Enhancing Business Intelligence

March 2022. Harnessing the data in your social housing organisation to enhance decision making with Business Intelligence (BI) tools

Housing associations more than any other business depend on their data to make informed decisions and support the livelihoods of their tenants. Comprehensive records of operational activities are accumulated across Housing Management Systems, Finance Systems and CRMs. It is rare, however, that organisations are ever able to realise the full potential of their data and draw tangible conclusions which can effectively inform strategic decision making. Managing data across a multitude of systems and spreadsheets can cause complications and severely limits organisations to a two-dimensional view of their performance.

So how can businesses enhance the quality of insight to improve their analysis? The utilisation of data visualisation tools such as Microsoft PowerBI and Tableau can create endless possibilities for analysis and insight. Among several key application areas, we have summarised those we believe to be most important to housing associations below.

Data visualisation

Reading data and reports is not always the most effective way of understanding performance. It is natural that different roles across the organisation will be expected to view the data in different ways. C-level executives are often pressed for time and need to access quick snapshots of performance data. Analysts, on the other hand, should be equipped with tools to interrogate data and develop insight into the root causes of trends and anomalies.

Business intelligence tools enable organisations to visualise their data, which can unlock a new world of insight previously unavailable. As an example, geo-coded visualisations enable asset data to be digitally mapped within a dashboard. Variables such as total repair cost or rents can be represented through size and colour, which helps housing associations to spot important trends by location.

PowerBI also has powerful ‘drill-through’ functionality, which enables users to access the lower hierarchy data with a single mouse click. In a matter of seconds, you can drill down to viewing an individual repair, asset or rent payment. For example, clicking on an individual asset in the geographical visualisation will update KPIs and other graphs to show trends for the selected asset. This enables staff who spend more time with the data to conduct further analysis where required.

Data Modelling

The data modelling features of BI tools enable businesses to use common variables across datasets to ‘link’ the datasets together, creating a cross-dimensional view of performance. For housing associations who manage their services across a multitude of systems, databases and spreadsheets, this feature opens up a huge window of opportunity to discover more about how they are performing.

As an example, a housing association we recently worked with was seeking to understand how particular features of an asset (such as build year, location or asset type) had impacted the cost and types of repairs that asset would receive over time. Through developing a data model combining their asset and repairs datasets, we were able to help them derive insights that would have otherwise been undiscovered.

Self-Service Dashboarding

Traditionally, developing analysis and insights from data has been a manually driven process for organisations. We often meet businesses that depend on analysis and reports which require repetitive and intensive data cleansing, transformation and analysis in Excel in order to output a legible report. Reports also go through various permutations to meet the needs of various stakeholder groups such as by location, business area or cost centre, absorbing a significant amount of staff time.

Successful digital transformation has equipped market-leading organisations with rapid, self-service dashboards through the use of BI tools. Businesses are able to utilise cloud-hosted dashboards to share reports quickly with stakeholders across their organisation, replacing the need to develop several iterations of spreadsheets on an ongoing basis. Stakeholders are able to filter and view the data in a method that’s appropriate for them (such as filtering by cost centre or repair type). Not only does this save a significant amount of staff time, but it also increases the operational understanding of key decision-makers.

How we can help

We have specialised knowledge and experience within the social housing sector and have worked alongside several organisations in this sector to develop their management reporting and dashboarding solutions. Our experience in best-practice data visualisation is developed around your needs with a tailored solution created to meet your reporting requirements. 

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