A third of organisations ‘don’t have the skills to innovate’

In the fourth of its kind, the report sets to address how much the sector has transformed over time.

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The latest release of Altair’s ‘Future Gazing, Future Shaping’ follows on from a series of reports published in 2016, looking at how the future of the sector was determined to be in 2025.

According to previous reports, the sector was set to look “very different” in 2025, with the survey revealing that technology would be the overriding factor to in the transformation of social housing.

The latest report, released today (30th April) aims to track how much progress has been made in the sector in delivering this transformation, as well as the sectors approach to innovation.

Of the 70 respondents who took part in the survey in 2016, around 60% described their organisation’s approach to innovation as either ‘early adopters’ or ‘early majority’.

The report also highlighted 65% of respondents stated they are currently implementing change/ transformation programmes, with 70% of stating to have a digital strategy in place.

Although innovation and transformation is a topic being considered by most in the sector, the report highlights how things “haven’t moved on” a huge amount in since 2016.

For example, the top three drivers for transformation are reported to remain the same as 2016 in the new report: being that of improving customer experience; increasing efficiency; and the implementation of a new corporate strategy.

As highlighted, 90% of respondents described themselves as either ‘early adopters’ or ‘early majority’ in terms of their approach to innovation and transformation, with around 90% of organisations currently said to have less than 40% of their customer transactions completed online.

In the new release of reports by Altair, nearly a third of organisations are said believe that they do not have the skills available to drive the required change.

Between the two years since the first survey, the report highlighted many factors that might be current drivers for change.

The high levels of uncertainty surrounding Brexit is referenced, potentially said to summon increased supply chain costs, especially in relation to new builds, depending on the outcome.

The report argues that this uncertainty could present an opportunity for social housing to “rethink” strategies and processes and to use technology and digitalisation, such as offsite construction and AI, to drive innovation.

Seen as one of the most challenges facing the UK in the coming years, the basic problem as highlighted in the updated report revolves around housing demand outstripping supply.

A recent study from Shelter highlights several issues with the decline in social housing development and vast levels of young people unable to own a property, with the number of homeless households rising to 320,000 in 2018.

This is also stated to “present opportunity” to produce effective approaches to transforming service delivery models.

As identified, the most noteworthy change is the increase of 17% of respondents describing themselves as ‘early majority’.

Drivers behind this change are said to be that of providers in 2016 who saw themselves as either ‘laggard’ or ‘late majority’ who have most likely implemented new innovations over the last 2 years, becoming more confident in their approach to integrating new methods of working or technology.

From 2016, the greatest change as highlighted is that of a 27% increase in ‘improving customer service’ and an 11% increase in ‘customer demand’.

From a “tenant perspective”, this is said to bring an automatic expectation that services should be tailored, accessible, simplified and consistent, mostly due to the “pace of change” they have experienced in other sectors.

In the new study, a question was asked around the kind of technologies that will be in use by 2025.

Around 85% of respondents have confirmed that by 2025 they will be using both digital and smart devices, such as personal alarms, and devices that can be remotely controlled.

Social housing providers are said to be able to harness this use of intelligent technology to obtain “greater operational efficiencies” and more effective, diverse services to its residents.

Results are also said to correlate with findings about how organisations are approaching transformation and change, in that there is a move to the “middle ground”, with ‘laggards’ becoming braver while innovators are scaling back and falling “back into the pack”.

As stated, overall, housing providers still appear to be receptive to considering and incorporating innovation within their organisations.

However, the report highlights that enthusiasm and optimism displayed in response to the original survey in 2016 does not appear to have “followed through” into implementation to the degree that was anticipated.

The report concludes that over the history of the social housing sector, there have been a series of “defining periods” which have led to periods of change.

“It is not over the top to suggest that we are in a similar period now – new entrants, for profit providers, changing customer demands and advances in technology all have the potential to significantly change the face and structure of how the sector operates”, the report added.

“The sector isn’t at risk of being left behind, it is already behind. The run in to 2025 has the potential to be a hugely exciting and dynamic period in the history of the sector. It also has the potential to be one which defines the sector as dropping further behind others.

“Now is the time therefore for organisations to truly grasp the opportunities that innovation, technology and data provide”, it concluded.

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