As ForHousing launches its new data strategy, Zahir Yasin, Director of Data and Analytics, explains why the landlord is focused on building an evidence-based culture.

It was only in the 1970s and ’80s that computers became popular, and I imagine if my memory of my father’s workplace at the time is anything to go by, it was a daunting experience for many a baby boomer and the generation before.

Fifty or so years on and we’ve come a long way – to the point where most of us are generating an estimated 2MB of data every second. That’s the equivalent of taking a photo using a mobile phone every two seconds.

Data was one of the hot topics at the recent Housing 2022 conference. But as a sector we haven’t yet cracked it.

And this is at a time when the Regulator for Social Housing has stressed how crucial it is for landlords to have data they can trust. Data we can use to make decisions about how we improve services for tenants.

I’m excited about the data-led era our sector is moving into, and that the vital role data can play is coming to the fore.

At ForHousing, all of us are working towards the same ambition, to make more things possible for more people and to improve lives.

For some, the jump from numbers and spreadsheets to improving lives might seem like a huge leap. But by basing the decisions we make as a landlord on information we can trust, we can achieve our ambition.

Whether it’s professionally or otherwise, we’re all creating, collecting, exchanging and maximising data more than ever. And I believe we’ve only just started to understand the opportunities and risks this brings.

The potential value is too high to not get to grips with the information we hold, how we store it, how we analyse it and how we educate and upskill colleagues so we can achieve our aims.

The overarching aim of our new data strategy is to transform ForHousing’s management and use of data to improve lives.

One of our goals to help us achieve this is to work collaboratively to move ForHousing to a stronger, evidence-based culture.

By effectively using our data, we can make decisions based on accurate information, that will ultimately have a positive impact on tenants, colleagues and services.

When COVID-19 hit, we used data effectively to inform urgent decisions on how to help the most vulnerable tenants. Emergency visits, food parcels and thousands of proactive calls, were just some of the actions we took during lockdown. We need to carry forward this momentum.

At ForHousing, we appreciate that we can always do better. We listen to tenants’ opinions and feelings so that we can understand their needs.

For example, in the coming months we will survey 5,000 tenants to gather information about what improvements they want us to make, and the data from this will be used to help empower people to take more control over local services and events.

Effective data, insights and analytics will enable us to make more progress in terms of tenant involvement so that we can make good decisions based on evidence.

We must keep asking, do we really understand tenants and the issues which affect them or are we making assumptions?

It won’t always be a walk in the park. Like many of our peers, we have identified where things are working well and also the barriers we need to overcome.

We have already made progress on transforming our culture in different area of the organisation so that data is increasingly being used to solve problems and drive service improvements.

For example, we have seen how using data has helped us measure the positive impact of improved processes to ensure tenant’s homes are safe and well maintained. And our new customer insight report is giving us a deeper understanding of how tenants are feeling and behaving, for example in the wake of the cost-of-living crisis.

But to get the most from our data, we are committed to ensuring we have information we can trust. We will make sure that it is accessible and will upskill staff to unlock the value of that data.

We will increase data talent where we need to, identifying colleagues whose roles have the most potential to access insightful data and providing training and education where needed.

This will all feed in to help build our organisational culture to be focused on consistently making evidence-based decisions that positively impact tenants.

Our three-year strategy maps this out in more detail and it’s not just a static document that will sit with our team. Everyone at ForHousing will be critical to delivering the transformation needed for us to maximise the potential of the data we hold.

While we recognise there will be challenges along the way, we are ready to continue on this journey and will keep focused on our ultimate aim of improving lives.