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Housing associations: how to get more value from your data

Most housing associations struggle to unlock the maximum value from the data they process, in this blog post we'll share how to unlock the value of data.

Hitachi Solutions > Blog > 2019 > 03 > Housing associations: how to get more value from your data

In today’s digital world, data along with people are an organisation’s most vital asset.

This is true whether it’s a charity, multinational corporation, local authority or housing association. In our experience, however, most housing associations struggle to unlock the maximum value from the data they process.

So why is this? Despite processing a vast amount of data, the amount of available information is limited and can be disorganised, presented in disparate spreadsheets and often dispersed between multiple, conflicting documents that prevents a single, version of the truth.

Housing associations do know the potential of their data, but there are internal and external factors that play a part in making it challenging to use to make confident, informed decisions.

The cloud now offers a new approach to discovering value in a Housing Association’s data, by unifying information from across an organisation in a modern data platform.  This can include data from:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  • Housing Management Systems
  • Finance and existing Business Intelligence (BI) systems

By moving away from the traditional data warehouse approach, businesses can create a dynamic, agile data platform that can scale and flex with the demands of the business.

Using new data visualisation tools, data-led decisions become easier, faster and more effective; turning the data from an inconvenience into an asset. Here’s a look at the potential that modern, smart data platforms can offer housing associations.

Creating a unified dataset

Sitting in a meeting with five different versions of the same dataset is something we’ve seen first-hand and not an uncommon challenge.  Creating ‘a single version of the truth’ is the solution to this: a phrase that often comes up in relation to datasets.

It refers to having a single version of information that can be universally referred to and accepted across the organisation. Achieving it requires storing and processing data in a centralised, shared interface that everyone can access. This allows data to be compiled through established metrics and definitions that can be easily analysed.

The modern data platform approach aims to be more agile and flexible than ‘traditional’ monolithic data warehouses. Using cloud technologies such as Microsoft Azure, multiple components, each specialised for a single purpose, are integrated to form a wider data platform. This means the whole solution can be optimised to cater to any data, whether that be from CRM, Housing management systems or ERP or even the Internet of Things.

Technologies such as data lakes are perfectly suited for this purpose and form a central part of the modern data platform. The information is then blended into a single platform interface that ensures a single version of the truth, where it is prepared and presented using interactive dashboards that provide data visualisation and advanced analytics functionality for every individual worker.

Data Visualisation

Spreadsheets and databases are an essential way of capturing and analysing information. But as a method for interpreting trends and drawing conclusions, they’re hard to govern and struggle to provide consistency of analysis across an organisation. At each stage of the process, they generate inefficiencies. A truly modern data platform can lift data from spreadsheets and present it in a way that allows for quick, effective and efficient analysis.

The cloud also offers specialised data visualisation and business intelligence software such as Power BI. These technologies present analysis and findings in a visual, digestible format so people can understand the significance of data without having to understand every individual data point. With proper configuration you can be sure that the whole organisation is looking at the same data and importantly the same metrics and KPIS calculated from that data. The data visualisation software can become a controlled, central access point for all approved data and analysis.

Data in a GDPR world

On May 2018, the GDPR updated data protection laws for the 21st century. With hefty fines and sanctions for non-compliance, it has certainly made organisations wary of the data they process and aware that it’s no longer acceptable to have messy, disorganised and overly complex datasets. They need an infrastructure that accounts for every piece of data, tracking it through each stage of processing.

As a data controller, you must be able to prove where your data came from, who it belongs to, for what reasons it will be analysed, and that opt-in consent was obtained. This is all information that a modern data platform can record, either automatically or at the confirmation of the end user. Compliance processes should be properly integrated into your infrastructure to ensure that nothing slips between the cracks.

Smart data: Step by step

For many housing associations, the worry is that the only way to truly take advantage of data is to build an entirely new data warehouse from scratch. While this could prove to be an effective route; the time, risk and financial investment, this requires means for many organisations it’s simply not an immediate option.

Housing associations may consider the combined potential of platforms like Microsoft Office 365. In particular, Dynamics 365 CRM and Power BI—when used in conjunction—can improve an organization’s data capturing, management, optimization, and analysis.

At Hitachi Solutions, we offer housing associations the opportunity to harness the potential of a data-driven, agile solution on a specific area of your existing infrastructure, so you begin by taking a step-by-step, iterative approach to building your data platform. If there’s a problem you need to solve, this is your opportunity to understand the benefits that modern data platforms can provide, on a low-risk affordable scale.

 

To find out more about building your own modern data platform – on whichever scale – get in touch with Hitachi Solutions today.

 

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Ciara McMillan

Ciara has huge passion for working in the Social Housing Sector. She previously worked at Futures Housing Group and WMHousing managing neighbourhoods and leading on strategic partnerships. Her drive to improve the technology offerings to Housing associations and support Housing to deliver against digital agendas has led her to work for Hitachi as Industry Director for Housing. Throughout her time in Housing she has championed Women in Housing, mentoring younger women to maximise their potential and supporting women to strive for leadership positions and be ambitious in their careers.

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Author Spotlight

Ciara McMillan

Ciara has huge passion for working in the Social Housing Sector. She previously worked at Futures Housing Group and WMHousing managing neighbourhoods and leading on strategic partnerships. Her drive to improve the technology offerings to Housing associations and support Housing to deliver against digital agendas has led her to work for Hitachi as Industry Director for Housing. Throughout her time in Housing she has championed Women in Housing, mentoring younger women to maximise their potential and supporting women to strive for leadership positions and be ambitious in their careers.

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