Yorkshire Housing’s Alice Keirle reveals all from her latest HouseMark event ‘Digital Transformation: Making the leap from IT projects to transformational change.’
For someone who had previously only been to London once in their lifetime, I’m making quite a habit of it now! This time it was the HouseMark event on digital transformation. The agenda looked intriguing and I was pleased to find the Chair, Jayne Hilditch was as interested and enthusiastic about the sessions as those attending!
Amina Graham and Jonathan Creaser – RHP UK
First up it was RHP, talking about their online service delivery. Having attended the RHP Art of Innovation event a few weeks ago, I knew we were in for a treat. Amina Graham and Jonathan Creaser explained why we all need to take digital seriously. The layout of their online services for tenants is the same as it is for staff. Their idea being it would be easier for colleagues to talk through the digital service with customers if they themselves knew what it looked like and how it worked. RHP started their digital transformation with their colleagues, providing them with a really good digital service. If staff believe in the good of digital, they will be better and more convincing advocates at getting tenants to use the digital service. RHP have put employee benefit information all in one place accessible from home. All RHP employees must have digital skills, even the caretakers. A theme which spanned the whole event was to get the basics right. If tenants struggle to use the digital service to do the simplest of things like paying their rent, then they won’t want to use it for anything else.
Providing a digital service requires a cultural shift to get people to use it. RHP set outs from the start of their tenancy the way they will deal with customers will be digital. Our attention span is now only just six seconds. RHP have made all of their digital service tasks can be either completed, or 3/4rs completed in just six seconds. RHP only have two tenants of those on the digital offer who cannot use the digital service. They have provided tablets to those who needed them, and used digital champions to help these people know how to use their service. They are hoping to roll out the full digital offer to all existing tenants by March 2017. You need to be honest about why you are moving to digital, and explain the legitimate benefits to tenants. RHP have worked really hard to make their digital service easy to use, you can even log in through Facebook!
John Baldwin – Thames Valley Housing (TVH)
My TVH is Thames Valley’s digital service for customers. Their digital transformation started with a customer experience strategy, not a customer service strategy. They developed My TVH in partnership after finding the digital services to buy were not quite right for them. They had users test the product, all the while designing customer stories. The customer stories helped to determine how the digital service should function based on ‘I want to do this, because of that, and then I want to…’. They went for digital by design, not digital by default. TVH had a different approach to RHP. They still want to offer a full range of channels through which customers can contact them. They use the (slightly stolen) phrase ‘so good, people who can, choose to use it’, which I think is so important it’s a service people want to use, but they don’t have to use it if it is not right for them. On each page on My TVH, there’s a section to ask ‘need to talk to someone?’
My TVH looks very sleek and rather bare. This is intentional, it is functional not fussy and I love it – it’s like modern art! The language and layout is very clear, for example, next to rent account it says ‘in arrears’ in red lettering – there’s no misunderstanding there! John said on more than one occasion to never stop iterating. Create a minimum digital offer and build on it from there. TVH do this by analysing the data and killing off what isn’t used. Like RHP, John was recommending starting with getting the basics right, he called them high volume, low demand quick wins, such as rent payments. TVH have developed their own payment gateway.
Sarah Drummond – Snook
Sarah from Snook, a Scottish company helps make digital work for organisations. Sarah was very engaging, and I was drawn in by her comment about dead badgers and council desks (all will be explained soon). Snook is often asked to help make websites and digital services, but often find themselves asking the organisation what they want and why. Sarah was promoting to put user needs first – what does the user actually need to do? The initial focus should be on the service needs, not the website or digital design. Digital services should be designed, don’t just tack digital onto what you already have. Sarah shared a possibly unpopular opinion apps are rubbish! Instead, she recommended making everything mobile enabled. Technology should help not hinder. Social workers became very annoyed when they found themselves spending more time in front of a computer, rather than out helping people – the technology didn’t compliment their job. Snook is keen to get users testing the digital service on their own technology, be it a smart phone or a tablet, so they can test it as they would actually use it. Snook get the people in the organisations to think about what they need and why through getting them to think ‘as a …, I need to…, so that I can…’.
Snook working with a housing association found customers are confused by who does what. For example, what the difference is between a housing officer, and a housing manager. Which leads us on to the example of the dead badger. After searching the council website a resident wanted a dead badger taken away. Unable to find any results under D for dead, B for badger, or A for animal, and not able to get through over the phone, the resident turned up at the council offices and put the dead badger on the desk! Make things simple for the people who will be using it.
Dan Slee – Comms2point0.com
Dan warned us about sending out communications for the hell of it, and instead ask ourselves, what is worth communicating? It is also important to think about what platform you use to send out the communication. Dan said that just because it is a digital project, does not mean you have to send out digital communications. There is a risk of relying too much on Twitter for communications, when actually the biggest social media platform is YouTube, followed by Facebook. At Yorkshire Housing we have a Facebook account, and some colleagues use Facebook to target their services. Dan says this is a good thing to do, but to reach more people it might be worth going through geographic pages. We were shown some interesting statistics about trust, and it turns out that communications coming from employees are more trusted than those coming from CEO’s, which are actually more trusted than those coming from the Board of Directors. Dan said the best thing to do is to be really clear and human about opening hours. The advice I really took away from this session was to find them where they are, meaning, use the right media to reach the people you want to reach. It would be no good communicating with the over 80 year olds on Instagram, or the millennials in the local newspaper. Finally, you need to have the data, and actually talk to people, and if all else fails, engage them with cake!
Max Chambers – Nextdoor
Nextdoor is a new innovative company like Facebook but for neighbourhoods, It’s a private social network and each neighbourhood is made up of about 1,000 households, set up by one ‘founder’ who puts the area forward, and who then has to get another nine members with 21 days or the neighbourhood will be deactivated. Nextdoor is private in that only people living in the neighbourhood can join that neighbourhood group, and they must prove their address and use their real name. It has recently come to the UK, and is starting to get going. Max was able to talk to us about the potential for use by housing associations in the future. He talked about how the police and councils could use geo-targeting to send push notifications and other messages to certain neighbourhoods about specific things such as flooding or crimes.
Dave Mann – dxw
Dave Mann used to work at the Government Digital Service on Gov.UK. Dave ran through how GOV.UK was established. Prior to Gov.uk being set up, millions were being spent maintaining a vast quantity of departmental websites, some had never been viewed. It was decided to have one website to cover everything. That’s a lot of information. Dave used the quote from the gentleman who set up LinkedIn, ‘if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you launched it too late’. We were presented with early versions of Gov.UK and you can really see how far it has come. Initially it seemed a bit comical hearing about the government’s success with a digital project, but can you remember when they switched over from the old websites to the new Gov.UK? Neither can I, because it was seamless. People were using the new website and they didn’t even know it. The new Gov.UK did not launch all in one go. Dave’s advice is not to do a Big Bang launch. If you do it gradually, only small bits will fail quickly – which means it can be built back up preventing wastes of time and money.
Versions of Gov.UK were tested and it received feedback in order to improve it. This is how they learned a nice friendly background doesn’t work for government, as people don’t trust it. They had a ‘swim lane’ for each team where the tasks they were working on were placed in order of priority. Each team was responsible for keeping their lane up to date, and it allowed other teams to see what others at a glance were working on. Dave reiterated don’t put the needs of the organisation before the needs of the user. Another thing was not too mimic the structure of the organisation broken down by department on your website. Although this may make sense for the organisation, the user doesn’t care whether car tax is in department A or department B, so long as they can tax their car. Dave also used a quote from the gentleman from Amazon: ‘if you can’t feed your team with two large pizzas, it’s too big’. I think this is a good point, sometimes there can be too many people involved in a project and nothing gets done because of the conflicts of opinion. Having an agile mind set starts with the team. The team needs to be empowered and multidisciplinary, and some changes/progress need to be decided within the team, without constant sign offs from higher up the chain. Dave gave some final tips for the day: be open about what you are doing, publish your KPI’s, and. start small and be bold.
My take aways…
It was another fascinating day in London, I came away exhausted after hearing so much information. Today, I am refreshed and I am starting to think if what I can do, and what Yorkshire Housing could do. So here are my takeaways from the day:
1) Keep it simple, I am a devil for writing way too much which you will know if you have managed to read right down to this point.
2) Don’t get hung up on having the finished version before putting it out there.
3) Keep iterating, never think you’re finished!
4) Beware of dead badgers – keep language clear. I think the one thing I am really going to push myself to do, is to rely less on formal briefings, and get my point across in a more relaxed and engaging way. But like Dan Slee says, I must tailor this for my audience!
Thanks for stopping by – Alice.