Brett Sadler

If You Build It, They Will Come

Listening-Island-Cartoon I’ve been pondering for some time whether it’s better to engage the few or the many in terms of customer/tenant engagement. Is it more important to engage with the few customers who want to be involved, or look to engage with a much wider, potentially more difficult group of customers?

My initial view is that it’s better to engage with the customers who want to be engaged. It’s a hard enough task getting meaningful engagement and feedback from customers, even from the ones who want to be involved. Mind you, it’s often the case that the majority of customers who have the time and inclination to be involved are of the older generation. You can almost always guarantee some older people will get involved.

It could be argued that the views you really need are from the customers who wouldn’t ordinarily feed anything back to you. We all know of customers who write in or telephone with complaints at any given opportunity, so you will always be guaranteed to get this feedback, but what about the vast majority of customers who we hear very little back from?

Maybe a scatter gun approach is the way to go, to give every customer the chance to get involved at any level they like. One downside to this is the amount of staff time this would take to get off the ground and potentially the lack of involvement you get from this.

And so to the title of this blog. If you build it, they will come. How many of you know where the blog post title comes from? It’s from the 1989 film starring Kevin Costner called ‘Field of Dreams’ (yes, it was on TV recently, hence why I remember it) and it’s about Baseball.

I’d argue that if you can create the right environment and use the right methods, you will get customers engaging with you as a landlord – they will come. For me this goes back to the question I posed near the start – is it better to engage the few or the many?

If you engage the few and tailor a service for them, you are much more likely to get their involvement. An example that springs to mind is that I’ve been pushing the use of Google+ in #ukhousing for some time now, but one thing I often get in reply is that there aren’t many tenants using Google+ and ultimately, would they want to converse with their landlord? I think the right way to think about this is that it’s a matter of getting the right subjects and the right people involved. There are tenants and customers on nearly every social media platform – you just need to engage and involve them on the right level. If I can get valuable feedback and engagement from one customer who hadn’t engaged previously, I’d view that as a success.

My final thought really is that it all depends on what you as a landlord or staff member want to get out of the exercise. If it’s qualitative data, then you need to spend a lot of time preparing the engagement method and ensuring it has the best possible chance of success. If it’s more a matter of ticking the box (quantitative) that you are doing some form of customer engagement, then it probably doesn’t matter what you do or how you do it. A word of caution though – I’m certain you’d be missing the valuable opportunity to gain customer insight and views which could only improve the service you offer to customers.

I’ll leave you with a well-known phrase that often springs to mind when talking about customer engagement:

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In terms of customer engagement, my view is that the journey is as important (if not more important) than the destination.

 

(Welsh) Housing Power Players 2014?

ImageThe recent publication by 24 Housing of 2014′s top 50 power players included 5 welsh representatives. These were:

21 – Gavin Smart – Director of Policy and Practice, Chartered Institute of Housing (and Bron Afon Board member)

22 – Jules Birch – Welsh Housing Quarterly Editor and blogger

37 – Robin Staines – Head of Housing – Camarthenshire County Council

40 – Michelle Reid – CEO – Cynan Taff Community Housing

47 – Carl Sergeant – Welsh Assembly Minister for Housing and Regeneration

Interesting enough, at the CIH Cymru TAI Housing conference in Cardiff recently, Michelle Reid queried whether it would be possible for her to remain in the top 50 as part of her new role. I guess next years list will be the real litmus test, but signs are looking good.

This year 24 Housing have also included at top 30 CEO’s list, which include the following Welsh representatives:

14 – Michelle Reid – Cynon Taf Community Housing

22 – Andrew Lycett – RCT Homes

30 – Duncan Forbes – Bron Afon

So, the overall picture shows that Wales does have some representation, but not much. I do wonder whether this reflects the much wider picture of Wales having different legislation and regulation (to name but two), making it difficult for Wales to seep over into England (and vice versa).

OK, so between the two lists there were 8 from and connected to Wales out of 80 listed, but what about Scotland and Northern Ireland? They were even more sparsely represented. Don’t get me wrong, I know that the power player list is a bit of fun really and is certainly doesn’t include a scientifically proven formula, but it certainly fires up some debate about these issues.

The other big issue to come out of the top 50 power players list is the lack of diversity. Only 12 women are listed, the same number as last year.  Grania Long, herself number 5 on the Power Players list for this year, has recognised this by agreeing to put the diversity issue on the CIH Conference debate programme for Manchester. This is after all a much bigger issue than just the Power Players list and has been talked about for some years within #ukhousing.

On a purely superficial level (I can work like this when needed), the list shows me who has some influence in the world of housing. Most of the list are names that we know and recognise due to their hard work within the sector. I also have to agree with Steve Hildich’s comment on his Red Brick blog that ‘you’d rather be on the list than not’.

So here’s to next year’s power player list and seeing whether any of this and previous years issues get ironed out. Who’s willing to bet that there will be an increased diversity in next years list?

 

Big Data and #ukhousing – A Match Made in Heaven?

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If you haven’t heard of the term ‘Big Data’, just where have you been? It’s a phrase which is becoming more and more mainstream, used by individuals, organisations and even countries.

So what is Big Data?

In trying to explain what Big Data is, I found this explanation:

‘Ask a chief technology officer to define big data and he or she will stare at the floor. Chances are, you will get as many definitions as the number of people you ask.’

Here’s my stab at a definition:

 ‘Big data is the term used for the collection, processing and analysis of extremely large and complex data sets.’

Some people have been forecasting big data as one of the next big things for quite some time. The ability to use vast swathes of data to intelligently plan and show trends certainly sounds intriguing.

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But surprisingly it’s not without its detractors. Big Data could be seen as just the latest fad (I can understand why this seems the case). It could also be said that Big Data (and the companies that use this) are getting suspiciously close to George Orwell’s future vision in his book 1984. It’s also not without its controversy (see the recent issues raised about the National Security Agency in America, spying and their use of Big Data).

So why Big Data and #ukhousing?

For me, I don’t think #ukhousing can ignore Big Data. As #ukhousing organisations, we hold vast amounts of customer/tenant information on our housing systems, so it’s a logical step to look at using this data more intuitively. It stands to reason that we can use this data to better our customer insight, the services we offer, drive down costs and ultimately be a better landlord. I’d go as far as saying it would be remiss of us not to.

Organisations like HACT are championing the use of Big Data within #ukhousing and this blog from Matt Leach gives you just some of the reasons why.

Matt Leach points out some cases in his blog post of #ukhousing organisations that are already using big data to make business decisions.

Of course it’s important to point out that Big Data has to have some limits. Information can be a dangerous thing if it’s in the wrong hands, used in the wrong way or without limits. Just see this link on the Guardian website about the pressure that’s building on the White House to review how it’s using its big data and you see some of the potential pitfalls.

I’d argue it’s a matter of ‘when not if’ #ukhousing embrace Big Data.

No Email at Work – What Would You Do?

ImageRecently at work we were without Email for over 24 hours. In fact, we weren’t able to access our networks at all during this time, including our phone system (which of course is networked).

It was certainly a good test for our business continuity plans (now I know what they are for!).

But, in a lot of ways the more interesting test was to see how staff adapted. Inevitably there were some staff that grouped together to ‘chat’ and if asked, I’m sure they would have said they were talking about work. But if they didn’t have any paperwork to do or any work related conversation to have with colleagues, what exactly could they be expected to do?

ImageThis is often a quoted downside to being so IT connected. If something like Email or even the phones go down, then everything pretty much comes to a standstill.

In fairness, our business continuity plans worked pretty well. The main switchboard numbers were still open (transferred to our satellite office).  We’re yet to receive feedback from our customers on whether this caused them any problems in getting in touch with us. We’re also looking to review what happened to see if there are any lessons learned for us as an organisation.

But what would you do if that happened to you at work? For me, I kept on reaching for the keyboard and mouse, as this felt very natural. Also, being someone who tries not to use Email (see my earlier post on Email), this shouldn’t have been such a problem. And yet it was. Thankfully I was still able to use Twitter, so I felt at least some ways connected to the outside world. Mobile phones were also still working during the downtime. I also had the use of my works iPad, so could do some research on the internet. But the arguably traditional way of contacting staff, through Email, was out of bounds. The age old ‘send out a group Email’ to let everyone know what was happening was just not possible!

It did give me (like other staff) the chance to catch up on some paperwork and reports that I had just been putting off. And therein lies one of the problems. I could have done this all along really. Why did it take the network going down for over 24 hours for me to do this?

I’m almost tempted to say it’s worth switching your servers off at work for 24 hours to see what happens. You might just learn a thing or two.

2000 tweets – What I’ve Learnt

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I have just passed the 2,000 tweet mark. In some ways I can’t believe I have tweeted that many, although in fairness, many of them have also been retweets!

So, in the best part of a 2 year period, that means I’ve sent roughly 85 tweets per month.

My ‘Twitter vital statistics’ are:

  • I’ve got over 700 followers;
  • I’m following nearly 850 people;
  • I’ve been listed 27 times;
  • I’ve had a fair % of re-tweets;
  • I’ve had a fair % of favourited tweets;
  • According to Tweetreach my last 50 tweets have had an estimated reach of over £15k accounts.

I’m pretty pleased if I’m honest. I didn’t have an expectation that anyone would particularly follow me. I just wanted to learn how to use the platform as best as possible and to talk to as many people as possible. But I guess these are all fairly meaningless stats compared to what I’ve learn’t from using Twitter over these two years. These are my five take-aways:

  1. I’ve found my voice – I can’t underestimate this point really. I’m not the most vocal person you’ll meet in life, but Twitter has really helped me to become more vocal. I’ve even taken this a step further to start writing this blog. There is no stopping me now.
  2. Virtual Friends – I’ve connected with people through Twitter that I’ve never met face-to-face. I’ve gone on to meet some of them ‘in real life’ as well! As we already knew something of each other through Twitter, this made that first face-to-face meeting all the easier.
  3. Up to the second news and views – I’m connected to news via Twitter by the second. It’s staggering what you can learn from a quick view of your Twitter feed. At the moment, amongst other things, I’m able to track real-time how the storms have affected North Wales.
  4. Best Practice – I’ve often used Twitter to ask followers a question or for advice on work related matters. Inevitably I have received a decent reply rate as well.
  5. Part of a community – Just as it says really. I honestly do feel part of the #ukhousing Twitter community. Every single day.

So they are my quick fire five twitter take-aways.

I wonder whether the five takeaways above will change when I reach 3,000 tweets or more?? I’ll let you know……

Banging the Google+ Drum

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I feel a bit like a man obsessed. Of late I’ve been asking all and sundry in #ukhousing about Google+. I’ve been looking for any information, case studies, links etc. that even vaguely mention Google+.

The thing is, despite this taking up a fair bit of my spare time, I’m more convinced than ever that Google+ is the future. It has excellent usability, is increasing in popularity and has some really useful features that other platforms just don’t have. I’ve blogged some of the features here if you are interested.

What I really wanted to talk about though is my new venture (or is more of a quest?) in developing the ‘Google+ Housing Community’. I’ve had the idea in my head for a while now and I’ve decided now’s the time to get it off the ground.

Here’s the community bio I’ve got so far:

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The thing is, I’ve also come to realise that if I’m not careful it could just be me, rambling on Google+ to a small audience of followers. But I really do think this could be something big. So please, if you haven’t already, join the Google+ Housing Community and join in the conversation. I’ve got lots more content to add in the coming months.

As Henry Ford once said:

Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

So come on #ukhousing, it seems like we’re at the coming together stage!

The 70:20:10 Rule – Could This Work In #ukhousing?

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You may well have heard of this rule before. It’s been made famous in recent years by a shy, retiring and little known organisation that goes by the name of ‘Google’.

I’ve heard the 70:20:10 rule banded about a lot of late and after doing some research there seems to be some confusion about what the rule means. I guess the easiest way to explain it is that it’s a rule of thumb that can be applied across lots of areas of business, in almost any form you like. It’s a bit like Pareto’s principle (e.g. 80% of complaints come from 20% of a company’s customers).

However, for the sake of this blog, I’m going to focus on two areas in particular. These are:

  • 70:20:10 model in Staff Recruitment
  • 70:20:10 model in managing and encouraging innovation

70:20:10 Model in Staff Recruitment

This model has reportedly been around since 1996. It works like this:

  • 70% of staff recruited within the immediate industry/knowledge area;
  • 20% of staff recruited within the overall industry but not the specialist knowledge area;
  • 10% of staff recruited outside of the industry.

The idea is simple. The 20% and 10% of staff help give different perspectives on the everyday issues and problems. They look at things in a different way. I really think this could work where you are looking to build a highly functioning, innovative team of staff. This could also work on a project basis, where you are pulling people from across the organisation to work on something. I’ll certainly be keeping this in mind for future projects.

70:20:10 Model in Managing and Encouraging Innovation

This model has arguably been made famous by Google, but it has been around for some time in different forms and ratios. The number of organisations embracing this rule seems to be growing by the day. The model works by staff spending:

  • 70% of their time on core business tasks;
  • 20% of their time on projects related to core business;
  • 10% of their time on projects that are unrelated to core business.

Unsurprisingly there are some stark examples of how this has benefited organisation. Google has reportedly gained products such as Google Earth from employee initiated projects unrelated to its core business. LinkedIn also developed LinkedIn Maps (which I’ve blogged about here) from a similar employee initiated project. There are lots of other examples I could have quoted.

“About 70% try to work on the core efforts of the company….about

20% goes to adjacent areas and expansion, and for the 10% anything goes.”

ImageGoogle co-founder Sergey Brin

 I wonder if any Housing organisations have adopted or would adopt the 70:20:10 rule?  Maybe we’ve even got some examples of the 70:20:10 rule working in #ukhousing?

I think it could work quite well and is certainly worth giving some thought to. On a personal note, I think I’ve been following something along the lines of the 70:20:10 rule for some years. Some of the research, blogging and work I’ve done on social media certainly hasn’t been part of my ‘core business’ role, but I’d argue that my organisation has benefited greatly from my increased knowledge.

So, does the 70/20/10 rule have a place in the world of #ukhousing and if so, how could it be used? Please leave your comments below!

5 reasons #ukhousing should adopt Google+

ImageFollowing my last post titled ‘Google+ and #ukhousing – is 2014 the year?’ I’ve continued to have lots of conversations with people about the ups and downs of using Google+. I’ve also continued using G+ to interact with other people and learn as much as possible about the platform.

Since my last post, I’ve had some further thoughts on Google+ and I’ve identified 5 reasons why I think #ukhousing should adopt Google+:

1. G+ will become more common place. We’ve all seen that Facebook numbers have started to reduce, but this trend was forecast some years ago. Well here’s another trend that’s been forecast, G+ membership is growing fast and will continue to do so. Whether you agree with Google’s continued plan to embed the platform in other Google products, it’s a fact that this will only increase G+ membership.

2. G+ Circles and Communities. I had no idea what the Communities facility, or even the circles part was about when I first looked around G+. But the more I’ve used them, the more they make sense. In essence, they enable users to link with other like-minded people, either individually or in groups. You can part of a small or large community and it can be based on anything or interest to you. You can even start your own community. You can also sort your G+ followers into circles of similar people. For me, I’ve only recently sorted my G+ circles out and I have to say, after doing some basic categorisation (e.g. blogs, social media, family, friends etc.) they are really helpful. You can use each circle to post something just to that circle, or conversely you can view G+ posts put out just from that circle of people. It’s a joy to use once you get it right.

3. G+ has a higher usability factor than other platforms. We all know that Twitter has a 140 character limit. Whilst this is brilliant for quick conversations and thoughts, G+ allows for much, much more. In fact, I’ve recently read that the limit is at least 10,000 characters. The other big difference is that G+ allows for video and pictures to be embedded in posts, making this a nice visual platform that also allows for a decent level of writing as well. It’s the sheer volume of people on G+ from the #ukhousing world (this is still low) that’s holding this back. But you read it here first, #ukhousing will adopt G+. It’s just a matter of when not if.

4. G+ enables a much richer conversation to be had with people. You can have conversations on G+ with people you wouldn’t be able to on other platforms. I’ll be putting this to the test in the next few weeks to see just how effective this can be and posting the results on my blog.

5. G+ ‘hangouts’. I was recently involved in a Google+ hangout as part of the Visceral Connected Housing Report 2013. I’d never been involved in a G+ hangout before, but after having done so, I can really see the benefits. It’s much like using Skype, but has more fluidity as you can make the hangouts public (or not) and users can pop in and out of the hangout as they wish. Thinking it through further, I think G+ hangouts could well be used in the future for customer/tenant/staff interface.

So come on #ukhousing, who’s up for the challenge?

Google+ and #ukhousing – is 2014 the year?

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I’ve been in Google+ for some 8 months now. My initial interest for the social media platform fairly quickly gave way to a general lack of understanding and then to only intermittently checking and posting the odd thing here and there.

 

So for 2014 I’ve decided I’d like to give it another go. The bottom line for me is that I need to use it more often and become much more interactive with other users. This has hit home to me again when looking through the number of registered users on Google+ compared to another platform like say Twitter. I think it’s fair to say that the number of Housing people on Twitter has fairly skyrocketed in the past 12 months and I’d guess this trend will continue, but what about Google+? The #ukhousing presence on Google+ is just a little bit sparse by comparison!!

 

A recent stat I read said that Google+ had the 2nd most active users for 2013 for all social media platforms. It only ranked behind Facebook. This got me thinking. Looking through #ukhousing, it does seem we are behind the trend on this platform. Sure, some organisation’s and individuals are using it, but it’s hardly caught on and Google+ is not yet the place to be.

When I first jointed Google+ it felt very similar to when I first joined LinkedIn. Back when LinkedIn first began in 2003 I joined in that same year (thanks to my tech loving cousin in Australia). Searching through LinkedIn back in 2003 I was struggling to find anyone I knew. It just hadn’t really reached the UK at that time so most of the registered users were still in the US. Of course, now, LinkedIn is truly global, but when I look at Google+ it has a very similar feel, like its not quite caught the UK’s imagination………yet.

 

Google+ has a lot more useability than Twitter. There isn’t the 140 character limit for one thing. You can also be as open (or not) as you choose to be with your circles and your posts. I won’t try and give any pointers on using Google+, but I’ve found a great introduction to Google+ here which explains it better than I ever could.

 

So, come on #ukhousing. Maybe it’s time we all signed up to Google+ and got on the bandwagon?

 

For the sake of innovation? Yes please

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A recent post from Paul Taylor at Bromford has certainly made me think about innovation.

I’ve been guilty at work of pushing innovation – I even made it one of my main priorities on starting my current position as Assistant Director. Of course, it’s very hard to actually be clear on what this means. I can still picture the faces of my Management Team when I said this was one of my main priorities – stunned and confused all in one!!

Of course, I have come to realise over the last 12 months that setting innovation as one of my main priorities was both a difficult thing to do but also a necessary thing. I’m not someone who likes to sit back and do things the same way as they have always been and it’s been over the last 12 months that I’ve realised this. That’s not to say that there is always a different, more innovative way to do some things, but I’m always keen to at least ask the question seriously. I’ve also found that I do like taking a chance from time to time and just going with an idea I’ve had. Another Paul Taylor blog post (reblogged by Helen Reynolds) made me realise I’m like this too.

I know that some of you reading this will be thinking, whats the point of innovation for the sake of it? It does depend on the organisation you are in and the type of person you are. I’m at a time in my life where I’m pretty keen to try and do some things differently.  Not that I’m always able to, but in order for me to feel fulfilled, I need to push.

Organisations like Bromford might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I really do like seeing how different they choose to be. I might not like every idea or stance that they take, but I can definitely admire the organisation for being clear about their values and for trying different ideas. Their brand stands out and arguably appeals to the type of people they want working in their organisation and they seem to have a definite innovative feel to their organisation.

I’ll finish off with a well-known quote from Albert Eistein:

einstein_quote

It’s certainly one quote I’m going to put on my office wall for inspiration.

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