or LinkedIn here http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy
Well, not often I get a couple of days at work in the surroundings of Alton Towers, as I did at the Capita Housing Conference, this last Tuesday and Wednesday. "Everything for Everyone, Everywhere" was the theme and I have to say, from workflow, cyclists going around the world, inspirational Gary Orr CEO from Yarlington and how to improve assets and mobile, it was all there.
Did I mention the venue? Well, I am coming around to themed venue's for business conferences, far better than in an identikit hotel, off a business park roundabout, that has trouble knocking out a medium rare steak. This was the second time Capita have held their conference at Alton, with a park rides ticket thrown in too.Top class and full marks to the helpful and professional events crew!
It was great to see a lot of old friends down there too and meet many new faces, who read this blog/follow on Twitter, doing some great stuff with portfolios of applications and interesting business processes. Capita didn't disappoint with choices of big hitting speakers, including The BBC's Mark Easton (who I would recognise on Pointless now), futurologist Christer Holloman, who The London Evening Standard calls, "One of London's Most Influential Individuals Within New Media" and hairy micro-adventure explorer of the 5-9, Alastair Humphries.
With such a line up, it's easy to have at least a few ideas to take away and apply in your housing organisation. I was inspired by Gary Orr and Yarlington's quest to have all of their customers with reasonable internet access by 2020, to eliminate digital exclusion in South Somerset and beyond. On tweeting it, I quickly got a reply from an IT Bod bemoaning that his 85yo mother was not letting him get her on the web and maybe would never. Having met 70 year old digital champions, I believe that is the track to take, silver surfers will enrol their friends and neighbours. We just need to think out of the box to crack the problem. Welfare Reform places digital by default, as the channel for the claimant. The message broadly is on the wall, no digital access = no benefits.
Christer cited the Giff-Gaff experience. Could our tenants and customers serve themselves, or go digital to be served there at a discount OR an incentive for them or their community? I won't repeat Roger Birkinshaw's tonge-in-cheek joke at that, but seriously, these are new models of being served. They work in the non-housing world, we need to try some of these techniques within modern housing, where they work. Customer expectations are being increased by how Amazon, banks and social media is helping us to be serviced whenever we like. 'Lets Eat' will let me order Vietnamese food for delivery at 1.50am, I can pay a bill at 8.45pm, why can't I log my ASB incident or check my repair appointment anytime I like, instantly?
The housing sector will never be as it used to be. Few would really wish to repeat a lot of the mistakes made over the last 60 years. Techniques, services, technology needs to help us bring more innovation into the sector. We need to observe what works and do more of it, also be mindful that different strokes for different folks, will also be required. Sometimes it is our applications and suppliers that are causing the speed humps in the road. At other times, it is reluctance for user, managers and organisations to examine, "Why We Do It This Way". Do check out my Lemon Drizzle Cake Story here - http://tonysmiththathousingitguy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/icing-on-cake.html in case you cannot get the message across.
At the conference I spoke to dozens of users and picked up some inspirational, as well as cautionary tales of quite obviously where Academy, OpenHousing, OpenContractor, TM (TotalMobile)* and other facets of Capita's offering, were not being 'sweated' to their best. As I tweeted ( @HotpixUK ) on the day, reaching for the Rolling Pin, can be a useful experience. Seven out of Ten customers I work with, obviously need to examine and invest in what they have, rather than just chuck it out. The easiest thing to do is do a knee jerk move to a tender, or alternative supplier beauty parade. Doing this without actually understanding your problems, most likely will be a very large waste of time and money. Your problems will not magically go away, they will just be still there in a new system.
Indeed, if there is one thing that I have learnt, it's that engaging a critical friend to help hold a mirror up to your systems, processes, problems, management and staff, can be the most economical and fastest method of identifying and getting you out of a 'dark place'. So C'mon housing people, get yourselves into the light!
See you at Olympia/Manchester in November, at the NHF IT in Housing conference
* Other Housing Management Systems are available
Related Post: Refresh Your Thinking, Lets Get Dangerous
You can link with me on LinkedIn here - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy It would be great to connect !
The Smiths – You've Got Everything Now.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
PS As usual, if there are subjects you might like me to tackle on this blog, or you could benefit from any of our services please get in touch and let me know!
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