It ensures that any electrical item you buy in the UK works with any electrical socket. This saves an awful lot of time, expense and waste for all involved as we’ve all agreed on a recognised standard.
Does social housing need a standard for data?
For all the reasons above. We expend far too much valuable time and energy converting or interpreting data so that it can travel between people, teams, systems or external partners.
Standards are not a new thing. As Doug Silverstone, Head of Data & Analytics at Thames Valley Housing Association, pointed out during his talk, we already work with standards regularly, but we don’t think about them that way or actively manage them.
For example, you may use some form of standard to do the following:
- Send data to a local council.
- Import data into your finance system(s).
- Exchange data with external repairs operatives.
So really, we’re just talking about being more intentional about how we use data and in what format. In that sense, the UK Housing Data Standard does an awful lot of the leg work for us. It’s doing the hard work to make things simpler.
Who should adopt the standard?
It would be brilliant if all technology suppliers working with social housing adopted the standard. It would make a huge difference in joining up service delivery both inside and outside our organisations. That’s me, a potential customer, saying I’ll buy your stuff if you make service delivery easier not harder.
For new entrants to the sector, it’s hugely encouraging to start seeing support for the standard from the get-go. If you’re building a new product, it’s a faster route to market to have a ready-made data standard for your systems. Why reinvent the wheel?
For incumbent technology suppliers, most are in the middle of their product roadmaps and so, pragmatically speaking, it’s going to take time to change direction. I’m sure that would speed up if the standard received a notable groundswell of support.
It’s also worth acknowledging the elephant in the room. The data standard will make migrating away from products and services easier. And while it’s not an overt strategy, customer lock-in is a pattern that has been utilised by some of the less progressive suppliers as a way of retaining customers.
We (those who work in social housing) don’t have direct control over these things. But we do control where the money is spent and what we procure. We’re going to need to create the conditions for something different from the norm to happen.
As a buyer of technology, when I see someone using the UK Housing Data Standard, it indicates to me that this is a technology supplier that:
- Understands the value of open reusable standards.
- Has confidence in their product or service.
- Is happy to work with other systems and services that we may already be using.
- Is going to be far more compatible with the principles of GDPR.
Essentially, we have to make the UK Housing Data Standard a competitive advantage. That means making it appear as a requirement for suppliers to participate in housing tenders. Perhaps as a ‘nice to have’ to begin with but working toward a point where we can specify it as ‘essential’.
What can we do right now?
We have to start iteratively implementing the standard into whatever work we’re doing right now. That means looking for opportunities where we might apply the standard to generate some learning and build capability.
During the same event, Chris Lees, Technical Director at Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE), talked about the different patterns for implementing the standard. This helped clarify how this might practically work in the medium to long term. The pattern below about implementing the standard at the interface level made an awful lot of sense in the context of where we are at on the digital maturity curve. (Other patterns are available!)