Is Housing Really Ready to Go Digital? Three major barriers to change

By Matt Leach - on 06/12/2016

Yesterday, I blogged about the five main failure points in UK housing’s approach to going digital.  Today, I’m focusing on the three main barriers to change.  Over the rest of the week, I’ll be be setting out a manifesto for sector-wide change, explaining how housing businesses can rise to the challenge and digitally transform itself in 2017. 

Three major barriers to change

Whilst most housing providers want to go digital, there are three major barriers preventing them from becoming truly digitally transformed organisations.

1. There is inadequate visible leadership and accountability for the contribution technology makes to business success. Boards rarely have a board member or members recruited on the basis of tech-literacy or recent experience of technology in a business context. Few if any executive directors have clear and direct responsibility for the contribution of technology to business outcomes – there are very few CTOs, CDOs or CIOs on executive boards anywhere in the sector. As a consequence, where big technology-led decisions are made, it is rarely with a clear understanding of or accountability for what is being commissioned or delivered. And there is little clear accountability at the most senior level for the maximising contribution made by technology to driving business transformation.  Later this week, HACT will be launching a major partnership initiative to transform digital governance in housing.  To register your interest, contact digital.leadership@hact.org.uk

2. To compensate for lack of internal strategic grip and understanding at Executive and Board levels, there is an over-reliance on external consultant-led change. At its best this can help identify areas where businesses need to build their digital maturity and address the key issue of digital leadership capacity. However, it can also lead to hugely costly and time consuming exercises in rationalising and integrating existing systems and processes, when agile innovation might be a more appropriate solution. This represents a fundamental weakness in how housing providers approach technology-led change and a major barrier to the adoption of effective approaches to digital transformation.

3. Finally, a lack of understanding of the value and use of data is a major issue at all levels in housing businesses. Housing holds a wealth of customer and customer-related data but has somehow failed to leverage this as an asset. Lack of common data standards impose costs and prevent easy integration of data that is held within organisations. And at a time when many organisations in other sectors are transforming themselves into data- driven businesses, housing still relies on crude benchmarking to validate its performance, despite a general acceptance that this offers little in the way of useable insight or value.  Later this month, HACT will be launching a sector-wide data standards initiative, which builds on work taken forward by the CORA|UK consortium of UK housing providers, and the ground-breaking work that has already been taken forward by housing providers in the  Netherlands over the last five years.  To find out more, contact jay.saggar@hact.org.uk.

Over the coming year, HACT will be launching a series of initiatives to address these barriers to digital change.  If you want to find out about forthcoming work in this space, you can register your interest at digital.leadership@hact.org.uk.

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