UK tech talent delivers key housing programmes during lockdown25/08/2020
By Michael Stevens, Housing Account Manager at Sparta Global
Technology has continued to keep the world turning in these uncertain times, but Covid-19 has presented our business with a number of challenges. As a technology services provider to organisations in almost every sector we have seen the impact on people, process and business growth. This has further resulted in project delays, budget cuts. While not every industry and organisation has been able to successfully pivot and adapt to this new working world, some have.
Sustaining digital growth
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the UK into lockdown, the UK housing market entered a stasis. The government put the entire property market on hold, encouraging buyers and sellers to delay transactions. In part, the move was prompted by practical concerns – including the dangers that viewings, removals and face-to-face interactions could negate efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus. However, the pandemic could not supress the desires of people to move and browse new properties. This reality prompted more property agencies to focus on building their online portals and improving their digital offerings.
The importance of a digital first approach has not only been recognised by private property agents, but by providers of social housing too. Even before Covid-19 changed the way properties needed to be managed, there was a call for housing organisations to get their digital strategies fit for purpose. By investing in online services, housing organisations would better use resources, improve how they meet customer needs and cut costs. This is particularly important given the online distribution of benefits such as Universal Credit.
However, it is important the housing industry does not rush to make all services digital by default – management must always prioritise tenant engagement and communication and ensure automated services do not make this more difficult.
Built for purpose
Ensuring technology and digital services are fit for purpose is critical to the housing industry’s digital success. User acceptance testing (UAT) is the last phase of the software testing process that verifies whether a product or software meets the demand of why it was built in the first place. During UAT, actual software users test the software to make sure it can handle required tasks in real-world scenarios, according to specifications.
As a provider of testing services, we have worked closely with a Midlands-based housing association to ensure lockdown did not compromise key phases of UAT for their new CRM implementation programme. Seeing the stasis of the housing market as an opportunity to continue digital projects, our teams have worked closely with the Test Manager to ensure their team of testers can work efficiently from remote locations.
Entirely remotely, our Technical Advisor advised on ways of working through UAT with new systems and a phased approach to ensure users have time to acclimatise and meet SMEs to form a team before official test execution. We also advised on how to use Microsoft Teams remotely and advised on increasing communication with Scrum style ceremonies due to the remote working situation.
A chance for transformation
According to research from EY, in response to COVID-19 and the restrictions that followed in its wake, businesses have accelerated the adoption of technology. Thirty-seven percent (37%) of SMEs and 32% of the large and listed companies have taken steps to expand or upgrade their technology capabilities. It is necessary for every business in every industry to adapt and change their business model to accommodate their customer’s changing behaviours and expectations, and housing associations are no exception.