By Steve Ellard, Head of Assets, Yorkshire Housing.

An editor once told me that ‘top five’ articles are always the most popular ones. So, for starters, here are the top five things not to Google:

  • Giving birth
  • Blackhead removal
  • Anything criminal
  • Your symptoms
  • Your name.

Often, Googling anything can lead you down a rabbit hole you wished you’d never entered. However, there’s one subject I’d really recommend Googling, and that is asset management strategies. I’ve even compiled my own top five reasons why:

  1. Out of sector examples

It should come as no surprise that the housing sector doesn’t have a monopoly on strategic plans. Whether it be engineering, utilities, or finance there’s a wealth of examples online that often illustrate asset management in its purest form. The content might not translate directly into a housing sector strategy, but some of the principles are very relevant indeed.

2. Sector examples

Notwithstanding reason 1, the housing sector will provide you with the best reference point from which to base your strategic plan on (and we’re good at sharing). Google is awash with property-related asset management strategies – more so than any other sector. It’s also useful to compare housing association strategies to those of councils with retained housing stock.

3. A timeline

Whilst this applies specifically to other housing strategies, rather than out of sector examples, it’s worth saying that a strategy written five years prior is likely no longer fit for purpose, particularly when considering the socio-economic and political climate. Building safety, for example, has been a major priority for housing associations since the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017. But a strategy written on this subject shortly after this time, regardless of its intent, will lack significant context and practical actions on the statutory requirements that have only very recently been released. It all serves as guidance to illustrate where we’ve been, but more importantly how that background shapes where we’re going.

4. Design

The design of your strategy is, to some, of little importance. I’ve seen some in Word format offering little other than just that: words. I’ve also seen some so beautifully designed that there’s little space for words, which are quite important if we’re being honest. As someone who’s on occasion been criticised for favouring style over substance, I do think the imagery, vibrancy, and accessibility of the strategy is very important. The important thing here is to be very clear on the audience. Though it’d be worth bearing in mind that if your strategy is ambitious, you’re going to do it a disservice in words alone.

5. The rabbit hole

I’ve used this phrase in a fairly negative context in the opening paragraph of this piece. But there’s a great deal of benefit to be found in researching asset strategies online – wherever your clicks take you. A cursory read of a housing association strategy might flag up a priority you hadn’t thought of, which might link directly to some practical suggestions, which might in turn change your understanding of your own priorities.

Do this research well and it could even redefine your understanding of asset management entirely, which might sound a bit dramatic – but if it stops you Googling your own name, then it’s worth a try.