts who are able to support organisations through this complex period of transformation and evolution. But we need to step up to the plate, build credibility and be accountable for the contribution we make to support the drive of the sector forward.