About three years ago, qlinker was presented as the first digital housing association in the Netherlands. With the experience of a hundred years of social housing, but without the restrictions of a hundred years of social housing. Does that mean a story of "freedom, happiness" where you can always choose for the customer and innovation? A conversation with Lead Architect Marcel Vogel about out-of-the-box thinking, digital processes and the letting of the first 136 homes.
While housing corporations have been busy digitizing their business operations in recent years, this idea is in the DNA of qlinker. “Automating processes and working methods is a lot easier because you start from scratch, especially when you compare it with an existing organization. And that is also one of the reasons that qlinker was founded. We do have to deal with the same laws and regulations, which means that some things have not yet been successful, such as fully automating accountants' files.
Starting a housing association from scratch means that major innovative steps can be taken to increase customer satisfaction, says Marcel. “For example, tenants can use the qlinker app to carry out the entire process from searching for a home to signing a lease on their smartphone. We think out-of-the-box as much as possible, focusing on the tenant in everything. After all, it's their process, not ours. For example, available homes are posted on the site of the regional housing allocation system, but the tenant searches and finds the homes via the app. We call that personal digital."
As Lead Architect, Marcel and his team are responsible for the process design of the new housing association. “We try to really do things differently where possible. Another example of this is how we deliver a home. That process is something qlinker does completely digitally. We also made delivery videos and a digital housing guide, in order to make the handover of the key a festive, personal moment.”
“Another example is the delivery of documents, something that customers can do entirely via the Rental Passport,” Marcel continues. “As a result, the tenant does not have to come to our office. If everything goes well, the home seeker can, after being notified of being the first candidate, have completed all formalities within ten minutes.”
Minimal human interaction
To support the digital processes, qlinker uses the ISRES Data Roundabout, among other things, in the background. “The Data Roundabout handles the data traffic between all underlying applications. We are currently also looking at how we can efficiently place new technological innovations such as a process engine and business rule engine next to the Data Roundabout, in order to increase the efficiency of qlinker. These "engines" are a framework with which we have insight into the status of processes where the link to IT is immediately insightful. This makes the work a lot clearer. We opt for the principle of straight through processing. This means that human action is only necessary in exceptional cases. By means of a business rule engine, the qlinker employees can easily arrange the conditions under which, for example, a payment arrangement may be concluded.”
Qlinker also deliberately does not use Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Marcel: “In our opinion, RPA is a means of efficiently dealing with imperfections in applications. Qlinker's vision is that we want to use applications where data exchange takes place based on API’s. Then the use of RPA is not necessary."
When asked what the interaction is between qlinker and Mitros, Marcel says: “Something we do regularly is to use the expertise of our Mitros colleagues. They are enthusiastic and are happy to think along about new possibilities. They can then use the experiences we gain in their processes. After all, Mitros also continuously develops, but on the basis of current processes. Because we approach things integrally and can redeploy them, from processes to architecture, we try to achieve a customer experience of at least 9 and an efficiency target of 30 percent. The great thing is that these two themes go hand in hand at qlinker.”
Qlinker has now rented out its first 136 homes. “We have gained valuable experience with this. Whether this means that our processes are also solid as a rock? I think it is always good to continuously want to improve yourself. In the coming period, we will continue to work on improvements proposed by our tenants, under-the-hood upgrades and expanding the possibilities via the app. To ensure that our processes match the customer as well as possible."
2020 CorporatieMedia, Johan van den Beld
Originally published in CorporatieGids Magazine, September 2020 edition