Housing Futures Conference 2020

There’s an Appetite for Digital in Housing – We just Need to be the Pilots

This week found me on a three-day stint in London, doing a mix of meetings and attending the Housing Futures 2020 conference. The journey down was eventful with the aftermath of Storm Ciara wreaking havoc on the UK transport system. Eventually making it into the capital I was greeted with an apocalyptic downpour that left me soaked and dishevelled, welcome to London!

The day of the conference was a complete contrast. London was beautiful in clear blue skies and a crisp morning – a shame I would be inside for most of the day! I was attending as a delegate to the conference, but I had been invited at the last minute to join in with a conference session hosted by Castleton, any opportunity to spar with their COO and an ex-colleague, James Massey, couldn’t be refused.

The session was covering how technology can be utilised in arrears prevention and management, so it was obviously geared towards the products and services that Castleton have to offer to the sector, but as I said to the packed room (some even standing) “I wasn’t there to puff up Castleton and help sell their products. James doesn’t need any help there”. I was there to give an independent eye to some emerging technologies that could be used in arrears management.

For me as I’m sure for the vast majority of housing professionals, arrears prevention is the key to success in this area, so I made the point for personalisation of services. I’ve already mentioned personalisation in a previous blog post so I won’t labour the point again too much.

In respect of arrears management, the more you understand about the tenant and their behaviours, the more effectively you can support them in their tenancy. We posed a question at the beginning of the session: “who uses digital technologies to assist in arrears management.” It was an eye opener to see very few hands going up in a room of nearly 80 people! So, it’s here that I would like to wax lyrical for a bit!

To be in the second decade of the 21st century and not be using the tools of the digital world to assist your organisation was a bit shocking to me. In fact I got a bit on the high horse and threw down a challenge to the CEO’s and execs that if they only saw ICT as a function and not as an intrinsic part of what a modern, efficient and successful housing organisation is, then they were doing a disservice to themselves, their organisation and more importantly their tenants!

Yvonne Castle, CEO of Johnnie Johnson, brought me back to earth with a bump! She rightly pointed out that there is a sea of technology out there and it can be very confusing for execs and boards to understand which technologies they should be embracing. Not all HA’s have the resources to have someone in the ICT team to look at innovation. Sometimes it’s a daily struggle for these IT teams to ensure continuity of service.

Yvonne’s statement about the difficulty in successfully navigating all the myriad of tech out there was perfect for me. It was a call to action. The appetite seems to be there to seize on the rapidly expanding digital world that we live in but it’s finding the right pilot to steer you through the sandbanks and tricky currents. I would humbly suggest that people like myself, Aidan Dunphy, Dave Loudon and the talented bunch at DtL Creative are those pilots, but hey, I’m biased!