P49 Social Amy Singh2
Amramanjari Singh Director of Data & Business Information

Landscape

According to the National Housing Federation, there are more than 1,300 housing associations in England providing 2.8 million homes for six million people – housing 11% of the population.

Southern Housing is one of the biggest with more than 78,000 homes across London, the South East, the Isle of Wight and the Midlands, giving over 167,000 residents affordable homes.

In providing services to our residents, including repairs, we carry out over one million customer transactions every year. The data we generate from that sits on top of the data we store from our homes, which in themselves generate multiple data points from their components, construction, age etc. Pre-merger all that information was stored across multiple systems spread across a vast technological landscape inherited from both legacy organisations. 

Our challenge was to get from this starting point to a position where the business had trust and confidence in the data that was being used, so it could help drive better decision making and ultimately results.

 

Why do we care about our data so much?

Because we want to improve our services to our residents. Here is a story about Peter.

  • Peter lives alone in one of Southern Housing properties. He struggles with technology but does own a mobile phone for emergencies.
  • One day he comes back to find a leak in his house.
  • Peter has the contact information for Southern Housing available and calls Southern Housing.
  • When the call centre receives the call, they can see his information displayed on the screen linked to the telephone number: Address/location, property type, personal details, any vulnerabilities, repairs history etc.
  • Peter explains the situation, which the call representative feeds into the system.
  • That information is then passed on to the contractor, who schedules in the leak repair and sends an operative with complete information: type of tap used, reason for leak, spare parts required.
  • The information shared by Peter combined with the information existing in the current systems about the assets/components of the property helps contractor to do the right diagnosis of the issue and to schedule right operative to do the job.
  • The operative visits Peter at the time that suits him and fixes the tap.

If you flip this story, it shows that when the information is unavailable or is inaccurate, the service delivery and costs to the organisation are impacted. Without confidence in data/information, decision-makers across our business may hesitate or make ill-informed choices, potentially leading to missed opportunities, multiple-visits, or costly mistakes and ultimately a decrease in the satisfaction of residents in us.

 

What are we doing to achieve confidence in our data?

In the year since merger, we’ve prioritised our Property, Customer and Asset/Component data domains as the first steps toward ensuring smoother operations and increased efficiency.

We’ve created 17 Data Assurance plans within these domains and as a result now have clear data quality improvement road maps for each of them, with some improvement already beginning to show.

We used a 3-step approach to achieve this based on the principle:

  • Step 1 – Data Categorisation - Breaking down the information into smaller manageable chunks.
  • Step 2 – Data Ownership and stewardship - Ownership + Accountability = Ability to respond.
  • Step 3 – Data Quality improvement – "the ‘as is now’ and the ‘to be in the future’ picture".

Each data assurance plan has a data quality road map that categorises how important that piece of information is to the business. This depends on several factors including the need to have it for regulatory or compliance purposes – with our main driver thereafter always being - will it help improve our service delivery.

Data roadmap in action

An example of what we have done is in our approach to Vulnerability Data Assurance.

While this information is not required for regulatory or compliance purposes capturing ‘vulnerabilities’ is vital when it comes to understanding our residents, designing services, and offering the specific support or interventions they require.

Vulnerability - which may have previously been the only headline category recorded -is now broken down into the following sub-domains:

  • Customer Identity
  • Antisocial Behaviour
  • Health & Wellbeing Monitoring
  • Mental Capacity/Deprivation of Liberty
  • Safeguarding
  • Digital Support
  • Domestic Abuse Counselling
  • Financial Support as subdomains

The data for each of these is then controlled and managed by a number of owners (team leads) and data stewards (colleagues with specialist knowledge of the categories) who are responsible for closing any information gaps that currently exist, and the ongoing quality of the data held in these domains.  By breaking the data down and having a proper assurance plan in place, we are helping to put the customer at the heart of the roadmap so that every decision will be empowered by accurate information.

Conclusion

Data-driven innovation is driving the next wave of business growth and customer centric services. However, innovation thrives on the foundation of reliable data. By ensuring data assurance is in place, organisations such as ours can confidently explore new opportunities, experiment with emerging technologies, and drive transformative initiatives on behalf of residents.

In their Knowledge and Information Management spotlight report the Housing Ombudsman makes clear the impact that poor data and record keeping can have on residents  and landlords  – a point we wholeheartedly agree with. This is why among the first things we did as a new organisation was to set about transforming the way we gather, store, manage and use data. The first year has seen us take some significant strides in this direction and by continuing to prioritise Data Assurance across the organisation we aim to eventually deliver the services that residents want, when they want them.

 

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