Introduction

To stay one step ahead of the challenges facing Social Housing providers Business Intelligence (BI) practice is having to evolve fast. To help build strategy to address, for example, the roll out of Universal Credit and a Tenant’s right to buy, as well as the need to maintain sustainable communities, those providing BI need to employ increasingly advanced levels of analytics. This might involve options for keeping void losses to a minimum or for turning administrative activities into revenue earning ventures. Some Providers may need to develop their BI capability further in order to provide this sort of intelligence. They may also see some major obstacles ahead e.g. a lack of relevant data or insufficient people with the right skills. However, we at Develin have helped many organisations to overcome these challenges and to build thriving, agile and commercially focused BI practices. There are six principles that need to be adhered to in order to ensure success.

1. Start small

Identify one area where you can be confident of success. Do not to worry about the choice of technology but focus upon delivering compelling results leading to some smart decisions. A successful outcome will trigger demand for BI further afield and BI practices can start to spread.

2. Use simple visual images to convey your key messages

For example: Asset Lifecycle costs. This ‘at a glance’ message is that, for this asset (in this case a kitchen), there is an optimum age for replacement. It’s where the two lines cross. The downward sloping line is the total annual replacement cost. The upward sloping line is the total annual repairs cost. If the period between replacements is high (point A) then the annual repairs cost greatly exceeds the replacement cost. If it’s low (point B) then the annual replacement cost greatly exceeds the repairs costs. The point at which the lines cross is where the total for both costs is at a minimum

Tenant predictions This ‘at a glance’ message is that, there are Current Tenants presenting the same characteristics as Former Tenants who were evicted or who abandoned their home. It’s the light coloured circles clustered around the dark ones in the centre. Current and Former Tenants were compared using a range of different characteristics. How close they are indicates how similar they are. The Former Tenants are clustered in the centre. The closer to the centre the Current Tenants are the more likely it is that they will also experience eviction or abandonment. (The size of each circle indicates level of arrears).

3. Don’t let concerns about data hold you back

Do not worry about data quality issues, but use the development and roll out of BI to improve the quality of your data. For example: In one Housing Association, free text notes made while talking to the tenant on the phone proved to be vital within a major piece of analysis. The BI process involved cataloguing the data used (see 4. below) so that the value of specific items of data such as this could be clearly recognised. Data governance and quality processes ensured that, through training and better system operation, all the relevant data was captured and separated out for greater visibility and ease of use.

4. Keep track of your BI activities

Provide your senior management team, in particular the Chief Information Officer (CIO), with the means to keep track of the BI work underway. Organisations that make extensive use of analytics move ahead of those that do not. But their efforts need to be coordinated to ensure that they all add value. Therefore, as BI efforts move beyond the initial phase three tracking activities should take place:

  • Log each set of analysis within a high level register of BI activities. This is to allow you to see at a glance what it happening, to open up results, and to then drill down to see the data and how it has been used.
  • Catalogue the data so that future BI practitioners can see at a glance what’s available, what has been used before, and where it sits.
  • Catalogue the analysis methods used in order to aid learning.

The Develin BI Tracker was developed in order for these activities to be as straightforward as possible. Its core components are shown below. The logging of both the analytics activity and the data used allows your BI activities to be agile, flexible and focused towards the areas where the need is greatest. This is because:

  • You can see at a glance whether the right BI activities are taking place;
  • It’s easy to see what data is available and who is using it;
  • Results can be accessed easily;
  • Relevant skills can be developed quickly.

5. Stop BI activities that cannot be linked to change

It is important to allow time for experimentation and iteration to take place. For example, those conducting your BI analytics may have a clear understanding of the issues to be explored. But it might require a great deal of trial and error before they have the right data to hand and results that are fit for the purpose intended. That said, you must monitor progress carefully. Even if a significant amount of time is required, if it is unclear how the planned results will deliver a positive return on the investment in time and resource, stop it in favour of something else.

6. Have your BI activities championed from the very top

Even though smart BI methods may be practiced in individual pockets across the organisation cooperation and support is required from everyone. For example, analysis of the process for repairing properties cannot be focused just upon the team that performs the work. There may be many others involved in making decisions to help the process work more effectively. Support will be ensured if the person at the very top of the organisation is seen to be championing the BI analytics effort from the start.

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We at Develin specialise in building commercial BI practices that help to deliver:

  • Efficiency improvements;
  • Cost savings;
  • Improved services;
  • Increased capacity.
  • Strategic insights;
  • New commercial opportunities;
  • Investment options;
  • More skilled teams.

Our support can range:

  • From, presentations or workshops to raise awareness about the potential value to be gained from better BI;
  • To, consulting support in all areas of BI development and associated change management.

If we can help you to build or accelerate your BI practice, please get in touch.