Collecting, processing and using data will help housing associations to become more effective and provide in the end better housing for more people. Developing a sector-wide data standard is important in this process, as it will allow associations to share and compare their figures and for their IT-based systems to be able to ‘talk’ to each other.
By Henk Korevaar, International Liaison at CorpoNet, The Netherlands
Professionals in the Netherlands have been striving to create such a standard for some time, with good results as the Dutch CORA standard was launched back in 2016. On January 29th, 2018 a new standard, in English, was launched. Recognising there is a need to improve the quality of data in housing, HACT and OSCRE have launched the UK’s first Data Standard to the housing sector. The first version of the HACT UK Housing Data Standard covers the voids and allocations processes as well as the core customer data.
Henk Korevaar interview Launchpad Coordinator at HACT, Jay Saggar to shed light to the development of the standard. HACT is a charity, social enterprise and industry-focused think/do tank, established in the 1960s- relaunched in 2012- by the housing association sector, seeking to influence and innovate in ways which help all housing providers deliver more effectively within their communities. Over the past ten months, HACT and its partner OSCRE have been working with seventeen housing providers to create a Data Standard that will be free to use for the sector.
Why did it take so long for the development of this version of the Housing Data Standard and how did (or did not) past experiences and earlier versions influence this project?
It took some time for the sector to collectively realize that data is of utmost importance for the future of business processes in the sector. Even though a number of individuals early on realized the potential and importance of data, it proved to be very difficult – within their own organizations - to solve this problem by themselves. That way both HACT and housing providers found the advantages of developments such as ‘big data’ were hard to come by due to the quality of data in the sector. A number of housing associations in Wales were inspired by the Dutch reference architecture model for housing associations (called CORA), things really started moving in the right direction. Based on their initial translation of the first CORA documents and after HACT got involved in leading the project really began to gain momentum.
This coincided with a feeling within the sector that time was right for change, as many organisations have now begun to look at digital transformation projects and Data Standards as key for success, while there is also growing awareness that software systems should be working for their customers not the other way round, these factors coming together have driven the appetite to push forward a data standard now and will likely be the reason this attempt progresses beyond where previous attempts at creating standards have stalled.
What is expected from a housing association to make the standard into a success?
Enthusiasm in the first place. HACT has developed implementation guidelines to facilitate the participation of interested housing associations that would like to move from considering the Standard to starting implementation through to using of the data dictionary. HACT offers a range of implementation support packages and is keen on collecting feedback from all participating organisations in order to update and improve both the guidelines and the Standard more generally.
How will suppliers be involved?
Both for housing associations and suppliers the new data standard offers loads of improvement opportunities. This is for established suppliers and their systems as well as new entries to the market. We’ve decided not to implement a formal procedure for complacency, as the cost and time associated will be a high barrier blocking suppliers’ participating and, very costly and time-consuming. We do encourage suppliers to contribute financially and to spread the news and their own commitment and enthusiasm and we think this will, in the end, have more and better impact than a formal ‘accreditation process’.
What has been the role of the Dutch CORA standard?
CORA provided us with a lot of material and inspiration. For us, it was sort of a litmus test whether data standards can actually work within the housing sector. It was a great help for our project and helped both our design process as well as the definitions of the end result. Based on the lessons from the Netherlands, we learned not to try to do everything in one go and to bring people with you on your journey instead of doing all just by yourself.
Is the model easily adaptable for use in countries other than the UK?
As more than 50% of the standard contains ‘common’ elements for housing associations, the answer will be yes. The rest of the standards is bespoke for the UK housing sector and will have to be adapted for usage in other countries. But we’ve fully documented all the steps we’ve taken before and during the implementation process, so that should be a great starting point for others. The Intellectual Property of the standard is owned by HACT and OSCRE but it is available for all interested parties using a ‘creative commons’ license. To illustrate the importance and acceptance of this form of licensing: as of January 2018 there were an estimated 1.2 billion works licensed under the various Creative Commons licenses.
HACT and OSCRE will, just as CorpoNet/CORA in The Netherlands, continue the further development and maintenance of the housing data standards and – based on the outcome of the May-workshop – continue working together.
As an idea of Dutch-British cooperation in the area of housing data standards, Jay suggested to organize a two-day workshop in the Netherlands, on May 17th and 18th to bring together data standard ‘enthusiasts’ in order to learn, share ideas and best practices, discuss new developments and to coordinate the development of future releases of both the Dutch as well as the UK version of the data standard.
The launch event on Monday, January 29th, 2018 attracted well over 100 delegates.
The Data Standard Library is made up of the following components
- Quick Start Guide
- Reference Data Model
- Data Exchange Standards
The UK Housing Data Standard is free to use subject to the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-ND 4.0) license. The English language documents are available at www.hact.org.uk/datastandard
Information on CORA, the Dutch standard, may be found at: www.stichting-cora.nl