Embracing Artificial Intelligence, predicting damp and mould, and lessons from Formula 1 on avoiding “drowning in data” were just some of the topics covered at the Housemark Data and Analytics Summit 2023.

More than 250 delegates attended the event at Silverstone Racing Circuit on 9 November and heard the latest thinking on data management and insight from a range of expert speakers. This included speakers from Amazon Web Services, The Bank of England and the Housing Ombudsman Service.

Standing out to AI

Jonathan Tanner, Founder and CEO of consultancy Rootcause, spoke on the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on society and what that means for the service housing providers offer to customers.

Mr Tanner said we are living through a moment of major historical change and that “AI is going to rewire the world”. He added: “AI will make it impossible to know what to believe”, adding “Now is a good time to take stock of AI changes in the medium term”.

For Mr Tanner, this means “everyone will be a software engineer. We’ll be able to ask AI to write software for us. The next generation of kids will be using AI in ways we can’t even imagine…Those organisations not thinking about how to make themselves stand out to AI will lose out to AI.”

He added he was not “super optimistic” that AI will give a greater voice to marginalised communities. This is because “a lot of AI tools replicate the world as it is”.

Think big

Johan Hanekom, Principal for Sustainability and Innovation, Amazon Web Services, offered some advice on how housing providers can approach the challenges they face. Amazon’s approach is to be “customer-obsessed” and “think big, start small and scale fast”.

He said: “We are here because the customer pays the bill…90% of our innovations come from our customers. We have a fail fast culture. If you are not failing you are not thinking big enough or acting fast enough.”

Mr Hanekom added: “Human beings don’t like change, but change is inevitable…To be successful now you need to be open to feedback and challenge. Organisations need people who disagree – that is how you grow…You need to use data to support theories and debate – it can’t be on instinct and gut feeling. You need to have your ‘because of’ ready.”

Use data well

The importance of using data well was a key message delegates heard from the world of Formula 1 motor racing. Bernie Collins, Former Head of Race Strategy at the Aston Martin Formula 1 Team, said it was important to always ask: “Why is this piece of data important? What is it telling me?”.

She said that to avoid “drowning in data”, delegates should: “Focus on what is going to give the best results. Answer the biggest question first. For us it is on which corner gives the driver the biggest problem and work on that.”

Predicting damp and mould

One of the biggest problem areas for the housing sector in recent times has been damp and mould. John Wickenden, Research Manager at Housemark, shared insights from damp and mould work Housemark has been doing through its Photobook property inspection tool.

Housemark has been running a pilot study to gather data on the damp and mould challenges housing providers face – and how best to address these. Mr Wickenden said: “We are using machine learning to help us understand trends and where landlords can expect to see more damp and mould in certain homes in certain locations with certain households.”

He added: “We are looking at whether we can develop a set of KPIs on damp and mould for landlords. Ultimately we will be doing benchmarking of our damp and mould work.”

Data management action

Meanwhile, Verity Richards, Head of Service at the Housing Ombudsman Service, called on housing providers to take action to reduce the high maladministration rates in information and data management. She said these are the highest rates it sees and highlighted the ways in which the housing sector can act to tackle this.

Ms Richards said key questions to ask include: “Do you have a knowledge and information management strategy? Who is overseeing it? Are your systems reliable and can they be accessed by housing officers on the beat?”. She directed housing providers to the Spotlight Report on Knowledge and Information Management published earlier this year for further guidance.

For Abel Aboh, Data Management Lead at the Bank of England, “data management is a people issue”. He outlined the key aspects of successful data management: “[There are] three key things: know your data; trust your business data; and use it. You need to be bold and intentional – start with the business need. The key point is that data management is a journey, not a destination.”

Webinar: further data insights

Further insights from the Housemark Data and Analytics Summit – supported by Prodo and Mobysoft – will be available at a webinar on 6 December. The event is free for Data Summit attendees (small fee for others) and includes a session with keynote speaker Peter Jackson, Chief Data and Technology Officer at Outra, as well as other experts discussing key themes from the day.

To register for the webinar on 6 December and continue the Data Summit conversations, please click here.