Preparing housing associations and local authorities for a brave new world

Emily Schilling
by Emily Schilling 3 April 2020

Throughout the UK and indeed across Europe, offices stand empty. Meetings have been put on hold, coffee machines sit unused and the water cooler is deserted. But business continues. Meetings have become Skype calls and Teams hangouts, brainstorms are being done over the Internet and even the water cooler may be deserted in the office, those water cooler moments and chats during the tea round are continuing online. For years the world has had access to technology with the potential to change the way we live and work forever, but it has taken a global pandemic for us to realise how truly useful this technology is.

Of course, as society changes, as it undoubtedly will once this pandemic is over, it is important that as remote working increasingly becomes the norm, everyone has the same access to digital services. It’s a surprise then, that recent research from Crimson found 65% of IT professionals working across social housing and local authorities believe that social landlords still have a long way to go in order to catch up with current service delivery demands.

This is an industry that houses more than 3.5 million people in the UK, many of whom will currently be reliant on digital services for job continuity throughout the next few weeks. It is not unreasonable to expect that many could become so accustomed to home working that it becomes the future of their business lives. This would place further strain on existing digital infrastructures, requiring associations and authorities to make significant investments in digital transformation projects.

Crimson’s Driving Digital: Transforming Social Housing in 2020 survey does demonstrate a desire from the sector to collaborate more effectively in order to advance digital services. Eighty-two per cent of housing associations and local authorities questioned said they recognised the advantages of shared technology across the sector, with resource pooling identified as a key way to deliver operational efficiencies and reduce spend through combined purchasing power. When asked about the most important driver of digital transformation projects, 95% talked about improving the customer experience, 89% mentioned optimising operational efficiency, while 47% wanted to use new technology to empower employees.

Our findings demonstrate a huge appetite from the social housing sector to boost digital transformation projects, with the vast majority concerned that current solutions may not be enough.

The coronavirus pandemic we are currently living through has demonstrated the importance of everyone having access to digital services, regardless of background or individual circumstance. Of course, deploying these digital services and keeping them running requires a comprehensive digital strategy and roadmap, not to mention continuous investment into digital services. By collaborating more effectively, together we can advance digital transformation projects within the sector and achieve project breakthroughs at a fraction of the cost.

Over the coming weeks, Crimson will be holding a series of webinars to help housing associations and councils excel at working collaboratively through digitalisation, particularly during the current situation. More details can be found at https://info.crimson.co.uk/keep-working

While we continue to live and work through uncertain and challenging times, technology and digital services are helping us find a way through. China is showing the world that there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we may just come out of this with a completely new and more effective way of working. The water cooler moments will evolve, and our society will become more connected in myriad ways.

Topics: Remote Working, Covid-19, housing associations, local authorities