05 March 2020
Process Automation, Machine Learning & AI in Housing Associations – Moving towards a Data Driven Culture
With access to dedicated back-office business systems and off-the-shelf applications, housing associations may feel well served by their existing technology. The sector has specialist housing management, finance, asset management and many other solutions that aim to optimise the efficiency and effectiveness of the range of services that are typically provided.
A common challenge that comes with having all of these solutions is that integration can be piecemeal and most associations end up creating multiple silos of data. These silos can duplicate information on the likes of customer, financial, economic and social data related to assets, neighbourhoods and stakeholders, making it difficult to establish a single source of truth.
This challenge is amplified when you consider changing business models (mergers/ acquisitions etc.), organisational restructuring and reporting requirements that alter over time. Add in the fact that the people originally involved in implementing manual workarounds may leave the organisation (along with their knowledge), and this becomes a big risk to the business!
Ironically, the operational systems that housing associations rely on to get a detailed view of their assets and customers can often impede the holistic view that the business really needs to see.
Remedies, such as overlaying CRM and reporting solutions may initially help, but on occasions may only exasperate the issue. In the Glantus world, data is treated as an asset and used to proactively address an issue and highlight it early, rather than waiting for a problem to occur.
First steps towards a data-driven culture
Boardrooms everywhere are beginning to understand that new levels of efficiency and business advantage come from transitioning to a data-driven approach, where silos are broken down and centralised information flows freely between different departments and business units. In the case of housing associations, it’s not hard to see how this could be transformational.
Imagine how access to data on tenant behaviour as it happens, for example, could alert the Arrears Management team to make a proactive intervention. Imagine pulling data from the cloud and having it interact with the existing data source, allowing a housing association to get that holistic view of the customer, proactively intervening before an issue snowballs. Where this gets really powerful is when accessing real-time data drives workflows, creating a more agile housing association that is better able to serve stakeholders while controlling costs and optimising the application of smart technology to achieve more, with less.
What might sound dizzyingly aspirational is actually very achievable in incremental steps. Glantus has worked with housing associations by picking off one process at a time: automating the invoice approval process, centralising and sharing data, validating the technology and delivering a return. We like to think that we are taking our clients on a journey where the first stop gives them not only tangible value but a taste of bigger things to come.
A good place to start, one that provides an instant ROI for any skeptical finance departments, is P2P (Procure-to-Pay). The lifecycle of ordering, purchasing, approving, paying, and storing invoices has been a focus area for organisations to transition to a paperless process for many years, however many of the existing technology solutions in the sector stop there.
The ultimate goal for a modern organisation is to achieve continuous process improvements through the use of data and automation. To eliminate inefficiencies around manual matching and filing – lost invoices, input errors and paper trails getting stuck at approval points.
While in practice this is generally the standard proposition for most P2P solutions, on many occasions it’s the user experience that prevents a successful rollout across an organisation. The question is, why should tech savvy employees, comfortable using cutting edge technology on their smart phones and tablets, have to use substandard solutions in the workplace? Approving invoices on the fly, in real time using their smart phones, should be standard in 2020.
And it shouldn’t just be the P2P process that is automated: Drawing on our tried-and-tested experience, we deploy robotic process automation across multiple areas of a housing association, saving time and money – quickly! The goal is to alleviate the routine manual tasks from the people that can do more with their time and remove bottlenecks for key employees through the use of collaborative workflows that help to streamline processes.
The Glantus software can take on the manual repetitive tasks of filling in forms, re-keying information (where necessary) and making routine checks, before issuing notifications within a housing association, resulting in a dramatic and instant ROI.
Our platform can enhance omni-channel communications, applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) to provide immediate service for those that need it most. You can think of RPA as software that mimics human activity (actions), whereas AI is based on the simulation of human intelligence (thoughts) by machines.
A toolset for the C suite
By combining our understanding of the housing sector with leading-edge technology, we overcome barriers and clear pathways to becoming a data-driven housing association.
Accounts Payable processes are the quick wins and low hanging fruit, but true business transformation comes from delivering real-time information and actions that drive productivity and a better level of service to customers. All of your existing systems – the asset and maintenance management software, the finance package – are essentially disparate data sources that can now be combined to help associations make more informed decisions based on real-time information – this is the key achieving great results.
In a short time, you can you can go from having siloed applications and people based processes to a technology capability based a single unified set of company-wide information. Now you are ready to harness the next wave of data analytics. Reporting becomes a breeze, having a single dashboard view that enables what-if analysis with an intuitive interactive interface.
Our machine learning (ML) models incorporate open data as well as internal data to help associations navigate a notoriously unpredictable property market. From calculating levels of liquidity needed to meet housing stock requirements to analysing the impact of new building regulations, you can make evidence-based decisions in an era of post Brexit economic uncertainty.
You will have the ultimate luxury of becoming proactive rather than reactive, with the insights you need to future-proof your organisation and deliver more for your customers.
Find out more about Glantus Property Management Solutions:
Paudie O’Shea, Sales Director, Glantus