“Well, I guess we may as well give up now. High inflation and a devastating war in Europe with the spectre of the pandemic still not entirely gone. What on earth can we do against such an overwhelming collection of problems?”

I’m sure most of us have felt like this over last year or more. We pick ourselves up and get back to what we’re unmatched at: being a sector that, no matter the challenge, faces it head on. But what can you do to be even more resilient, and to be more effective in taking on these challenges – where do you even begin?

Put simply, you begin with what you know, and then you try to understand what it means.

Do you know how many properties you let last year,  how many repairs you carried out last month or how satisfied your tenants were? Are you 100% confident no-one in your organisation has ever entered the wrong tenancy end date, no operative has ever accidentally left a repair open overnight – and that you’ve asked every single one of your tenants what they think in your last survey? How confident are you that your organisation’s data is robust? When was the last time anyone sample checked the data for errors? How easy is it to access this data, and who are the gatekeepers?

It’s probably no surprise that I work as a Data Operations Manager – after all my job is to ‘dig deep’ and ask lots of questions! But it’s difficult to argue against the value and importance of good data in facing the multitude of challenges currently faced by the sector. Now more than ever, you’re going to need to ask lots of questions and find out the answers – because delays costs money, wasted repair visits cost money and ineffective work with tenants costs money. Money that is in very short supply for many.

What Does This Mean?

So you’ve spent a lot of time and effort in ensuring your data is virtually error-free and that you have it at your fingers anywhere, anytime. But then you discover that your average cost of a repair is much higher than your peers – and clearly you need to cut some costs.

Or do you? Does the high average mean there’s a problem – that those carrying out the repairs are not working efficiently or using materials sourced at a high price? Or it could be because they’re doing a really thorough job and fixing everything properly, so it doesn’t break three weeks later – as well as carrying out other minor repairs while they’re on site.

By just looking at the figures, these two scenarios could look exactly the same – but they’ll impact on other repairs data in very different ways. This is why it’s so important to look beyond the numbers and understand what your data means. Working on this understanding is my favourite part, and it’s why I love my job so very much!

We’re all being challenged, and will continue to be challenged, in ways that many of us have never faced – and we’re going to have to do things better than we ever have before. So it’s reassuring to know that you’re not alone. As you continue to wrestle with big decisions and competing priorities, good data that you know and understand will be your best friend and an invaluable tool in helping you to navigate the turbulent times that lie ahead.