Can better data deliver smarter asset management?
Report of a roundtable organised by Campbell Tickell and Plentific.
Never in the last 30 years have so many different spotlights been turned on every asset management decision and outcome that social landlords are making.
From the Ombudsman’s work to highlight specific cases and relevant trends, to the upcoming changes in the Consumer Standards and regulation, and onwards to the challenges of carbon zero and wider sustainability issues.
A group of key leaders from across the South East gathered to talk through the challenging landscape and their responses to it. This is what transpired…
All the news is not bad
All present acknowledged the service failures and current challenges that have attracted unwelcome attention for social housing providers. This though is only a part of the truth for organisations who have seen many external support services reduce or disappear, while the competition for limited budgets has become ever fiercer. Perhaps in part these wholly unacceptable failures are evidence of the strain under which social landlords are operating.
And these failures are not the only story worth telling. As a sector, we need to get better at stating our case. Talking about the many great things the sector achieves and talking honestly about the challenges and pressures we face.
The strongest theme to the wide-ranging discussion was about the increased focus on the people who live in the buildings social housing providers manage. To generalise, historically asset management has leaned into looking after buildings and focused less on quality of life and cost in use for residents. Recent years have seen an increased focus on these issues though and this was reflected in the debate.
A range of issues were raised that come under the heading of customer centricity. Work underway to better understand who our customers are and what service they need.
A strong focus on vulnerable customers (more on that below) but also a recognition that the silent majority of customers have expectations of digital self-service from their experiences with many other service providers across other sectors.
Will we see an increase in the number of Chief Customer Officers as organisations seek to signal the centrality of the customer experience?
There is now a much stronger focus on the people who occupy social housing. Increasing numbers of those being housed have serious support needs. A valuable point about what it feels like to open your front door and invite a tradesperson into your home. Are we sure that the behaviour of our tradespeople reflects these sensitivities?
All present noted how the use of homes has changed over the last three years. More people spending more time at home and under increased pressures, and an increase in repairs demand being the result.
A recurring theme was about how to address people-related issues. Historically taking into account the support needs of vulnerable customers has often been the job of colleagues from non-technical teams. But this is less sustainable as the need for such sensitivity increases.
There is an increasing need to differentiate service delivery by tradespeople for social housing providers from commercial sector equivalents, instead of seeking to compete for tradespeople on a like-for-like basis with those commercial providers.
Data, data, data
Not so long ago, a comprehensive strategic asset management data-set was seen as a 20% stock condition survey cloned to provide a small number of component lifecycles. But numerous regulatory downgrades have stressed the necessity of a solid foundation of good data, with the Board assured that the data-set is complete.
What data do we need moving forwards though, not only on component lifecycles but asset performance and, crucially, about the people who live in the properties? And the importance of analytical capability to identify where risks intersect. This means for instance looking at property archetypes at high risk of damp and mould and customers with either vulnerabilities or overcrowding or other obstacles (such as cultural or linguistic) to accessing services.
The relative importance of data in informing how to ration scarce resources (money and staff time) is now of an entirely different magnitude. Ways forward that pull data from diverse sources to create a meaningful view of the business to support decision-making have a crucial contribution to make.
There was recognition that the Tenant Satisfaction Measures will fulfil only a subset of what organisations need to know about their homes and services. What measures will best manage the big risks we now recognise?
Moreover, there was a universal recognition of the way that legacy systems, data structures and data act as a brake on progress towards better maintained homes.
Sustainability and Carbon Zero
With so much else going on, it is tempting to kick this can down the road. But all participants recognised that doing so would only exacerbate the overlapping challenges of what to fit, supply chain and skills shortages.
This is an area ripe for collaboration, but it will require organisations to prioritise co–operation over competition.
Plentific recognise the sector’s many challenges and are developing their platform to provide an increasing range of solutions. Building on the success of their marketplace in fulfilling day to day repairs for over 1+ million properties, Plentific are adding an increasing number of focused modules currently covering repairs, compliance, inspections and out of hours.
The strengths of Plentific’s platform include straightforward deployment, an excellent suite of forward looking performance metrics, access to a wide range of contractors of various sizes and demonstrable cost efficiency.
A strength of the platform is that its very nature enables individual landlords to benefit from a cost-effective share of a large pool of resources. Plentific are working at speed to utilise this strength to impact on capacity and capability to deliver Carbon Zero works.
With thanks to the Round Table participants:
- Carol Delaney, Sovereign
- Cem Savas, Plentific
- Chyrel Brown, OneHousing
- Greg Campbell, Campbell Tickell
- Guy Yaniv, Plentific
- Jon Slade, Campbell Tickell
- Laura Jursone, Westminster City Council
- Mary Gibbons, Moat
- Matthew Cornwall Jones, Notting Hill Housing Group
- Rob Lane, Clarion
- Guy Yaniv, Plentific
- Tracey Grey, Star
- Yvette Carter, Southern Housing