AI is fast becoming central to every business strategy, says Trevor Hampton, Director of Housing Solutions, Northgate Public Services, but have councils and housing providers got the data to back it up?
It’s no exaggeration to say that artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the greatest breakthroughs of our time, promising to transform the way we live our lives. Setting aside the hype, there’s little doubt AI represents a rare opportunity for humanity to make progress in ways we don’t even know about yet.
As the AI revolution accelerates, new technology is sparking innovation across all sections of the business community. Meanwhile, the government has expressed its commitment to making the UK a global leader in AI, predicting that “In the same way that Gutenberg’s press ushered in a new era of growth, data-driven technologies such as AI will underpin our future prosperity.”
So how can the social housing sector take full advantage of the AI opportunity?
Improve the collection and management of data
Few industries are as rich in data as housing, which will make AI a real game changer for the sector. But for this to happen, data must be recognised as the lifeblood of the organisation.
It’s not just a question of having access to data, but having access to the right kind of data.
AI’s ability to cross reference data and spot patterns will have untold benefits for the social housing sector, helping to accurately target funding which is vital in these times of dwindling budgets. But this can only happen if a consistent approach is taken to data collection.
If no one scans the letter or makes a note of the call out in the housing management system, that data won’t be available to provide the ground-breaking insights AI could bring. Inaccurate, incomplete or duplicated information held in multiple silos will return poor quality information, leaving the AI to be built on sand.
To take advantage of the huge impact AI can have in the sector, organisations need to create a culture around the value and relevance of data capture. Every member of the workplace needs to understand how data can be used to improve outcomes, provide a better service and lay firm foundations for AI in the future.
Engage staff with the potential of AI
The best way to embed a culture of high quality data throughout an entire organisation is to make staff feel part of the journey. If staff know the importance of the data to their future role, they will develop an understanding of why it is vital to have accurate electronic records of what they do.
A greater awareness of how AI can free housing teams from the routine tasks and make their jobs more varied will help. As will an emphasis on how staff will be needed for the tasks that require more nuanced thinking skills that AI cannot yet manage.
Housing staff are the frontline. They are the people who capture the right information needed to apply AI. Fostering a whole organisation approach will demonstrate how capturing data will benefit everyone.
This is an important part of making the workforce feel involved and valued in the transition towards the age of AI.
Bring IT out of the back office and into the boardroom
Historically, IT was perceived as a fixer of problems rather than a business driver but as we enter what is being hailed the fourth industrial revolution, it’s time to adjust this way of thinking across the organisation.
However, when we compare housing to other sectors, there are very few housing providers with an IT director on the board.
IT has to be represented at senior level if organisations are to view technology less as a tactical solution and more as a transformational opportunity for the business. IT should be central to the overarching strategy of an organisation in order to keep up with the accelerating pace of change, not simply another operating cost.
If chief executives in the housing sector take a more visionary approach to data collection and management practices now, they will be better prepared to harness the potential of AI in the future.
It’s time for councils and housing organisations to ensure data is part of their organisational DNA so they are ready to supercharge their decision-making through AI, and transform their service delivery for a better customer experience.
To find out more about how Northgate Public Services can help you prepare for the AI revolution, please visit https://www.northgateps.com/software-solutions/housing-management-solution/