A couple of weeks ago I wrote this post trying to pin down some ideas about a different approach that the housing community might take to supporting service delivery through information systems.
It was a bit out there and not fully formed, but seemed to get a good response and sparked some debate. The intention of this post is to try and layer on some more detail from the previous post (although it’ll still be pretty abstract)
Looking at a service and capability viewpoint most housing associations look like this
There will be exceptions and additions, some will include care and support services, some telecare, some even leisure centre management (!?) but at the housing core they all look pretty similar.
(NB this isn’t an organisational/structural view, this is about services)
Due to the history of where housing associations originated from (through mergers and transfers), the age of some of them and the source of growth for some of the larger ones, many also look like this from an information systems perspective:
With lots of duplicate information systems delivering the the same or similar capabilities.
E.g. the RP that brought over its Local authority legacy, The RP that fought for a semblance of independence when it got subsumed, The integration project that didn’t integrate everything.
So for many housing associations one of the aims (some may have achieved it, some may be on the journey, some may be unaware of the need for the journey but are no doubt feeling seeing the symptoms of the status quo) is this
Those that are already on the rationalisation route may also be doing some consolidation of capabilities through abstraction. what does that mean?
e.g. lets not silo identity for each app, lets do it once.
e.g. Lets manage documents one way rather than 10
e.g. if we are going to manage a customer case lets do it once for the organisation
e.g. scheduling person, with skills, in a location, at a time, lets do that once for the organisation
Others, thinking themselves advanced beyond these sort of considerations might be heading towards what i’d like to term ‘homogenised housing’. Dropping a big box on lots of the common capabilities of business execution
You might call this ERP and it might look like this
Where generic business capabilities that are common to business execution are ‘solved’ by the ERP box and the ‘specialised’ elements outside of the box are much reduced.
So currently we are in this world
Where lots of similar organisations, doing similar things are individually spending time, effort and money attempting to solve the common problems of the industry.
How is this maximising the value that individual housing associations delivers to its customers?
How is this maximising the value that the #ukhousing community delivers to its customers and society?
Whilst writing my previous post I had something like this in my head
A shared platform of for housing services, shared by the community, built for the communities customers needs, led by the community, funded by the community
This would enable organisations to:
- Acquire capabilities at a lower cost
- Integrate with whatever stuff they want to keep control of
- Multiply the value of the insight they can get from their data by pooling
- Disrupt a turgid marketplace for the good of the community
Assuming that what I’ve described above a) makes sense and b) is a good idea, what then do we need to do to get started?
First, i think we need to think about Ego and Altruism.
Lets remove the ego that lets us pretend that the services we deliver to our customers are unique.
Lets remove the ego that drives us to feel good about solving problems for ‘our customers’.
Lets think about altruism and the benefits of pooling our resources for all ‘our customers’. Lets think about how larger organisations with the capacity to sponsor such an endeavour might aid smaller ones.
Second/3rd/4th/5th/etc, there are loads of questions e.g.:
What would the first services of the platform be?
What would the platform technology be?
Would it be open source?
Would it be offered as Software as a Service?
What is the business model?
Who would sponsor it?
How would this be organised?
But before we answer those questions I guess the vision and principles need to be validated. So, community, what do we think?