How Better Data Management Can Help The Social Housing Sector
Social housing associations provide a wealth of essential services to their residents, but as demand increases and problems within the systems keep arising, it’s becoming clear that outdated methods for managing data are often no longer fit for purpose.
The sector has always had to contend with continual change — from central funding freezes to ongoing welfare reforms — and the demand to offer increased safety and better services to its residents is soaring.
Today, with society’s most vulnerable groups concentrated in the social housing sector, it’s imperative that housing organisations make use of what modern technology has to offer. For instance, having accurate compliance data is critical for efficient risk assessments and enables confidence in the safety of tenants. Moreover, inaccurate data can lead to poor and even dangerous decision making.
Data is at the very core of what organisations in the social housing sector do, as they collect a vast amount of important information on property and people. Better use of this information can greatly influence decisions in a multitude of areas, from home design and investment to the allocation of care services, maintenance and repairs.
While valuable third-party systems are commonly used for key business activities like customer relationship management, many other data management activities, such as compliance, still tend to rely on spreadsheets.
The importance of efficient compliance data management
Outdated processes don’t tend to work well with change, and many organisations have a structure for data management that has evolved organically over the years. While many processes might still work as they always did, the inevitable continuous change, so common in the social housing sector, requires a more comprehensive approach.
Things to consider are, for instance, the impact on efficiency when independent systems are used to manage a single process, increasing the chances of human errors and system communication losses. Likewise, the effect when the same data is duplicated across different systems creates the opportunity for more than one version to exist, making it necessary to complete time-wasting data reconciliations. Or worse, accept the risk that the information will be inconsistent.
There are better ways of bringing data together and to not fall prey to dangerous compliance inaccuracies. Storing and processing data in a centralised and shared interface that everyone can access allows data to be compiled through established metrics that can be easily interpreted.
To achieve this, think of cloud-based solutions and API technology as your allies.
The key to data ownership
A valid concern organisations often face is a lack of transparency around what, where, why and how data is used, updated and reported… And about who has responsibility for ensuring the right data is in the right place when it is needed.
Having too little or too many data administrators can be problematic in equal parts. Housing providers generally rely on large numbers of staff across the entire business to ensure data and information archives are kept up to date. However, the records on how this data is managed can be, for example, stored and siloed in a spreadsheet only accessible from a specific computer.
Cloud-based technology can work as a data administrator in itself, bringing the information together, making it accessible to everyone involved and creating an audit trail for every action. Plus, we are all familiar with these tools which contributes to lower training costs.
Bringing real-world data to life
Many housing providers’ data is not represented within their systems in the same way it appears in the real world. On paper, each residence might be portrayed by an entity. That entity might have a parent layer representing a block of flats, then over that, you might have the entire building or the estate… These relationships need to be depicted properly and accurately in your management system, otherwise, you’ll be working in two completely different worlds.
When you can visualise these relationships and any tasks related to them, you are able to experience and interpret the outside world much better than you would do by looking at a collection of spreadsheets. You have access to a well-designed dashboard where you can track performance in key areas and analyse information quicker, more efficiently and in real-time.
Taking the human perspective into account
Nowadays, housing organisations have much more data to make sense from as well as access to an extensive array of third-party systems, however, a significant amount of compliance activities are still recorded on spreadsheets or within software not connected to, for instance, tenancy records. With a cloud-based system, you can upload your own documents and keep everything neatly stored in the same place. And when you start connecting the dots between different data sets, you can start reading much more into your data.
Social housing associations would benefit greatly from resolving the data headaches that they currently have by adopting future-proofed and cost-effective solutions that enable them to collect, store and use the information they already have much more effectively, offering them the best opportunity to streamline processes, save money and improve services for tenants.
We can help.