We talked to finance directors from ten different housing associations about three key topics. We investigated how they are finding operating conditions during this period of change, and what decisions they are making to achieve the best outcomes for their residents and associations.
In the second of our series of blogs, we look at governance and technology, and how finance approach technological upgrade and subsequent impact on ROI. Adding value to customer service is another key strategic driver for most organisations, but how does the finance function manage the balance between ROI and the end result?
Processes and technology
Many organisations want quick wins from new CRM systems, but it’s often the process that underpins it that delivers ROI, rather than the new technology on its own. There has been a tendency to plough on with new technology being seen as Utopia, but in fact, the end-to-end mapping and process is the most important aspect, and companies shouldn’t put good technology on bad platforms or vice versa.
Lots of organisations have perhaps got carried away with the big bang approach, when in fact simplifying the approach and putting in technology at the end of the process is a better way forward. If that is the case, then investment doesn’t always need to be significant!
Each investment needs to change or have a positive impact on the customer satisfaction score. If Registered Providers (RPs) are happy with their score, then do they need to spend the money to invest in this, which then begs the question, what is a good satisfaction score, and what is good enough? This all needs to be balanced when looking at investment. The reality is that customer satisfaction is often focussed around repairs with many trying to improve their repair service in conjunction with their customer service programme.
Looking to the future
Boards and finance departments also need to look to the future. Technology (and improved processes) can lead to strong efficiency improvements as well as helping to future proof the organisation. The real challenge is to reduce back office costs relative to front office resulting in a more cost-effective model and an improved customer experience.
If organisations can embrace technology with strong processes, then it has often proved to be a worthy investment. The smaller RPs may struggle with how much to invest in technology as they don’t have the same income stream as large companies. This begged the question should the smaller RP’s consider sharing technology where investment has already been made? Lots of organisations would be happy to collaborate or sell onto other organisations if they have paid for the development and have a solution which is genuinely tailored to the housing sector. This also becomes a strong ROI for the developing organisation and offers value for money from a regulatory perspective.
Value for money
Associations don’t want to invest heavily in technology if it isn’t necessary, but they do need to meet customer expectations around the basics, give customers the best value for money and get the balance right.
When looking at ROI, it’s important to understand how it is being measured and remove money wastage. A large amount of wastage can be removed by moving interaction with landlords online, for example. It’s estimated that 85% of other interactions could be cut out to reduce waste.
The longer-term view
If businesses don’t keep pace with technology, they can’t deliver services as effectively in the long term. One of the largest challenges around systems and technology occurs during a merger scenario, when the individual RPs often operate across separate systems which may not be compatible.
Organisations should spend money efficiently and wisely on technology. If sales and income are down, attacking the cost base is the only option, resulting in doing more with less. Keep track of spend and project timelines when implementing technology upgrades. Projects can easily get off track and it is important to deliver them quickly, smartly and efficiently.
Read our first blog in the series on Preparing for Brexit
Read our third blog in the series on Fire Safety and Compliance