23 April 2019

“Transformation is business as usual and seeing it as a big deal underpinned by lots of process is likely to delay your competitive edge”

My mind is always drawn to how the housing sector embraces transformation and change – and interestingly, what the attitudes emerging in recent times.

With Brexit dominating headlines, Green Paper possibilities and an uncertain economic climate, I see some keen to ‘wait and see’ – but for me, having worked in fiercely competitive sectors, under the consumer and regulatory spotlight, I know that sitting and waiting is the biggest risk businesses face in uncertain times. Transformation is business as usual and seeing it as a big deal underpinned by lots of process is likely to delay competitive edge.

This year in HouseMark, we are finding our consultancy clients hungry for answers; not immobilised by uncertainty. Think about it - using the Green Paper as an example – yes, we have some headlines, but we don't know where on the continuum they will land. We can debate, discuss, complain, lobby and so on – but where will that get us?

We know disruption is coming, and we know that the sector can respond. I remember the horror people felt at the rent cut, and not making light of the impact that it had, at the time with over 20 years’ experience in FTSE global businesses, it was something I recognised as an almost annual occurrence - erosion of a core income stream leading to the need to make rapid efficiencies, disruption to a stable model and an uncertain economic environment all of which required business plans to be rebased, reinvention and for organisations to see their market and business plan in different terms.

And what did the sector do? - it worked the problem, it came up with different approaches, accelerated channel shifts in favour of less resource hungry methods, it consolidated, and it proved that it had adaptable, capable management who could cope with disruption and change. Of course, now we have our next point of disruption, with Green Paper direction, Hackett review outcomes - and a sector that needs to continue to evolve because it makes sense, not because it's being told to.

Delving into my private sector past, disruption has driven change for the good. Disruption isn't just a buzz word, it isn't only about technology and new channels - the most successful disruptive strategies anticipate future environments, see consumers as more than one dimensional marketing segments, create the market and the demand and balance instinct and emotional intelligence with data and evidence.

Delving into my private sector past, when I worked for Compass Group, both globally and in the UK disruption in the food travel arena was driven by understanding the changing travellers needs at any given time. Our biggest revelation was that the same traveller had different needs when travelling for different reasons, and whilst customers expected convenient ‘transactions’ in a travel environment they really wanted experiences, just the same as if they were eating out on the high street. This disruptive thinking sent the organisation into a tail spin as our previous segmentation had made assumptions about customer types.

We shifted our strategy to ensure we were meeting wants, desires, expectations as well as practical need – which saw is install charging units in the walls next to our tables, display flight information inside the restaurant and created space for luggage and children, because a standard specification seating area just isn't big enough for a family of four loaded up for a week away. We changed not only consumers habits, but also their behaviour as their stress levels reduced – creating an experience over and above the transaction.

We are doing the same in housing. In the past three months alone, HouseMark’s consultancy arm has worked with organisations putting resident voices and experience at the heart, really understanding their aspirations as well as their needs, defining them as people, not as categories of housing tenure. Meeting needs is a given; when you really understand what makes a community and individuals tick, you get underneath the soul of a place. By really knowing your residents then you can think about what makes sense and what disruption is needed to move things beyond the obvious. We are also working with organisations who recognise that the sector is changing, with private entrants moving in and digital transformation showing us the art of the possible, enabling so much more than efficient ways of delivering. Working within a new competitive environment, optimising technology and using predictive analytics, behavioural insights and nudge theory are all part of our journey at HouseMark.

Innovation, disruption, transformation - I would argue they are just part of how an effective organisation that understands its market and customers both now and, in the future, operates.

If you would like to share your views with Amanda, please email her at Amanda.leonard@housemark.co.uk.

Save the date for Business Transformation in Housing 2020: join us at the Business Design Centre, London on 27-28 April 2020.

Amanda Leonard

Amanda Leonard, Associate Director, HouseMark consultancy

Amanda Leonard has spent a 20 year corporate career, working globally in Business Development, Growth, Commercial, Marketing and HR and Change at Board level. Her experience includes senior roles with Sainsburys, Granada Group PLC and Compass Group PLC before working with a private equity company to spin off Compass Group's retail travel division.

Having worked extensively in fast moving, changing sectors, she used his experience to establish her consultancy in 2010 to bring new transformative thinking into the housing sector. As one of the key leads of the Clarion merger, she has also worked on benefit realisation both pre and post-merger and in a number of associations throughout the UK on their transformation agendas. Now, she is also working with HouseMark, leading their consultancy arm, to deliver new transformation methodology, combining their unique data, insight and relationships with exemplar external organisations.

Amanda has a passion for leadership, and believes that transformation shouldn't be limited to large scale change programmes. She has a particular approach to ensuring that organisations have future capacity and headroom as they transform. With clients in British Sport, Consulting, Retail, Hospitality and Housing she brings a broad perspective to the transformation agenda.

Understanding the importance of transformation