Data, and its importance in social housing

In the sector we work in, data is all important. To be honest it is important in any sector. It is the lifeblood of any business these days yet we are not seeing it being utilised properly. It sits there dormant in a lot of cases. People entering data. People deleting data. People updating data. People printing out data. Think about it for a second. Is this all you can do with it? The answer is an emphatic no!

The issue we have at DtL Creative, and one we see on a regular basis is the lack of insight we allow ourselves to have into the data social landlords hold. We have the power to look into our data (and we have lots of it), is there at our fingertips. We are supposed to have moved on in the ICT world, yet we sometimes treat data with a static, one dimensional approach, simply assuming it is good enough to have it sitting in a ‘data’base. This surely isn’t good enough.

There is an inherent power in the data you hold. There is also the ability to realise this power with real results. We are not taking about a tool or application that simply represents your data in yet another report. Your systems will have reporting tools, and perhaps you even use powerful technology such as cubes, but we believe we can go further.

Do you for example know that other sectors, such as travel, retail and finance are taking their data and doing some clever things with it. They are not taking their data for granted, they are instead talking it, understanding it and using it to shape their thinking and results.

We would imagine most of you reading this will accept that data is one of the most important assets your company has. So, if this is the case, ask yourself this….

Do you have a data governance strategy. What? I hear your say… is that? It is exactly as it says. If you treat your data as important as it should be, you should have a strategy on how to manage and control it. We believe the latter is the key.

By controlling it, you take the lead. You take charge, and then, only then can you do something truly clever with it. The result of this is also very apparent, you get true value from it.

We have other questions for you.

Do you know what your customers really want from you?

Do you think you can work out what your customers are going to do next? ASB, Arrears, Repairs, Complaints…..think about it. Can you use your data, and any patterns, to look at predictive models that will enable you to better anticipate what you customers want, which ones are listening, and why, and perhaps even work out what to do next to improve services.

How is the rest of your business fairing?

The above looks at the traditional areas of customers/tenants, however there are other areas. What about development, business partnerships, IT investment and so on. Could you use your data to allow you to know or work out which channels are working for you in terms of your ROI, engagement, Critical Success Factors and so on. We believe the answer to this one is a definitive yes.

So, how do we go about all of this?

Before you get to the analytics stage, the business problem you are looking at needs to be fully understood. The data related problem surrounding the issues you have, whether it is customer engagement, customer profiling, repairs efficiency, ASB patterns and so on needs to be fully understood. Formulation of a plan and how you need to develop a specific strategy where you can use your data successfully needs to be developed. In other words there needs to be a carefully thought out roadmap on how you can analyse, and continuously improve your data governance. We’ve mentioned other sectors many many times over the years and those who know us will recognise our constant reflection on best practice in these other areas of business. For example, there are companies who use a wide variety of statistical analysis and data visualisation techniques to solve business problems. We can do the same in the social housing sector.

Once you know the problem and you know your data, you can use technology to deal with it, and give you those results you need.

We know that in order to deal with most business challenges you need to move quick. Customers won’t wait, development programmes need to get on, or you’ll haemorrhage cost, ASB trends need dealt with, and now! So, with the urgency it all needs, any technology that you harness needs to look at the following. Looking at the three areas of:

  • Structured data
  • Unstructured data
  • New data.

It could perhaps be presented it in the following ways:

  • Business Performance
  • Customer engagement
  • Customer dynamics
  • Contact optimisation
  • Media optimisation
  • Analytics


You would then want to ensure it is:

  • Descriptive – in other words, what happened, or what is happening.
  • Predictive – What will happen to what might happen.
  • Prescriptive – Actions to get the best desired outcome.


Now, if you think about the above breakdown and apply it to the sector we are in, does this not make a lot of sense. We believe it does and we also believe the investment in time and technology is worth it to carry it out.

So, of there is any message we want youth take away, it is this.

Do you want your data to work for you, not against you?

Author: David Loudon
Dave Loudon is the owner and managing director of the social housing management consultancy DtL Creative Ltd.