Brett Sadler

Archive for the category “Digital”

A Single Digital Strategy?

digital_vortex

For my last blog post of 2016, I thought I would write about my experience to-date of developing a single Digital Strategy.

As anyone who has read my blogs before will know, we wrote a one-page Digital First Strategy some time ago.

DFStrategy

Our current Digital First Strategy

This was a challenge in two ways:

  1. Our strategies had always previously been several (or more) pages long;
  2. Would it make sense in just one page.

The reality is that the one-page strategy was quite successful. It has led on to our organisation developing future strategies with a ‘no more than 2 pages’ mindset. This is definitely progress.

But one question that always troubled me, was why we had a separate Digital First Strategy and Digital Inclusion Strategy? Actually, to me they were quite different strategies, not least because in both cases we were starting very much from scratch. But now that we have successful delivered the first phase of our Digital First project and we have a new Digital Officer in post, it seems the perfect time to merge the two in to one Strategy. This is serving as a useful time to review where we are up and work out where we want to go next.

One of the acid tests will be whether other staff and customers also understand the Strategy. This is something we will have to test in the new year. But so far, the ‘stop and reflect’ stage, and the ‘draft a new one-page strategy’ stage is working quite well.

Another, arguably more important acid test, will be whether the new Digital Strategy actually results in any positive changes on the digital front. For that, we will have to wait and see what 2017 brings!

 

Here’s to the Digital Disruptors

If I called you a digital disruptor, what would be your reaction?

A digital disruptor creates changes in tried and tested industries by effectively forcing them to re-invent themselves. High profile examples would be Uber and AirBnB to name two and arguably the taxi and hotel industries will never be the same again as a result.

My reason for mentioning digital disruptors is due to a very current example that has the ability to disrupt the world – the £3 smartphone that is being produced in India by Ringing Bells.

Freedom 251

Freedom 251 – described as ‘iPhone like’

If you have kept up to speed with this since it’s announcement, the global response has been a mixture of awe and ridicule, with industry experts stating it just isn’t possible to produce a working smartphone for such a small amount of money, with others pointing out that the smartphones ‘vital stastics’ are a pleasant surprise.

photo 2

The UbiSlate tablet

I’ve blogged some time ago about the £30 tablet from UbiSlate, also from India, which works pretty well for the cost and is in the same vain. I’d go as far to say the £3 smartphone is another ‘game changer’. But before you go googling it, the smartphone is only available in India currently (boo hoo).

The story goes that the more established the industry, the more ripe it is for disruption and unsurprisingly there are lots of people pertaining to be disruptors, either self declared or otherwise.

From a #ukhousing point of view, it would seem to be a ripe industry for a bit of disruption. I recently attended the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester and whilst I really enjoyed attending, I did come away questioning how much had truly been really new and innovative thinking?

So the question for me is, are you a #ukhousing disruptor? Do you think differently and question the norm? Are the worlds of tech and digital a harmful distraction to the industry, or the path towards the new future? Or to take it a step further, is your organisation a #ukhousing disruptor? Or even your CEO? Who will be the #ukhousing equivalent of Uber or AirBnB?

#HMdigitalfutures

IMG_0047[1]

As anyone who follows my blog knows, I have a real interest in digital services for #ukhousing and beyond. It is with this in my mind that as an organisation we signed up to the Housemark Digital Futures Club #HMdigitalfutures.

I have already blogged previously about the brilliant Housemark Digital Futures event visit to Google in late 2015, so I was really interested to see what a more ‘normal’ club meeting would look like in a hotel in London.

 

So here are a few of my thoughts from the day:

Torus and their digital transformation journey

For me, the best sessions of the day was hearing from Nasrin Fazal from Torus on the digital and business transformation journey they have been on.

From an interested onlookers viewpoint, the Torus blueprint would be an excellent starting point for any organisation’s who are either thinking of or just starting their digital journey. I for one would have loved menu of suggested options to choose from when we started on our digital journey and you could do a lot worse than start with the Torus journey as your starting point.

I also really liked the level of metrics they were using to identify progress on channel shifting and new digital user.

IMG_0053[1].JPG

 

Channel-shifting

One theme that I felt came out of the day was that every organisation is grappling with moving more tenants from traditional methods of communication like telephone and face-to-face, to more digital transactions.

Obviously organisations need to be clear what their ultimate goal is for channel shifting (like Torus stating that they are aiming for 80% of transactions to be online by 2020), as this ultimately helps to drive forwards the changes necessary to make this goal a reality. But it was also painfully obvious again that more debate in #ukhousing is needed around this in terms of sharing the learning points and pitfalls from organisations that are already well into their channel shifting journey.

There is also of course the question of whether using the term channel shifting is the right term to use in the first place?

 

How to keep the conversation going…

One of the challenges of running a more traditional club is keeping the conversations going after attending the club event day. In this sense, the Digital Futures club suffers the same fate as many others. Yes, there is a hashtag to use on Twitter, but in the past it has had very little use beyond leading up to and on the day of the event.

There was some debate during the club meeting about the best channel to use for this; the Housemark forum, Yammer, Slack? As was raised during the day, arguably it’s not choosing the right channel that will keep the conversation going, but just having some buy-in from all the members and the desire to share, debate and collaborate on the digital agenda more often than during the three events over 12 months.

 

Every organisation is different

One maybe obvious learning point was the realisation of the vast differences where Housing organisations are on their digital journey.

At NWH we have been on our digital journey now for over three years and although we have by no means cracked the digital code needed for a successful future, we have definitely made some real progress. Other organisations were right at the start of their digital journey.

 

The future…

With over 50 organisation now part of the Housemark Digital Futures club, it’s inevitable that there will be some differences between the level of digital progress and awareness in organisation, but of course it could be argued that catering for (and pleasing) such a wide range of organisations at different stages of their digital transformation is near impossible during a club meeting. NB: Personally I have always said that as long as I can take away a few things from attending an event, it’s been worthwhile, so for me, the Housemark event ticked that box.

But with over 50 organisation’s having signed up, this does show the high level of interest in digital transformation within the sector. The only question is, will the #ukhousing sector be able to successful digitally transform (and quickly enough), or are we facing another few years of discussion rather than real challenge and progress?

Only time will tell.

 

Are you on a Digital Journey?

me!

Last week I spoke at the Chartered Institute of Housing Cymru’s Housing Conference in Cardiff with Nick Atkin, Group CEO of Halton Housing on the subject of ‘The Future of Housing Technology’. This is a great subject to cover, not least because there is so much more we could be doing as a sector to catch up and embrace the future.

What were the key messages?

During our session, the main messages included:

  1. Digital is here, whether we are part of it or not: Generation Z are connected from birth. To gen Z customers and staff, being connected is a part of life, much like breathing. It is not an optional extra.genZ
  2. Going digital can save an organisation money in the long-term: Organisation’s like Nick’s have shown that moving tenants onto digital platforms saves organisation’s money. Fact.
  3. Tech is cheap and everywhere: I have blogged about it before, but the ultra cheap and better than its price £30 UbiSlate tablet represents so much. I called it a game changer in my blog post for a reason.
  4. The mobile device is key: We talked in our session about people always being on their mobile devices. You only need to walk down a busy street to see how many heads are down looking at their phones while walking (this guardian article calls them smartphone zombies). Scary, but true.

What about NWH?

My North Wales Housing CEO Paul Diggory was sat in the audience during the session and reflected that it was nice to see all our digital accomplishments in one place, including:

  • One-page Digital First Strategy;
  • Reviewed, renamed and relaunched My NWH (tenants portal);
  • Digital annual reviews for the past two years;
  • Recently launched Email Charter.

What I find amazing is that, despite the above, I feel we have only really scratched the surface of what we could do digitally. But at least we are on our digital journey. For the leading digital organisation in the Housing sector, look no further than Nick’s organisation, Halton Housing. They came number 1 in the Visceral Connected Housing Study 2015 (again) for a reason.

Final thoughts……

The Q&A session at the end of a session is always interesting. One question which really struck a chord, was whether as a sector, Housing looks far enough into the future at what the next digital/technological developments will be. The short answer is, definitely not.

Bear in mind that as a sector we are still generally getting to grips with everyone being connected, the networked individual and the 24/7 offer, we are not even close to fully future gazing about what is possible.

Another key point is that there is a lot of interest in the sector around digital and technology. The conference session was packed out and attendee’s seemed genuinely interested and engaged in what we were saying. So much so that a few conversations around digital technology in the Housing sector continued on much after the session finished. We need to harness this interest for the good of the sector, share our successes and failures, and continue the debate.

So to the real question: Is your organisation on a digital journey yet? If not, you might just get left behind……..

For more details on the above points and move, copies of our conference session Prezi’s are embedded below:

https://prezi.com/embed/cbknfeqwskic/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=1&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&landing_data=bHVZZmNaNDBIWnNjdEVENDRhZDFNZGNIUE43MHdLNWpsdFJLb2ZHanI0OUF4aDlrdEZxcmRRV2w5dW1tZXhqM09nPT0&landing_sign=trPxYhQwSuvMDAThii36ykhLS23YbhkCApm8fMJWkR0

And here’s Nick’s:

https://prezi.com/embed/oh92506owblj/?bgcolor=ffffff&lock_to_path=1&autoplay=0&autohide_ctrls=0&landing_data=bHVZZmNaNDBIWnNjdEVENDRhZDFNZGNIUE43MHdLNWpsdFJLb2ZHanI0c3YxZFdUbW5lQkZiQVJaemgwK1NuOVlRPT0&landing_sign=UeX8n4MzwffkMNiDxl1cqetrde-F3Uu9qDYSoXoAjTk

Crowdsourcing Ideas

Have you ever heard of this? I have used this quite a few times in the past and have had successful results pretty much every time.

The premise is simple. Instead of the traditional method of having a specific question you want a view on and just searching on something like Google, you post the query on one or more social media platforms and wait for the responses. The responses are much more current and you are often able to query them further.

Here’s a quick example. I decided recently to post the following query on Twitter and LinkedIn:

Twitter07-03-16

And within a short time, these are just some of the responses I received:

Twitter07-03-16_2

And from LinkedIn:

LinkedIn07-03-16

If you have a decent network who interacts and comments, I can’t recommend crowdsourcing information enough!

 

Digital Innovators Network – Part II

y lab

This is the second installment of my Digital Innovators Network blog posts (you can read the first one here).

The second meeting of the Network was held last Friday in the Shared Resource Centre in Blaenafon, South Wales.

The theme for this network  meeting was Open Data, something which I had heard of but knew very little about. I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning that the vast majority of the network attendees had very little experience or knowledge of open data!

So to the day itself. The day took the form of a training session by the Open Data Institute and the main trainer, Ben Cave, really knew his subject matter. The acid test for me was that, despite starting my car journey at 6am that morning, I was fully awake and engaged throughout the day (no small feat!) and was still buzzing with ideas after the 3 and a half hour drive back up North. I came away with a better understanding of open data, how it can work, some of the pitfalls, the need to use a license when offering open data and some wider considerations around the use of open data.

The two stand out quotes from the day for me were:

  • ‘Data is a means, not an end’.
  • ‘Don’t think of data purely as numbers’.

A few other interesting things to point out:

  • Members of the Digital Innovators Network are predominantly sharing/networking through Slack. This is the first time I’ve used Slack properly and I have to say it is working really well (and saves on excessive Emails!);
  • There is a really wide range of digital representatives in the network, including health, local authority, education, welsh government, housing associations and third sector;
  • I can already tick the ‘learning new skills and knowledge’ aim for being a network member.

In terms of open data, I would have to confess that despite having the full days training around this, I would need to do a lot more reading around the subject before I could suggest an open data project within my organisation. Thankfully, the Open Data Institute have a lot of handy information on their website, including the really useful ‘Open Data in a Day‘ slides.

For one thing, I will be keeping a look out for any open data project successes from the Housing sector, as this will certainly help bridge the gap between the idea of open data and the results it can give. This also ties in with a much wider conversation going on currently within Housing and beyond about the use, relevance and validity of the data we hold.

Definitely food for thought!

 

Are you up for the Digital Challenge? Five takeaways

digital_vortex

As anyone who regularly reads my blogs will know, I have been pushing the digital agenda within my organisation and wider for some time now. Safe to say it has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.

I am by no means an expert and our organisation has by no means cracked the digital nut (although we are getting there), but, I can happily report that we are at least trying to crack this nut and that we will continue to try. An example of this would our Digital First project we have been running which has been a great success and we are now moving towards a more ‘business as usual’ approach to digital.

So, here are my top five takeaways for anyone who is either new to digital or wanting to further digitally develop within an organisation:

  1. Create some digital momentum: This obviously takes some time, but if you can get enough people on board, you can start to tip the balance towards digital being viewed as mainstream, core business, rather than a bolt-on.
  2. Digital resources: By this I mean you need some people power to do the work required to focus digitally. This helps in being able on the road to gaining digital momentum.
  3. Network with the wider digital community: This is really important, as there are other orgs and people already doing a lot of this. As the saying goes, why reinvent the wheel?
  4. Sell the digital vision: This is an interesting one, as this will to some degree differ depending on who you are talking to. For example, highlighting the savings from going digital will work a treat with someone from Finance, but a more customer orientated approach will be needed with someone working in customer services.
  5. Become a digital champion – I have done this within my own organisation, which means I can always point to some digital fact, figure or example to try and ram home the point of needing to be more digitally aware.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I do hope these are of some use to you.

Please leave a comment below on what your digital takeaways would be!

 

Digital Innovators Network – part 1

y lab

Just before Christmas, I applied to be a member of the new Digital Innovators Network and a few weeks into January I received the fantastic Email telling me I was in!

Firstly, a bit of new about the network. The network is run by Y Lab, which is a NestaCardiff University partnership to act as a bridge and broker, connecting policy makers and public service practitioners with research and innovation expertise. The network is an experimental process, drawing together a cohort of leaders, expert in their sector, with a diverse range of skills and experiences. The network also forms a part of the Digital Innovation Fund launched by Welsh Government of £250,000 to boost public service capacity in developing digital services across Wales.

So, on a very wet and windy Friday in January, I caught the 5.15am train from North Wales down to Cardiff for the first network meeting. After being dropped off by the taxi driver ‘somewhere nearby’, I made it just in time for the start.

The first speaker was Bill Sharpe from Independent Futures Research and Consulting. Bill started off by saying he wrote his first computer programme nearly 50 years ago and spent fifteen years working for Hewlett Packard corporate labs in Bristol, before setting up his own consultancy. Bill talked about his ‘three horizons model’ of innovation, illustrated below:

3horizons

If you ever hear someone asking whether you are a H1, H2 or H3, then this is the model being referred to (hint: as an innovator you would much rather be a H3).

This then led on to a talk by Matt Lewis, Senior Architect at the DVLA. The DVLA are a UK wide digital innovation success story and Matt led us through how they reached where they have today. Below is one of the slides:

dvla

What struck me most about Matt’s talk was how the DVLA had radically changed their business focus, not on a big bang approach, but rather on a number of continuous digital innovations, as shown in the above slide.

After some time networking over lunch with some of the other network members which included representatives from the Police, Arts Council for Wales, Councils and third sector organisations, we then had a workshop run by The Social Innovation Partnership on theory of change. The basic aim was to get everyone thinking about what their potential digital innovation funding application aim would be. The outcome was that most people were not really clear what the end goal was, but rather new what the next stage would be.

So now as a network, we have gone away to have a think about potential projects that we would like to put forwards to the Digital Innovation Accelerator funding, in order to initiate our own innovative project. Like everyone else, I went away thinking this was a fantastic opportunity to apply for some funding towards doing something truly digitally innovative, but of course, I need to flesh out some ideas first. The network itself offered a chance to talk to people outside of my usual sphere of contacts and to learn what their challenges and successes have been.

Watch this space for more news as the network continues!

 

A Taste of the Google Culture

IMG_1962

I was lucky enough recently to visit the Google offices in London, through a Housemark Digital Futures event.

So, what can I say about my visit to Google? If I could sum it up in just one word, it would be amazing.

The visit itself was everything I hoped it would be. I got to hear from Lyndon Fraser from Google for Work, along with Duncan Farley and Dan Sullivan from Ancoris (who are a Google for Work partner organisation) who held a quick interactive session in Google’s ‘Tech Talk’ Transformation Lab. I also got to meet up and network with other housing staff with digital responsibility, including Paul Taylor and Tom Hartland from Bromford Labs who gave a presentation in the afternoon on ‘how to build an innovation lab’.

As we were not able to look around the offices (as if was felt it would be too disruptive), we got to look around the 9th floor of their offices, complete with a ‘Green Room’, their on-site Gym, ‘La La Library’ (which was genuinely quiet enough to hear a pin drop, despite several staff working in there at the time), outdoor space which wrapped around two sides of the building, a big staff cafe called ‘Cafe Royal’ which was absolutely packed with staff and a massive room called ‘Google Town Hall’ where they hold staff meetings of 100 staff or more.

Other things I noticed include:

  • The offices were bright, light and colourful;
  • They clearly do things differently to most organisations;
  • They have a very clear ‘Google’ brand to everything they do;
  • They all dress in casual clothes at work, but no-one was scruffily dressed;
  • Staff who work at Google are actually referred to as ‘Googlers’ (and refer to themselves as Googlers);
  • The food for Googlers is ‘free’ and covers breakfast and lunch;
  • There were various staff snack points throughout the offices with all healthy free snacks;
  • The main cafe even had two staff serving ice cream for Googlers;
  • Googlers have the freedom to go wherever they want in the building and use any of the collaborative rooms (as long as they have their pass);
  • We even saw a Googler using one of the Sleeping Pods, presumably catching a quick power nap!

It’s always hard to describe the culture of an organisation, but the Google culture was pretty much as I expected, albeit from one day’s visit.

It felt like an open, exciting and inspiring place to work, with a core focus on working collaboratively, not only on digital and technological solutions and advancement, but on keeping the solutions as simple and user friendly as possible.

For a digital techie person like me, it really was hard to leave at the end of the day!

Relaunching the Google+ Housing Community

G+logo3

I am the first to admit that this has been a tough ride. In 2014 I pushed the rise of Google+ as the next big thing to hit #ukhousing on several occasions and blogged about it quite a few times, including my post titled ‘Banging the Google+ Drum‘.

I had evidence to back it up as well. A few years ago, Google+ was well and truly on the rise. Google+ had one of the highest sign-up rates for any social media platform, as well as a very healthy active user %. Up-to-date statistics are hard to find, but Google claim to have 300 million monthly active Google+ users.

Within a matter of weeks of launching the new G+ Housing Community page, Google announced that the person who had helped create and drive Google+ was leaving to work on something else. Almost overnight Google+ lost that feeling that it was going forwards and developing. It had the effect of stopping Google+ in its tracks overnight.

It was a real shame. With launching the #ukhousing Google+ page, it had quickly risen to over 50 members of the group, with a core group of users who were regularly contributing. It really did feel like it was going to happen.

G+Housing_bio

G+Housing

But after Google deciding to make Google+ a pre-requisute for using YouTube (the move had fans for and against this move), they subsequently decided to drop the link. Another nail in the Google+ coffin. Even me, with my glass half-full, optimistic viewpoint had to conceded that Google+ was in decline (it was quoted in the tech news constantly) and I stopped doing much on the Google+ Housing Community page.

So it was with some surprise that I read last month that Google were relaunching Google+ by making some new changes to the platform. This was big news. At first I was dubious – do I really believe that this is happening? Then, after reading various articles on this over a number of days I thought – hey, this really is happening!

So, the upshot is that I have decided to give Google+, and more importantly the Google+ Housing Community, another go. This blog is another step towards this relaunch. Of course, I realise that the power of the community is only as good as its members and its content, but I am hoping #ukhousing will get behind this.

So here is my plea:

  • If you are already a member of the G+Housing Community, then please do revisit it again and become an active member.
  • If you are not already a member, then please do sign up to G+ and become a community member.

I have blogged previously on the virtues of using Google+ and these still hold true today.

 

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