How data is reshaping the way Registered Providers view the world and deliver a better service

If you use a store card to gather points when you shop, you will assume data about you is being collected, but just how much data and what does it reveal about you? Of course, it includes spending habits and preferences, but did you know it also provides insight to your likely disposable income; how far you are willing to travel to shop; on what days and if the weather impacts your decision; if you respond to incentives; if you are shifting to internet shopping…. the list goes on. This data shapes the way the retailer responds to you personally and when it collates the data as a whole, how it will best sell to the communities it serves. So valuable is this data, it forms the cornerstone of a retailer’s corporate strategy.

I once worked with a Virgin start-up, Virgin Vitality, that was developing a stay-at-home fitness club to provide for those of us that want to keep fit, but don’t like going to the gym. The concept was based around activity tracking via a small, belt-worn, bluetooth activity monitor. The corporate objective changed with the realisation that data that identified active, health-conscious individuals was incredibly valuable to the trillion-dollar private health insurance market, not to mention countless other organisations. I believe this company developed into the private health insurance provider, Vitality Health.

The latest ‘Future Gazing, Future Shaping’ report and survey, carried out by Altair with support from 3C, reveals that  a limited number within the social housing sector are already capitalising on the data they hold. Data management is still seen as a challenge. Increased scrutiny on both performance and good practice is having an impact on the fortunes of some. Indeed, the potential consequences of poor data management is now so great, both from a security and governance prospective, that it is impacting the careers of those in what otherwise are well-run businesses. For example, as part of an integration review post-merger, Guinness Partnership discovered a number of out of date gas certificates, which triggered an independent review of its gas systems and processes.

Another example is the letter the HCA’s then regulation chair, Julian Ashby, wrote to the top 350 housing associations a few years ago after global accounts data identified a concerning 50% cost variation between landlords that could not be explained[1]. [The letter stated that those with higher costs would need to defend their services from a value for money perspective or quickly demonstrate that they are making efficiency savings. The recent Government green paper[2] reinforces this, increasing pressure on providers, stressing the need for services that both represent value for money and allow customers to be able to quantify and objectively comment on performance. Some sector commentators speculate that such analysis could be used to justify performance league tables and even future social rent reductions.

In a recent article, Darren Smith at Altair questioned the need for a Regulatory Data Standard to provide a framework for organisations, supporting them to achieve a minimum standard and a solid foundation for data management and security. However, treating data management solely as a compliancy requirement is to miss the true opportunity data offers.

We are experiencing a revolution in the way we work that many are comparing to the industrial revolution. Customer self-service, process automation and digital business transformation initiatives all have the need for accessible, accurate, secure data at their core. Executive teams need to display vision and leadership, embracing the benefits that  existing data can provide. From a governance perspective, key strategic decisions must be shown to be ‘data-led’ wherever possible. Services can also be improved purely by leveraging data intelligence. For example, maintenance costs can be reduced dramatically by better understanding the average length of tenancies, the age of assets, the productivity of operatives and the frequency of call-outs. One RP announced significant savings had been achieved simply by recognising that 1/3 of their tenancies ended within 4 years and 1/2 of them within 7 years, which had a significant impact on their maintenance strategy.

Truly automating services and making them ‘human-free’ is only possible with accurate and well managed data. The introduction of Universal Credit will mean around three times as much income will need to be collected by RPs, and to manage this effectively, the use of real-time tenant data intelligence will be critical. Much of the revenue collection process can be automated, liberating staff to identify and focus on the more troublesome cases that need attention.

This is all just touching the surface when it comes to the business benefit data can provide.

Used effectively, data will empower staff; unite businesses; safeguard careers and delight customers. If it is only viewed as a compliance burden, this opportunity will be missed. When you consider the job that you do and the part that it plays in the considerable impact your organisation can have on the wellbeing of your customers and communities, ask yourself if you can afford not to capitalise on the benefits a good data management strategy truly can provide? It should play a fundamental part in every corporate plan and those that embrace this will flourish. 


[1] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/538338/Draft_letter_to_chairs_11_July_2016_w_quartiles_FINAL.pdf

[2] https://altairltd.co.uk/2018/08/altairs-guide-to-the-social-housing-green-paper/