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It was really good to see so many old friends, clients and contacts at the Housing Technology Conference earlier this month, at the Oxford Belfry.
Last year I remember attendance seeming particularly high, and I think George Grant and his team, at least equalled it, in what is a tight operating environment to be getting out a few days from the office. Also, just a few weeks back, was the NHF IT Conference at Chelsea FC.
A couple of the keynote speakers were female, the excellent Dr Sue Black OBE, saviour of Bletchley Park and Rachel Neaman. I had a lovely chat with Dr Sue, who cutely mistook my Specsavers for Google Glass (bless!). Still, I will be looking to see if I can help bring her #TechMums initiative, to the local community library, in South Warrington, I helped re-open. Sounds like a brilliant idea 8-)
Sue did note (again) that females were thin on the ground, at the conference. we should not leave it just to West Kent, to redress the gender balance in IT. Well done Claire, let's get more of that happening.
I found Brigadier Richardson MBE inspirational, and it was great to see what is being achieved at Haig Homes and how he implemented his anti-BUM methodology, to realise true strategy. He had some revolutionary ideas about charging for Haig properties, particularly relevant when you see many of the military, housed often after long and dangerous tours, putting their life on the line for us. Rent & service charges must be made fairer. RSLs need to start to think differently.
Many of the sessions were very packed out, particularly that pesky library (with 'actual books', as some wag tweeted), where there were people queuing out the door. Now that's one change I would make next year.
There was some great stories at many of the sessions, some of projects not quite coming to fruition and others where there was true lessons to be learned. It was interesting to hear that Home Group were working with the Nintex workflow tool. Spookily enough, I did a large project with PfH a few years ago where a big financial solution utilised it from TSG too. A worthy tool.
Efficiencies gained by effective Omni-channel were mentioned in a few sessions I attended. It was interesting to be in the RHP session, as I have watched the move to digitalisation there, for many years. Amina Graham made me look up when she announced that wanted to be a Martini girl. What she really said was that the RHP web portal was aiming to be as exciting as alcohol. Also being available anytime, anywhere, which is the secret of effective channel shift (in case the penny hasn't dropped with anyone yet). As a recent OmFax survey found, only 45% of our RSLs, appear to have dedicated web portals. So, towards omni-channel we have some way to go.
It's not just our systems that are the problem either. Connectivity is still an issue in many areas. A comment from one contact of mine, living in a semi-rural county, criticised BT for not connecting communities. I can agree, having festered in countryside real ale pubs with painfully slow internet. We need that cracking, as well as supply of tablets/devices, to tenants & customers. Maybe basic tablets could be issued to poorer customers, once they had past a test of digital abilities, after training or mentoring? I am sure there is a way.
Interesting too, for sector watchers, if you were in the Civica CX, Orchard or Castleton sessions. Three new solutions, which should be a challenge to the 'old guard', dependent on what speed the implementations, build and integration moves. We are moving into interesting times.
This conference was extra special as it celebrated the 50th edition of Housing Technology. A great achievement for the magazine and all the effort that clearly goes in to it from George Grant and his team. It was great to share a glass of the bubbly and catch the speech too. There were also some limited edition, cup-cakes, which were all eaten before anyone could get them on eBay.
All in all, a super event, lots of inspiration and ideas to take away. I hope you thought so too, if you were there 8-)
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Related Post: Are many of your changes on 'standby' ?
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(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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