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Digital Housing & Transformation – The Need to Change

Barry Shields, Head of Digital and Innovation, and John Perrian, Senior Business Intelligence Analyst, Torus share their insights with the IG Housing Hub into what makes a successful digital transformation in the social housing sector.

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, then the end is near.”

Jack Welch

The above quote is certainly an appropriate one for the Social Housing Sector in recent years. A tsunami of change has buffeted the sector and as a result the words “change” and “transformation” have become very popular.

Of course, as know, there is a world of difference between change and transformation – as the sometimes quoted caterpillar / butterfly analogy highlights. A butterfly is not a better version of a better caterpillar. A caterpillar does not change into a butterfly; it transforms.

The above points are very relevant and significant for both the Digital and Innovation environment and the Social Housing Sector.

At Torus, during our Digital Transformation journey, we have always had at the forefront of our thinking some key points:

  • ‘Digital Transformation’ is not simply about replicating the offline offer online, it is about transformation not just change
  • That with Digital, the customer is even more ‘in the driving seat’
  • That Customer Experience (CX) & Digital go hand in hand – i.e. with Digital, the CX is totally transparent and digital take up will be driven by how easy you make it for the customer
  • That an Agile approach is essential and tailor made for Digital and Innovation
  • That the use of data and intelligence is crucial to Digital’s success
  • That Digital is not / cannot be some ‘add-on’; it is and has to be a core part of the business and how all services (front line and back office) are delivered
  • That Digital had to contribute to a reduction in phone demand and ultimately to reducing cost
  • That Digital Transformation is as much about the internal environment as it about the external
  • That Digital is not, primarily, about technology; it is about people

Based on these key points, some of the key things we did were:

  • Understand what our top volume areas for offline demand were and to understand how and where Digital Transformation could have the greatest impact (our ‘Top Tasks’)
  • To focus on the customer and on the customer experience – involve customers in the design and UAT; use metrics (Net Promoter Score, Customer Effort Score) to understand the CX
  • To work in short, definable Sprints and focus on developing a Minimum Viable Product and quickly understanding how successful the development was and making the required improvements quickly
  • Using data, insight and business intelligence to:
    1. Develop customer segmentation models for Digital Inclusion and take-up of our online offer
    2. Understand the drivers of demand and the customer segments – e.g. that 80% of phone demand came form 45% of customers
    3. Measure success – e.g. how many customers ‘channel-shift’? What is the reduction in phone calls? What are the financial savings?
  • Not to have a specific Digital Strategy but to have a Digital element to all our key business strategies – helping embed digital as a core theme running through the business
  • To involve all staff in our Digital journey, to:
    - Develop Digital Champions
    - Make best use of communication tools such as Yammer, Skype for Business
    - Focus on both the customer benefits and the benefits for staff of Digital
    - Increase the Digital literacy of our staff

It is because of this approach that we have had a great degree of success on our Digital Transformation journey. It is also because of this approach that we have identified unexpected challenges and barriers.

Crucially, it is because of this approach that we realise that the Digital Transformation journey never ends. The rate of change continues, technology advances, customer’s needs and expectations evolve. Likewise, Torus will continue to evolve, to transform… And Digital is at the very heart of that transformation.