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This November the usual NHF (National Housing Federation) IT Conference and Exhibition did Manchester as well as the usual London Olympia this year. It is an event that does need to evolve and this was indeed a brave move. I was invited to attend both venues on a press pass and attended both venues.
I have attended the NHF Olympia for many years, as supplier and also happy visitor, delegate and this year ‘Press’. No need for anyone to worry on that last classification, I won’t be tapping anyone’s mobile phone to do the big reveal on what the next acquisition of Castleton PLC will be. I will as usual just be relying on my contacts in low/high places to keep me posted.
Olympia can be a damned frustrating venue to get to, expensive to stay in the Hilton / Novotel etc, particularly for visitors from north of London, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Its often occurred to me that the Birmingham NEC would make a great alternative venue. On the West Coast mainline, adjacent to the airport and M42 etc. So I was very interested in how the Manchester event went.
The Olympia event has over previous years been moving in the direction of travel, of concentrating on housing IT success stories, rather than suppliers talking up their wares. This years’ events kept this theme, which is far more attractive for everyone, providing solid ideas to take away. I attended a few interesting sessions that should have inspired many to reconsider how they work and emerging techniques and solutions.
Donna Middleton of Hyde Group had some good ideas around social media and our customers. Lots of research, but just a few practical moves to make this a reality. One important point made by Donna was the equation we all make regarding how we choose our channels. It was that usability & availability helps us make up our minds. I would add reliability too. It’s no good providing a twitter channel if its only monitored 9-5, or a self service portal that just spits out an email waiting for someone to come in the next morning to deal with it.
CRM needs to connect easily with self service portals and other feeds, so a twitter complaint can be tracked like any other. As I mentioned in another session earlier in the day, many RSL’s buy CRM in order to get a 360⁰ view of customers. The reality of most clients I work with, is they achieve 170⁰ at best, if they miss out on other interactions, such as these highlighted social media ones. Donna also noted the trend these days, to use Twitter or Facebook to complain. I have complained to Morrison’s this way and got an answer in about 12 minutes. That might have something to do with having nearly 4,000 followers, or was it?
Big numbers of followers bring me on to Big Data. Yes that again!
It’s jolly interesting stuff I have got to say, but still has a whiff of utopia about it to me. Blimey, most places I see the inside of, are still wrestling, (or have quietly given up on wrestling) with small data. If we banned Excel in most housing organisations, they would fall apart. I am all for everyone doing what they did in Northern Ireland, declaring an amnesty, getting them handed in and put beyond use. We might have half a chance to use our existing systems better, and then we would be closer to big data IMHO.
The split over two city venues did appear to dilute the attendees somewhat, although this is the first time the NHF have done this and it’s hard to predict outcomes. I enjoyed the networking opportunities and many people buttonholed me to talk about this blog and other housing related subjects. Today in Manchester, I saw a few people who I would normally see at Olympia, but I felt a little sorry for exhibitors, who I know would have preferred better footfall.
At Manchester I did have chance to chat to Barry Marlow, housing visionary and critical friend, who had some interesting takes on some of the stands. It was great for me to see the world through his eyes. He is a practical chap and even I struggled to explain terms like Hybridization (anyone?) and why every stand advertised a ‘Solution’. Software has clearly been a ‘dirty word’ for some time and we have not noticed. Thinking about it plumbers have also morphed into ‘Plumbing Solutions’ too. Thankfully, Barry was not at Olympia, otherwise I might have had to explain the £9.99 housing system too, and what those two ladies in the Deeplake T-Shirts are selling. I don't know if he caught DtL Creative & Sovereign Business Integration Group's Spotlight service either!
I have offered to do a double-act with Barry at a future event, it will be fun and transformative I am sure, watch this space 8-)
Related Post: Are our systems really so agile?
You can link with me on LinkedIn here - http://uk.linkedin.com/in/tonysmiththathousingitguy It would be great to connect !
Gomez - Whippin Piccadilly.
(c) Tony Smith, Acutance Consulting www.acutanceconsulting.co.uk 07854-655009
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