Harnessing the power of digital to drive improvements for customers: Alison Stock discusses how housing association Riverside puts customers first by leveraging the power of technology.
Like many housing associations, Riverside is investing significant time, effort and money to harness the power of digital technology and become more agile as a business. This requires us to both look forward to the future as well as deal with the IT legacy of the past, so that we can drive improvements for customers.
Step-by-step we are getting technology right so that it really works for our 100,000 residents and 2,700 colleagues. And the time is right. In 2012, 50% of Riverside’s customers had no access to the Internet, in 2018 this had halved to 25%. And this trend continues. Global research experts Gartner have indicated that by 2022, public cloud services will be essential for 90% of business innovation.
As a leading national housing and care provider, Riverside works across 156 local authorities from Kent to the West of Scotland. This creates massive challenges in terms of integrating technology. Riverside’s mission is to transform communities and create opportunities for its residents by maximising the numbers of households accessing online services, enabling customers to live more independent lives with digital choice 24/7.
Speaking at the Homes Conference last November, I highlighted how we strengthened our IT team and assessed which of our 250 different business applications needed improving or consolidating. Historically our focus was on customers and growth but not on exploiting technology; about 25% of our technology was where it needed to be, so we had work to do to leverage our unified position and ensure security and resilience across all of our systems.
IT Foundations Programme consolidates systems
We established our IT Foundations Programme to deliver a resilient, secure, cost-effective IT capability, laying the foundations for the future. This encompassed bringing new skills and ways of working into our IT operating model, driving standardisation and simplification, and increasingly enabling agility and control.
Riverside has also created a digital plan for our customers, which is in progress with a key output being our new online portal My Riverside, shifting processes online so that our customers can easily view and update some of their personal details, self-serve for repairs, pay rent and view balances.
Working with customers, we scrutinised the customer contact journey and carried out a procurement exercise to connect customers across the business, looking at architect-led IT. We started with online repairs for our customers and are currently in the middle of this process, integrating fully into backend systems. We’re working our way through our processes and prioritising around complexity and benefit overlaid across our different business areas.
Riverside needs to connect services seamlessly to achieve the best outcomes, streamlining our business processes and making our back office multi-channel. For colleagues, it’s about using their talents to make a difference, not dealing with unnecessary bureaucracy, and being able to respond quickly to customer needs. We wanted a platform to enhance our offer, with slicker technology and more online services enabling us to increase the numbers of front line Housing Officers by 40%.
In 2019, Riverside implemented Internet and Wi-Fi across 200 of its care and support schemes and has proactively helped hundreds of older customers to become digitally included.
We are now close to completing our IT Foundations Programme, which has enhanced our systems so that nearly 90% of them are fit-for-the-future in terms of resilience and performance.
Our journey continues, as we look to harness the power of future technology, beyond our immediate priorities and agreed roadmap. Where next? Beyond the Internet of Things and Chatbots, we could see a future where our buildings will be able to ‘report their own repairs’! Exciting times ahead, building on the great foundations we are laying now.
Alison Stock is Director of IT & Change at Riverside