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Data challenges for housing providers

Spending by housing providers on software, systems and consultancy runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. However, the sector is facing huge problems with data management. Let's explore why this matters to your teams, your residents and the future of your organisation...

So much tech, so little value

Housing providers facing data challenges have vast volumes of data in their housing management, finance and asset management systems – as well their CRM solutions, apps and other tools.

The trouble is, different departments are using a mix of bespoke systems, Excel spreadsheets and  manual processing to update and transfer data across their organisation. The result is information that is held in system silos with a myriad of data formats and structures and it is often of questionable quality, consistency and completeness. 

Access to efficient, timely, trustworthy data is elusive. Even if you can get to what seems like ‘the truth’… there’s often no single version of it. So, what’s the impact?

data challenges

“Integrity of data is fundamental and permits good board decision-making. Failure to manage data integrity risk is indicative of a poor control framework…

Erroneous data can be costly to fix and can damage the reputation of an individual provider…

Accurate data will assist in areas such as compliance… and in the preparation of KPIs

…the regulator has called into question the integrity of providers’ data… Failure to provide timely and accurate data will be reflected in the judgement”

(The Regulator for Social Housing, 2020)

Data quality issues

Different teams may use different data sources, submit different reports with different conclusions – but their data can’t be verified and they can’t all be correct. Without relevant, timely and trustworthy data, managers are unable to make the best business decisions. In the last year over 30 organisations were downgraded by the Regulator according to governance or financial viability standards. The Regulator has called out (see sidebar) that the integrity of data is often at the heart of such problems.

Confidence and rigour

A lack of accurate data can put providers’ reputations and people’s lives at risk. Organisations need ready access to verifiable data when providing evidence and satisfying audits that the correct processes have been followed. Also, efficient businesses need to spot problems before they happen and intervene as needed. By allowing staff to delay inputting of data, applying manual interventions to data and compiling their own reports puts an organisation at risk – the system itself should be the gatekeeper and single source of the truth.

Wasted time and effort

Typically, housing providers build an array of integrators or rely on macros and workarounds, often in Excel – because systems won’t talk to each other. Hours are spent on manual data preparation and corrections – with tasks often replicated. These processes eat up valuable resources, slow down business processes and are prone to errors, creating further data challenges. 

data challenges

Taking a costly wrong turn

Recognising these huge data challenges, housing providers often look for big solutions and replacing one large legacy system with another slightly newer legacy system just recreates data management issues for the organisation. This in turn creates large amounts of work in procurement, for hard-pressed in-house IT teams and third party developers as the new system is deployed alongside the other legacy systems and all existing integrations need to be replicated. Mistakenly, projects are often viewed as tasks for IT to handle alone. 

Business leaders often struggle to understand the technology and the IT specialists don’t always get clarity around the business goals.  Before long, problems become evident. Without near-unlimited resources, bespoke data management systems and solutions often fall far short of the strategic intent.


Spiralling costs and poor outcomes

In addition to the high capital expenditure, there are often indirect costs. The cost in staff time in preparing a Board dashboard might be as much as 120 days per annum and up to 220 days for a performance report pack.

And it’s not as if management insights are readily available. One housing association estimated that some reports created in the business were taking around 10 days of effort – and, by then, the business no longer needed them.

And what about the future? Even when the bespoke solutions is operational, there’s always the likelihood that new apps and systems are needed. Will you be forced into another costly integration cycle?

Executives are correct to be cautious

Fortunately, Illumar stands ready to help. With our solution, you can solve your data challenges in a smarter and strategic way.

Counting the cost of bespoke data management solutions

Average price of a data warehouse is £500,000

Time to build is typically 17 months for a base solution

70% of data warehouse projects fail

For companies with 1,000-plus employees, the mean, annual expenditure on a business intelligence (BI) project is £1.1m

Board Data Competency

As a recent social landlord health and safety report by the Welsh Regulator said, ‘If the data is not accurate, how do you know, you know what you think you know?’

Smart data management

The need for a centralised enterprise data management solution is being driven by every organisation gathering increasing amounts of data at an accelerated pace

Replacing current source systems

Housing providers are increasingly being offered replacement options beyond the traditional stable of housing management software providers