No surprises that discussions at last week’s CIH Housing conference were dominated by the obvious topics: Brexit, football and Game of Thrones. That said, there were a number of other themes which kept popping up:
Uncertainty – At the moment no one can confidently predict what’ll happen tomorrow, never mind in 12 months. At the very least the short to medium term operating environment will be tough. But without knowing exactly what’s going to happen we’re all going to have to be fleet footed and highly responsive to changes that do happen.
At the conference there were lots of discussions referencing Plans B, C and D. But practically this translated into people recognising that they need to make that sure their governance is strong, the right skills are in place (throughout the organisation), staff culture is positive and systems are robust.
Efficiency – We held a lunch to discuss VFM and transformation in the sector. Regulation and VFM were also hot topics elsewhere at the conference. From those discussions it’s clear that in the future all organisations will need to not only demonstrate compliance with the VFM standard but also show that they’re working proactively to understand their cost base and be implementing actions to improve efficiency. VFM and organisation transformation are therefore becoming much more closely related. Some quick straw polls during the conference did surprise me though, in current efficiency programmes most people still seem to be aiming for less than 10% savings. It’s likely that more will be needed and full transformation is the best way to deliver it.
Some common ways that organisations seem to be doing this include: channel shift, reviewing whole operating models, greater use of technology, customer reward schemes and restating customer standards.
Other sectors – The sector often gets criticised for being inward looking. But at the CIH Housing conference this year ‘other sectors’ was one of the top phrases I heard. During a presentation at the Ideas Exchange, both Jonathan Cowie (CEX CityWest Homes) and my colleague Graham Hishmurgh talked about housing customers comparing the service they receive with what they receive in ‘other sectors’. The implication being that we need to look very differently at how we think customers want to access services. At our transformation lunch, a number of organisations also mentioned that they were looking to follow other sectors in the use of net promote scores to assess customer satisfaction. This is marking a move away from traditional approaches to assessing satisfaction and achieving greater alignment with approaches from other sectors.
So lots to think about and importantly lots to deal with. Despite the gloom and doom though, there does also seem to be lots of opportunity out there.