28 March 2018

Business transformation is one of those terms that’s become common place in housing in recent years, and is now a top priority for sector management teams. While the cynics might roll their eyes at the latest buzzword, there’s no doubt we’ve all experienced and benefitted from business transformation in our daily lives – whether its streaming boxsets on Netflix, paying for our morning caramel macchiato with our watch or flying to Budapest for the same price as a night out at the cinema.

So, what is business transformation really? Let’s keep it simple and let Wikipedia tell us, a transformation itself in how we source and consume information. Wikipedia describes it as ‘business transformation involves making fundamental changes in how business is conducted in order to help cope with shifts in market environment.’

There will be few who can argue that housing has experienced a fundamental shift in the market environment, and I’m sure you don’t need me to repeat the policy challenges the sector has been dealing with over the past few years. While in many respects, housing associations are in a much better place politically, now is not the time to rest on our laurels and hunker down. There are a number of commissions and bodies asking fundamental questions about the future role of social housing. The sector has been challenged on how to play an even bigger role in addressing the housing crisis.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a blog about transformation, if I didn’t mention wider societal change and the digital revolution both as drivers and enablers of change. For some businesses, this is a disruptive force that leaves them playing catch up. For others, it opens the door to unparalleled opportunities. In an era where our customers, colleagues and stakeholders are being served in a completely different way, how do you ensure you are in the latter category?

Leadership is undeniably key. Do you have a clear vision about where you want to get to? Can everyone get behind this? How will you lead the organisation through this change?

You can’t do it alone. We all know change and uncertainty is hard. How do you ensure your people remain engaged? What does it mean for skills capacity, talent management, learning and development, role design and workforce planning?

It must benefit the customer and improve the service you provide. How will you engage with your tenants and customers and use their feedback to reshape services? How will you meet the needs of differing groups? How will the customer judge success?

We all know transformation is more than IT but technology and data will be an important enabler. How will you get the most from what is on offer? Do you know where you are starting from in terms of performance, processes, structure, costs, resources, people? Do you know what excellence and success looks like and what that it means for you and your customers? How will you ensure decisions are evidence-based? How will you know if you have succeeded?

While the answers to these questions and many others will be different across organisations, reflecting differing priorities and contexts, that doesn’t mean you need to go it alone. We are all grappling with these issues and there is so much to learn from others in and outside the sector.

As I sip my caramel macchiato it leaves me wishing for an event and conference that could do all of this… Hope to see you in at the conference!

Stephen Russell

Stephen Russell is Director of Performance Analytics and Insight, HouseMark

Stephen is responsible for developing and delivering HouseMark’s data and business intelligence service. He joined HouseMark in June 2017 having worked extensively within housing research, data and policy. This includes 10 years at a large housing association, working there most recently as director of business insight and communications. In this time, Stephen delivered a range of innovative research and data solutions to guide strategic decision-making.

Buzzword or business critical? My take on business transformation