As many are aware, the shift to digital technology has become an integral part of housing providers future plans due to analogue telephone services being switched off. As the switchover date of 2025 creeps closer, functionality and connectivity of analogue technology is already being impacted. This is evident in the increase of first-time call failure rates, putting those most vulnerable at risk.
Simply put, a digital journey is the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business, fundamentally changing how you operate and deliver value to customers 1. By changing how your organisation operates has left some housing providers feeling very apprehensive. The idea of beginning this journey and not knowing what to expect can be very daunting.
We’ve spoken to some housing providers who have already begun their journey and are happy to share their insights on what to consider when starting your digital transformation journey.
Realising and believing the benefits of a digital transformation within your organisation is an important starting point. By accepting that digital technology is the way forward, you will be open to more digital opportunities and thoughts you encounter along the journey. Wendy Wells from Guinness Partnership shared, “Digital technology has transformed our digital offer and our offer to customers. It has ensured that we’re delivering services that will last into the future.”
Similarly, Denise Williams from Blackpool Coastal Housing said, “We were aware of the digital changes to the telecoms network and the impact on analogue services… we wanted to ensure that the system we put in place would provide us with a long-term solution.”
By trusting that digital technology will benefit your staff and customers not only now but in the future, you will be able to dream big, which was important for Stuart Harper at Central & Cecil (C&C), “There are lots of things that are possible now that were not possible 5 years ago. All you need to be able to provide these really ground-breaking services, or even just outstanding never failing standard services, is to know a little bit about the technology which is out there and where that’s going. That information, if you don’t have it in house, is quite easy to provide. Organisations like Appello are able to provide that technical expertise to make sure that you’re able to fulfil whatever that service offer is going to look like in 5 – 10 years.”
The procurement process
The cost to go digital is always going to be at the forefront of your mind during this journey. However, Stuart Harper from C&C explains how important it is to take your time and make “the right procurement decision” as in the long run it will save you money. Creating the wrong procurement decision will cost you money and will be a waste of time. Therefore, make sure you take the time and research into available digital opportunities out there that would benefit your staff and customers, not just now but in the future.
Larger projects will often go through an invitation to tender process, which Jaswant Padam from PA Housing explains, “The whole process of tendering takes a long time and you’ve got to get it right. As BT are switching over soon, I would suggest you start now.”
This process can take between 6 months – 18 months, therefore starting early is so important to beginning your digital journey and achieving your end goals. Our latest guide on, ‘How to Plan and Procure the Right Digital Solution’ provides tips and guidance on how to start your procurement process. It includes how to create a procurement specification, why you should consider your options, how to choose a supplier and how to evaluate different digital solutions.
During this process you could discover that suppliers come back to you with digital jargon that can be quite overwhelming when you don’t understand. Wendy Wells from Guinness encourages those starting to not “be blinded by tech talk. Don’t be afraid to ask for explanations, keep it simple and if you don’t understand – ask!”
We are aware that sometimes we can fall into the trap of using technical language, which is why we have created a glossary of terms with commonly used phrases within the industry: https://appello.co.uk/blog/telecare-glossary-of-terms/
Think about the future
We’ve touched on how integral it is to dream big and think about the future during your digital journey. But it really is so important to always consider future possibilities, Stuart Harper from C&C shared, “You’ve got to think about what your service will be like in year 3, year 5, year 10, because you’re laying the groundwork and the foundation for that now.”
By looking to the future and planning for where you want your digital transformation to end up, you will be able to control your journey’s path and at the lowest cost.
The entire process can be quite overwhelming, to think about now and the future, when you are new to the industry, but it is important to stop, readdress and make a list of what you want. James Knight from Careline Support similarly spoke about this, “As a team we looked at many suppliers of monitoring centre platforms. At first it was difficult to distinguish the differences and the realities, so we decided to take a step back. We identified our core requirements and took the approach to write a very clear specification which focussed on our needs now, and in the coming years.”
Wendy Wells, Guinness, offers some great advice on thinking about the future as well, “Make sure that if any equipment needs future enhancement that your organisation is prepared programmatically and financially. Ask about the future of the technology and the industry generally and what, if any, implications this has on the service you are buying.”
Don’t forget your staff or customers
Your staff and customers are an integral part of your business. Making sure that they are supported and kept in the loop of digital decisions is important to maintain positive customer/staff experience.
Wendy Wells, Guinness suggests, “Surveying your customers. The digital selection must be a good fit for your customers and your organisation. For example, The Guinness Partnership’s main customer feedback was that they wanted to avoid the alarms looking like the traditional ‘button in box’ and so we made sure that this was a prime requirement in the alarm selection.”
Keeping your customers included throughout the digital journey will enable a smoother transition and easier adjustment at the end. Denise Williams from Blackpool Coastal Housing said, “Despite our initial concerns over whether residents would find the new technology confusing, this has not been the case and they have adapted very quickly.”
It is also integral to think about ways to assist your customers after your digital transition has been completed. David Mayes from Housing 21 shared what they did, “We produced literature that has tried to explain things quite simply for residents. We do consultations where we demonstrate the equipment, there is a host of videos that they can watch. We try to educate them the best we can, and it seems to be well received.”
For staff, you will be replacing the systems they are used to working with which will have a significant impact on their day-to-day roles. Involving your staff will help your digital journey to go smoothly as they will be in a much better position to accept and make a full transition to the new technology2.
Starting your digital journey now is a key takeaway from our customers, the need to plan for the future and remembering to involve your staff and residents to achieve the best outcome. It is also important to choose your supplier carefully, Wendy Wells explains, “Work in a collaborative way with your chosen provider to innovate for the future. Share ideas for how you would like to see the product evolve.”
At Appello, we pride ourselves on our innovative digital technology and being able to adapt to suit the needs of our customers. Our SmartTEC range gives potential customers the opportunity to compare advanced digital technology against a lower cost subtle range, all working to the industry approved digital protocols.
If you would like to learn more about what Appello can offer you, get in touch today, or book a free no obligation demo.
Our digital diaries series shows our customers sharing their insights on their digital journey so far, advice they would give others and expectations for the future. Take a look here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZO_XD3vv8YdghHULM8fw0mPN-le8fzma