2018. Is this the year of the data explosion for social housing?

One of the highlights of my Christmas was a group of us ‘playing’ with a friend’s Amazon’s Alexa. Almost instantly she was playing our favourite songs ‘from way back when’. When they came to us for New Year, I almost made it a condition they bring Alexa, but stopped myself at the last minute. Why? The start of a slippery slope – the idea that I might enjoy a ‘robot’s’ company more than my friends! But it’s clear I wouldn’t have been alone; Alexa was the top app on 25 December, and with app store listings delivering close to real-time feedback, it’s safe to say that this smart speaker was a popular choice for many this Christmas.

Smart devices, AI, ‘robots’ are fun. They make life easier. We don’t even realise how much we already rely on AI to enable us to live our busy lives, whilst also finding the time to experience fun things.

Smart technology and AI uses and makes sense of vast amounts of personal data. And we give it freely, not knowing where it’s stored and how it is being used. In 2017, several large data breaches were reported on. These have now gone quiet, but surely millions of records cannot be accessed without on-going implications? The recent disclosure that the ‘chips’ used in Apple devices were faulty led to experts stating that ‘no data is completely secure’.

As the housing sector progresses further on the digital and AI journey, seeking to effectively use data to drive decision–making, some big questions raise their heads...

What measures need to be put in place to protect and keep secure personal and private data about employees and customers; and to comply with the new GDPR?

How do we use data which is capable of giving us insight into peoples’ real-life preferences and experiences? How do we use data to shape our thinking about what trends may, or may not happen next? You can be certain Amazon is maximising every level of its data, so how are we doing in the social housing sector?

Gone are the days where data is the job of one department. Elizabeth Denham, Information Commissioner recently made the point that data is now so important it’s no longer the responsibility of the IT department, it’s a Board-level issue that shapes the ways organisations operate. Data usage needs to be considered throughout an entire business.

What does the UK housing sector look like in terms of its data maturity? At HouseMark, we see organisations in the emerging stages of maturity, getting to grips with their own data and using it to positive advantage. Others are ‘trailblazers’, embracing innovative solutions that see data analysis strongly embedded in their strategic decision-making processes. Many organisations fit somewhere in between.

As AI and smart technology continues to develop, the amount of data collected will grow exponentially. We need to re-skill for the digital age, creating a holistic workforce where humans and AI can co-exist and complement each other ‘skills,’ effectively using data to:

AI and data is powering businesses to the next level. Being able to use these effectively to provide better information about how the business is currently operating, identifying actionable insights for continuous improvement, as well as delivering a ‘step change’ in aspects of service delivery are indicators of an organisations data maturity.

Businesses like Amazon demonstrate the power of data through strong product sales; using the data they collect from customers to suggest other products they might like, as well as creating new products that customers not only use, but become an essential part of their lives and lifestyles.

So what next for the UK housing sector?

I’m certainly not a fortune teller, however there can’t be any doubt that in 2018, the collection, security, analysis and effective use of data will continue to increase in importance for all of us.

For more information, take a look at our General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) guide available here, or to find out more about our refreshed data offer, please click here.

By Laurice Ponting

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