Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) is the UK’s first tenant and employee co-owned mutual housing society, with over 12,000 homes throughout the local area.
On the 23rd March 2020, Boris Johnson told the country that people ‘must’ stay at home due to the soaring infection rates associated with COVID-19. Lockdown in the UK officially commenced. Prior to lockdown, RBH had recognised that clean, good quality and ordered data was critical to the delivery of the organisation’s corporate strategy and fundamental to the achievement of priorities focused on the organisation’s mission of ‘Growing Together, Thriving Together and Improving Together’. RBH had announced its intention for the organisation’s culture to become ‘data-driven’ and there was great reluctance to put such an important initiative on hold.
The Solution: Innovation in the face of change
One of RBH’s core values is to be ‘pioneering’, encouraging staff to take careful, bold decisions for the betterment of their tenants. Kabeer Kaleem, RBH’s Head of IT and BI, along with his team, consulted with both RBH’s executives and housing data specialist, 3C, quickly assessing that by utilising video conferencing and remote working tools the objectives of the project could still be delivered. 3C’s support was procured and the project commenced without delay.
Over the next few weeks, over 20 workshops were hosted online, consulting with management, staff and stakeholders across the business to establish a clear understanding of the current position and the perceived business challenges related to data. Processes were reviewed to identify weaknesses within the current operation so that they too could be addressed. Advanced data quality analytics tools were also deployed and connected to key data sources, providing statistical information on data quality along with information on where data quality improvement was required.
By the end of the first month the organisation had a comprehensive view of the current ‘As Is’ position around data and the creation of a strategy commenced.
RBH staff were updated on the findings from the discovery phase, seeking further input as to the way forward. This consultative process plays an important part in the drive to introduce a data-driven culture, with staff appreciating that they will play a crucial role in shaping the future business model.
Success In The Face Of Adversity
Within 11 weeks the team were ready to present the outcomes of the comprehensive discovery and audit work along with the new data strategy and roadmap. Outputs from the project included:
- Validation of data quality across the organisation
- The introduction of a Data Dictionary that defined the usage, format, relationship and life of data across the business
- A review of GDPR arrangements to ensure compliance would be retained
- The development of the ‘To Be’ data management model
- Recommendations as to how accountability for data quality should be introduced
- Included a compliance review
- A review of unstructured data sources (e.g.: shared drives, emails and spreadsheets)
The strategy was embraced and approved at RBH’s Board Meeting, demonstrating how with the right attitude and management, complex projects can be started, executed and delivered in the face of adversity, without negatively impacting the business.
Remote working meant that anticipated travel costs were reduced to zero, so reducing project costs overall and time lost by staff form their normal duties.