Louise McQuillan

CIH Housing Conference 2018: whg’s digital journey...


We recently attended CIH’s Housing 2018 conference in Manchester in which we co-hosted a session with whg’s Corporate Director of Operations, Fay Shanahan. If you missed it, we’ve put together our key takeaways which looks at whg’s digital journey so far. 





Delivering a digital strategy at whg

As a hugely successful housing organisation with 21,000 properties across the Midlands, successfully delivering a digital strategy was no mean feat for whg. In 2017, whg embarked upon a new corporate plan with ambitious targets to help drive a change in behaviour across the organisation. One of the driving forces behind this corporate plan was a new digital strategy and based on Fay’s experiences, we’ve summarised her recommendations below.

1. Define a clear strategy


For whg, one of their first aims of their strategy was to ensure that customers chose their digital offering. To support the delivery of this aim, they set some performance indicators to measure the progress.

For example, their goal was to achieve 50% self service for all routine customer enquiries by 2020, rising to 70% by 2024. 

When defining a digital strategy in your organisation, ensure the strategy is clear and can be quickly and easily understood. A digital strategy needs to be communicated to all staff so they can relate to it and understand the rationale behind it. Without this, it will be difficult to deliver and it could mean colleagues are left behind in the organisation’s digital transformation. 
 

2. Generate buy-in

As Fay shared, generating buy in is so important when launching a new digital vision. It is crucial to have buy-in from across the organisation as digital transformation is not just a new customer portal - it is a behaviour change across a whole organisation. Be honest and transparent with colleagues on what you are trying to achieve. It’s important you help and support staff on their digital journey too to make sure they don’t feel threatened by digital putting their roles at risk. As demonstrated by Fay, it’s less about efficiencies  being generated and more about helping customers realise their digital ambitions to use technology. 
 

3. Improve digital services

To enhance the digital journey for both staff and tenants, it’s important that digital services are up to date. For tenants, whg launched a new website to improve its usability and ensure people could use it in a way that suits them. The organisation understood that a one size fits all approach wouldn’t work, so endeavoured to ensure their website supported the diversity of their customers, whether they speak a different language, have literacy challenges or a disability that would make accessing services more difficult. 

For staff, whg wanted to help their workforce be more digitally engaged and invested £2 million in new technology, including scheduling technology for repair services and mobile working solutions for both assets and their housing operations team. 
 

4. Use your data

Digital is more than just IT, it’s about behavioural change. At whg, the digital strategy centered around a behavioural change campaign. To fully understand and help their customers, the organisation profiled customers into three different groups to identify how each group would respond to digital change. 

For example, they identified customers: who wouldn’t need a huge amount of support to go digital, those who would need a little more support but would eventually transition to digital services and those who may struggle to adopt digital services due to language barriers, literacy issues or disabilities. By doing this, the organisation were able to identify different approaches to help customers understand how to best use their digital services.  

5. Texthelp & whg

As Fay and I pointed out in the session, it is critical to support both tenants and staff when embarking on a digital journey. For housing organisations, barriers to going digital exist at both a tenant and housing organisation level.

From our own research, we discovered that for tenants, a lack of access to technology, a lack of digital confidence and a lack of digital skills are the most common barriers preventing them from using digital housing services. For housing organisations, we found that costs of implementation and translation requirements were common barriers in delivering a digital strategy. We want to make sure housing organisations can support tenants with their digital engagement, help staff be more efficient in their digital workplace and promote equality to ensure no one is left behind on their digital journey. 

To find out how we are helping housing associations just like whg with this, visit our dedicated housing page.

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