Visit this page regularly to stay up-to-date on all the latest IT, software and technology news and advice.
Listen to our Coffee Break Podcast about the impact of Covid19 on technology in social housing
Our first podcast is now live - Covid19 and technology in social housing.
Signing on the dotted line
The simple signature has been used for centuries to show agreement and approval. For many housing associations it is used across many parts of their work, especially where paper systems are still prevalent. An electronic signature software solution can change this.
Getting integration right with careful planning
Kerry Martin talks about how to get the integration of IT systems right.
Take a deeper look at Microsoft Teams – it offers much more than video calls
Kerry Martin talks about how to get more out of Microsoft Teams
Say hello to Alexa - how we can use AI voice assistant technology in the social housing sector
For many of us, “asking Alexa” is now a common feature of our everyday lives. If you have an AI voice assistant in your home you will be quite used to asking it to play you a piece of music, order some shopping, turn the heating on or switch on the lights.
I’ve no doubt they will also prove themselves to be useful in the coming months as the COVID-19 Coronavirus develops, particularly in relation to our elderly friends and relatives. As these vulnerable members of society are increasingly forced to self isolate, issues such as loneliness and social isolation will become as challenging perhaps as the virus itself. Any tech which can help ease these problems - even if it’s just by making a video call a lot easier - has the potential to be part of the solution.
Is it time to review your IT strategy?
Reviewing your IT strategy? Chris Shaw sets out the questions you should be asking.
Watch our Office 365 videos
Shaw’s Chris Shaw talks about the benefits of Office 365 for the social housing sector
Costing the benefits of Office 365
Making the decision to switch to any new piece of tech usually involves a straightforward cost-benefit analysis. How much will it cost to switch to a new system and what will the benefits be? Do the financial and operational improvements delivered by the new system outweigh the costs of replacing the old one?
It’s not always easy and there can often be multiple factors to consider. Overcoming workforce opposition and “this is the way we’ve always done things” is often the biggest hurdle. But in one area, the push towards a new way of working appears almost unstoppable.
When it comes to the way housing associations manage IT workflows, file storage, collaboration and communications we are currently seeing a tectonic shift away from traditional “on premises” solutions. Providers are recognising that storing documents and emails on their own servers, with software manually and physically installed on all workstations, is an outdated and an inefficient way of working.
And for offices where the use of Microsoft Office software is ingrained and embedded - there is a new solution - which won’t require retraining or a radical new way of working. In some ways it’s about putting existing tools to (much) better use.
Season’s Greeting form Shaw Consulting
The Internet of Things and Social Housing
The technology sector doesn’t necessarily have the best track record when it comes to communicating its ideas and innovations. Opaque terms are often coined to describe the latest breakthrough, with little explanation of what it actually means. Terms like the World Wide Web, AI and the Internet Things (IoT) are dreamed up quickly - but it can take years before understanding filters through to the wider public.
I’m often surprised by how far back some tech terms go. Take the Internet of Things. Surprisingly, this term was coined 20 years ago by tech entrepreneur Kevin Ashton. But how many of us who hear the term fully understand it? And how many of us are using it without even realising it? Crucially, even if you don’t quite understand the concept, how might it benefit individuals, businesses and society?
The future is here
Innovations in technology are transforming the way housing associations are doing business. New developments in IT, mobile working, the Internet of Things and Robotic Process Automation offer new opportunities to be more efficient and deliver a better service to customers.
Shifting to digital methods of communication, for example, means you can deal with many customer queries around the clock and in any language they choose. The Internet of Things, meanwhile, has the potential to vastly improve how you manage your assets. And Robotic Process Automation could greatly reduce the burden of administrative tasks. The benefits are there for the taking.
But making sense of what’s on the horizon can be daunting. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and worry you’re lagging behind.
Sometimes it’s about cutting through the jargon and focusing on what technology can do for you: how it can help you do things better, quicker and cheaper.
Shaw appointed to Digital Outcomes Specialists Framework
Public sector organisations can now procure services directly from Shaw through the government’s Digital Outcomes Specialists Framework. The framework was developed to give government bodies, as well as organisations such as housing associations, access to specialist digital consultancy services to improve their digital outcomes. All suppliers on the framework, which is an agreement between suppliers and government, agree to the same terms of supply.
It means organisations can more easily procure specialist IT and digital services from an approved list of government suppliers. The Digital Marketplace is where the public sector goes to buy digital services from suppliers on the framework.
The framework is managed by the Crown Commercial Service including all terms and conditions, supplier evaluations and compliance. The Digital Marketplace is managed by the Government Digital Service.
The right systems for effective asset management
Effective asset management is a critical business function for all registered providers of social housing. Knowing the exact, current state of your entire property portfolio, whether individual properties, estates, communal areas or land, is essential. Firstly, it’s crucial for the effective planning and delivery of investment decisions and improvement programmes. But, asset management is also at the heart of key areas of legal and regulatory compliance, including areas such as gas, electrical and fire safety and asbestos and legionella.
The problem is most providers’ current asset management systems (and it is usually systems plural) are not fit for purpose. As we carry out more and more reviews on behalf of providers of their existing asset management set up, common weaknesses are apparent.
G-Cloud 11 Procurement Framework
We are delighted to have been accepted on the G-Cloud 11 procurement framework which enables organisations to procure services directly from us without having to go through a lengthy procurement process.
Ad-hoc reporting is dead: make way for management dashboards
In our information-saturated world it’s hard to find reasons to love data. Information is often in the news for the wrong reasons - think the scandal over Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. More often than not we can feel overwhelmed by information - not set free by it. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Information can be a help, not a hindrance.
50 years after Apollo, talking to computers is the new normal
It won’t have escaped your attention that 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing. Inevitably, it’s the three astronauts who made the trip who are front and centre of the celebrations.
But Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were accompanied by a fourth member of the crew, who is often less well remembered. Primitive by our own standards, Apollo’s on-board computer was integral to the success or failure of the mission.