Innovation through technology in a social landlord. Is it for me?

Four truths

Let me first tell you a funny yet rather alarming story. I was working with a landlord a few years back, building a systems strategy that would help them solve a range of operational issues. Part of this process as any consultant knows is to interview, to talk, to understand people who are stakeholders/users of the systems. One day I was talking to a systems user. I was attempting to get across that ‘perhaps it would be a good idea to look at things differently, with an innovative hat on’. ‘Ah, he said, I have done that already. I innovatively created my own spreadsheet that does what I want.’ I cried into my coffee!

With that story in mind, beware that one person’s innovation is not necessarily the same as someone else’s.

But what is this thing called innovation? And is it for me?

When you google Innovation, it comes up with the following: ‘Innovation is the practical implementation of ideas that result in the introduction of new goods or services or improvement in offering goods or services. ISO TC 279 in the standard ISO 56000:2020 defines innovation as “a new or changed entity realizing or redistributing value’. I bet you didn’t know that it had its own standard that ‘provides the vocabulary, fundamental concepts and principles of innovation management and its systematic implementation’ Now, is it just me, or is that a bit counter intuitive having a standard for innovation? Maybe not! 

Innovation is not a new thing. People, yes ‘people’ have been innovating for a very long time. Business does not innovate, people innovate. So why has innovation hit the zeitgeist? Easy, we’ve hit a moment in time, certainly in social housing that the same old ways of working aren’t quite delivering any more. When you add the fantastic array of technological solutions available in today’s world, you do wonder what we are playing at.

I believe it is a lot simpler than a good deal of landlords think. There is no need to fear technology, and there is certainly no need to avoid looking at things differently. I do however see some signs of hope in that there are some landlords approaching service delivery with a much more technological focused strategy. I only this week seen a great post from Magenta Living about the adoption of drones. We have seen the use of Augmented reality to help repairs, more and more AI through the likes of chat bots. It is happening. But it is not happening enough and it is not happening quick enough.

We wanted to encourage landlords to go out there and at least re-think their technology and systems delivery, to re-think their use of data and how they can use it more and to generally do what we know is possible, and that is to improve operations and the customer experience through technology.

So, some words to encourage leaders in housing:

  • It’s not as expensive as you think to deploy new innovative technology solutions.
  • It does not need to be as lengthy and painful as process as you may think.
  • Being innovative is not as risky and ‘out there’ as you may think.
  • Yes, being innovate in the adoption of technology can improve and indeed save lives.

We obviously believe in the good technology can do. We know properly adopted technology can make a difference to the daily way in which employees carry out their jobs. This then has an impact on the end delivery to customers and their experience.

When you allow yourself to think and to generate ideas, it is great. When you allow others to think, to be creative, to be innovative it is enlightening. It creates a buzz. It created a warm fuzzy feeling in your stomach that says, we’re trying. We’re using our brains; we’re doing the right thing by our customer. And surely that is the goal, to do the right thing by your customer. 

This then is surely the goal. The bettering of lives. Surely that is what social housing is all about.