“Cloud is empowering our workforce, as well as improving customer service.” David Burnet, Head of Change and Projects, Southern Housing Group
Recognised at industry awards for his success delivering business value through IT, David Burnet has spent the last decade of his career in senior customer facing roles for a number of national companies. Previous work at John Lewis, Network Rail and M&S, delivering multimillion-pound projects with impressive results has brought him to Southern Housing Group – a not-for-profit G15 Housing Association.
David describes his focus as delivering improved business value via digital, mobile, Internet of Things and customer enhancing transformation programmes. We sat down with him to find out how he has facilitated the transition of Southern Housing Group to the cloud, and advice he has for CIO’s and IT professionals working towards a similar goal.
What technology investments have you made to improve collaboration at Southern Housing Group and why?
We’ve started by investing in technology that makes us a lot more customer centric. Step one in the process was simplifying our application and infrastructure estate – by focusing on a cloud/mobile first approach – followed by implementing CRM technologies that simplify the user journey.
Our teams have to speak with many different people, of all ages, through many forms of communication every day. And, with our staff becoming increasingly mobile in the community we wanted to give them the tools they needed to self-serve customer queries in real-time, regardless of their location.
Why did you decide to invest in cloud technology and collaboration tools?
It’s all about simplifying the IT estate, increasing flexibility, improving our ability to meet demands; both customer demands and the technology demands of internal employees. The longer-term aim is to create an agile office, with the ability for staff to work and collaborate from anywhere. Agility and flexibility are synonymous with cloud solutions – and these also, of course, improve our disaster recovering capabilities at the same time.
How did you go about transitioning Southern Housing Group to these new tools?
As with most big IT projects it’s important to pilot the capabilities of new technology with a small part of the business, before jumping in head first. So that’s exactly what we did.
Currently the technology is only available to twenty managers at Southern Housing Group and we’ve been working with them closely, using 360 feedback processes. So far it’s been overwhelmingly positive. And, because of the success of the pilot we have plans to roll out the technology solution more widely in the coming months.
What benefits have you seen following the roll out?
It’s still early days at the moment but overall we have simplified processes for our staff and support teams – utilising ITSM we are able to resolve issues really quickly and there are fewer points of contact to look at and resolve.
Our sales and customer facing managers are now able to pick up information on the road, as and when they need it, from wherever they are. In that sense the cloud has, and will continue to, enable better collaboration and more flexible/weekend working for employees. By the end of this year, when the collaboration tools are more widely available to employees, we should be agile and able to facilitate any style of working. This means reduced travel time and much greater efficiency.
By utilising cloud technology, our staff can spend more time with our residents and answer more queries. They’re even able to answer questions outside their focus area so the whole thing is empowering our workforce, as well as improving customer service.
What challenges have you faced internally when implementing cloud technology and how did you overcome these?
Although collaboration isn’t a new concept, the challenge was moving from on premise to cloud – after all cloud is still considered a fairly new technology by many. To alleviate concerns you need to check that the cloud provider’s security routines fit the needs of your business.
Our data at Southern Housing for example is highly sensitive, so security was not just a concern at an IT level, but at a corporate and board level too. We spent a lot of time installing a culture of ownership around security at senior board level, this helped remove the fears and common misconceptions with cloud security.
Where have you seen the greatest ROI from cloud technology investment?
In IT everything comes back to customer experience – has the experience/quality of service been improved for the customer? At Southern Housing Group we have two key customers; internal employees and Southern Housing Group residents.
Although still in pilot our employees are already seeing the return from our cloud investment. They are able to work from home, reduce travel time for visits and have confidential files, securely available, 24 hours a day. The emergence of this new working culture, which frees up travel and admin hours for employees, gives them back the time they need to provide residence with a more personal experience.
The knock on effect for employee and resident experience will be huge!
What advice/tips do you have for companies wanting to invest in cloud technology?
The most important aspect is getting the business to understand that this is not just an IT change, but a whole culture change. Agility is about empowering people and trusting them to do the work that needs to be done. You need two-way communication with employees and continual education about the tools you’re investing in to help them do their job more effectively. After all, employee buy-in, uptake, and usage of collaboration tools, are the keys to delivering and proving business value through IT!