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Data integration is the rocket fuel for IoT in housing

IoT in housing will be part of the ‘new normal’, and that has big implications for housing providers. Trevor Hampton says that without the right data integration strategy, you could quickly lose control of valuable connections.

The pandemic accelerated the shift to digital at a rate no one saw coming. People of all ages know how to grapple with the mute button on Zoom and arrange deliveries at all hours. In the space of a year, the web became our shopping centre, school and cinema. And once people get used to things happening in one click, there’s no going back.

Some social housing providers are also having to flex to meet the demands of their tenants at a more rapid pace. Without a data integration strategy they could be left behind.

Providing the right answer, fast

People want fast answers to their queries. If you’ve got the right systems architecture you can pivot at pace. If you haven’t, you might be scrambling to adapt.

The takeaway here is that a seamless end-to-end customer journey requires more than just a web presence. To be truly seamless, it needs to be mapped out in detail and shaped by that insight.

Quality data fuels the internet and should be the lifeblood of customer-focused organisations. Fostering a workplace culture which values data will ensure a more efficient and integrated way of working. Without it, you can’t meet the expectations of customers, stakeholders and contractors.

Fuel for the journey

You don’t get from London to Scotland on half a tank of fuel, and the same principle applies to the customer journey. Data is the fuel, but it needs to be collected correctly. If no one has done that – like by recording a repair, logging a call or scanning a letter – that journey can only go in fits and starts. Organisations where data plays a central role are in a stronger position to create a road map and arrive in the right place.

Yet many providers still risk staying out in the cold by not having a data integration strategy in place. This greatly impacts how they interact with their tenants, for example when it comes to logging and booking repairs. The recent Housing Ombudsman Insight Report found 40% of tenant complaints related to repairs.

Stakeholder buy-in for data integration

Great customer service starts from within, which is why it’s vital to lay the right foundations. Departmental silo working is a major barrier to data integration. The technology is there, but to be effective there needs to be the strategy and vision to secure internal stakeholder buy-in. Bringing IT on board at director level can go a long way to achieving this.

Of course, the buy-in of external stakeholders like contractors is equally important. Data integration enables housing providers to satisfy customers, contractors and stakeholders’ expectations. This is because it provides the complete picture, with none of the jigsaw pieces missing. But it’s only as good as the sum of its parts, which is why it’s imperative to ‘think digital’ from the get-go.

Take for example a contract with a supplier who fits and maintains boiler systems. If providing information electronically wasn’t stipulated in the contract, then it could impede data integration until its term ends.

Reimagining the customer journey

There’s little doubt that we now hold much of our lives in the palm of our hand. In fact, last year the average person created at least 1.7 MB of data every second.

24/7 service is the norm, and people have come to expect prompt responses to queries, quick solutions to problems and easy access to information. Not only that, they have also come to expect a personalised and targeted service. That’s potentially no problem for housing providers that are ‘rich in data’, but has the right quality data been  captured to provide a single view of the tenant? Accurate, informed decision making is not possible without it.

The customer journey has changed dramatically, with sweeping welfare reforms in the last couple of years driving customer service up the agenda. Coupled with the need to be open, transparent and accountable – and to give tenants more autonomy – we have to reimagine the customer journey, identifying new digital connections so the data integration points can be mapped out. Organisations that haven’t thought about the end to end journey in the age of IoT run the risk of being unable to operate efficiently.

Data integration opportunities

I.T. is no longer just a fixer. Used in the right way it’s an enabler and a driver of opportunity. But offering full-service delivery can only happen if the groundwork has been laid and the right skill sets are in place. Without them, the wheels could come off mid- journey.

The pandemic has changed the way we think, act and connect. You can’t reverse behaviour change of this scale, and organisations who are still trying to implement or, in some cases, write a data integration strategy will find themselves unable to join the dots

The big question is how ready you are for the next decade if you’re struggling with the here and now? Of course, you can’t always solve tenants’ needs at the click of a mouse, but without data integration you won’t meet their expectations either.

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