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Guide: Social housing sector - 5 steps to getting started on your data transformation journey

Posted 28th March 2024

Research by the Housing Ombudsman in May 2023 found that 82% of social landlords face issues accessing critical reports, while 75% face problems with their existing data storage systems.

The consequences of poor quality and badly organised data can be severe for providers – potentially masking issues around available housing stock, maintenance schedules and even the welfare of tenants. But with the advent of the Social Housing Act and the reporting requirements of the Tenant Satisfaction Measures Standard, it’s never been more important
for the sector to ensure that data is accurate, well managed and accessible.

With many landlords dealing with disparate and legacy data systems, the journey to transformation may appear insurmountable, but with new approaches to data management, it’s possible to start accessing the reports you need within a matter of weeks.

In this guide, we offer five recommendations to get started.

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Step 1: Assess where you are on the data journey

BCN recently commissioned a research report with Dr Simon Williams of Service Insights, to get a better understanding of the data challenges facing social housing providers. Poor data management was detectable across all housing management functions assessed in the study, with just 38.6% of respondents suggesting that they find it easy to access the data sources they need to perform their  roles effectively. Meanwhile, only 45.5% said that they can currently trust the accuracy of their data – both statistics suggesting that many landlords sit on the early stages of their data journey.

Step 2: Identify your biggest challenges

In order to get on the pathway to an improved data profile, it’s important first to identify your organisation’s most urgent, or most significant data challenges in terms of service impact.

This can be any one, or combination of issues – a lack of clarity on the financial cost of maintenance and repairs, the accuracy of operational reporting, poor decision making around stock condition, or even poor tenant welfare outcomes for example.

When you’ve identified your most significant data-driven service issues, it’s possible to map the root data problems. It could be the disparate nature of your databases; unconsolidated data storage; a lack of processes or systems to maintain or manage your data; or incomplete or inaccurate data quality.

Once you understand the root data causes, it’s possible to start to prioritise the elements to be fixed.

Step 3: Review your data landscape

For 62% of the respondents to our social housing sector survey, ‘multiple data storages’ was the number one data challenge, followed closely by 50% who said it was their databases not synching.

A single, unified system that consolidates data from various sources and departments (both property and tenant-led), is the ambition of many providers, for whom data management could become more streamlined, more standardised, and provide the ‘single version of truth’ that can lead to more accurate reporting and a better tenant experience.

The starting point for a unified system is a detailed audit of where your data is currently housed. List out everywhere that your data is currently held, which systems and platforms it is housed in, and from where it is supplied – legacy records in your housing and repair management systems, your customer communications, socials, finance etc.

Step 4: Begin to pull your data together

Once you know the sources of data that you wish to consolidate, it can take only a couple of weeks to start generating accurate reports using data flows within Microsoft Fabric.

Data flows allow the connection of various data sources, such as Excel files, SharePoint lists, SQL databases or web services within a centralised and secure data lake or lake house. Data flows can then be built into semantic models with defined relationships, ensuring consistency and one version of the truth ready for analysis.

Data flows can be created and then managed via a graphical user interface in Power Apps or Power BI. They can be scheduled to run automatically, or triggered on demand, and be shared and reused across other apps and solutions within the Power Platform as well as Azure services.

Step 5: Begin to report more effectively

Power BI is an analytics platform that can absorb and filter data from hundreds of data sources to provide powerful and meaningful insights.

Using Microsoft Fabric alongside built-in connectors and templates, data flows can be created in Power BI to produce impactful and timely reports and dashboards that empower teams to make more informed decisions.

By bringing disparate data sources together into a single version of truth, it’s also possible to identify patterns, needs and preferences, that might otherwise be missed in segmented data platforms – the result; a better understanding of tenants to personalise service and improve satisfaction.

Download our guide today

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