Will 2022 be the year for low code in Social Housing?
Low code platforms are already starting to be widely adopted across most sectors and recently UK Local Government organisations having been reaping the benefits of low code adoption. Here we look at the benefits that can be afforded to Social Housing Associations and other organisations from implementing a low code digital platform.
Will 2022 be the year for low code in Social Housing?
2021 really saw the benefits that Councils using low-code platforms could realise, not least in how quickly they were able to react to the numerous Covid Grant applications that they were required to handle and process: having the ability to quickly and easily develop customer-facing digital workflows in a matter of hours without the need to get developers or technology suppliers involved was a real win and efficiency boost for a number of Councils.
The social housing sector is starting to pay attention to the benefits of low-code solutions and the agility and efficiencies they can deliver so could 2022 be the “year of low-code” for the sector? Meritec will be keeping a close eye developments in this space.
What is low code?
Wikipedia defines low-code as: “A low-code development platform provides a development environment used to create application software through a graphical user interface instead of traditional hand-coded computer programming. A low-coded platform may produce entirely operational applications, or require additional coding for specific situations.” Source: Wikipedia.
Being able to cost effectively build, configure and update digital workflows and processes in your organisation offers huge operational efficiency gains. Becoming self-sufficient, creating your own customised solutions without the need to be reliant on developers or technology partners not only reduces cost, but puts you in control.
Any employee with some relatively basic data processing skills and the ability to use a form building package can be trained to develop both simple and complex workflows in a matter of days. Many organisations choose to train a number of employees on platform configuration and benefit from the ability to quickly respond to changing business processes and requirements as they arise.
Imagine also that you can adopt what others have used and built on such a system, again without paying a developer or supplier, from scratch. A modern low-code platform should support sharing of processes through a user group application so organisations such as Housing Associations and Councils can share workflows with one another, delivering further efficiency gains. Working on the 80/20 rule whereby approximately 80% of the workflow is the same in most organisations whilst allowing the flexibility to customise the remaining 20%, allows organisations that have to deliver the same or similar services to benefit from the on-boarding speed of sharing a workflow/process that another organisation has created, whilst still being able to customise parts of the process to their own requirements.
How are organisations using it?
There is no defined way in which organisations are using low-code digital platforms as by their very nature they are there to be configured in a way that best suites the individual organisation, however listed here are some typical use cases:
Enabling digital transformation
With a low-code digital platform, organisations are not only able to automate many manual tasks but the workflows created can also be exposed to customers, partners, employee’s and stakeholders. Developing a process or workflow once and then exposing this to the back office, self-service e-forms, customer/tenant online portal (My Account) and even mobility worker iOS and Android mobile apps can deliver huge benefits and efficiencies over having to get multiple applications written for each of the different contact channels.
If you work in Social Housing, you will know that many processes, activities, or manual workarounds exist in the world of spreadsheets. You could, with low-code platforms replace spreadsheets and in-house developed applications.
Most organisations over time build up a number of in-house developed applications built on a variety of different technologies, often by developers or technical resources that have since left the organisation. This obviously has inherent risk in the support and future development of these, often business-critical, applications. Replacing these applications on a universal platform that can not only be developed and supported by a range of trained configurators within the organisation, but also by the low-code technology supplier if required, can drastically reduce the resource requirements needed to support such applications. This also provides peace of mind for the future, knowing that if particular employees or other resources are unavailable, business critical applications will still be able to work and develop as intended.
Similar to in-house developed applications, many organisations are dependent on a number of internal processes that have a reliance on spreadsheets and emailing of data around to various people and departments. Migrating these processes and spreadsheets into a low code digital platform delivers much greater agility and support/development opportunities in the future.
Business process automation
Business process automation has been around for a number of years; however the early examples of this technology were often clunky and service / industry specific. Most, if not all organisations can benefit from automating the majority of their processes using a low code digital platform. With a flexible and agile digital platform that resources within the organisation can control Housing Associations and Councils, can really improve their efficiency of delivery and greatly improve the user and customer experience for both employees and tenants.
How your Housing Association worked yesterday and works today is not necessarily how it will best work in the future. Therefore having your business processes configured on an agile digital platform that affords the benefit of allowing in-house resources to update and evolve existing processes whilst rapidly responding to change by creating new ones is going to be an essential tool in your armoury for delivering best-in-class customer experiences now and into the future.
Interact digitally with customer portals
Tenants, just like Council residents or consumers, have come to expect that they can interact digitally with the organisations whom they deal. Having a central point of contact and reference for as much information about their tenancy as possible not only allows them 24/7/365 access to key information, but it can also drastically reduce avoidable contacts that a modern Social Landlord has to respond to via more traditional face-to-face, telephone or email channels. Providing a tenant with a ‘My Account’ that can deliver key information around Payments and Repairs is now expected, however add in the ability to add digital workflows that your team can configure in a matter of hours and you have a truly future-proofed digital solution that will vastly improve your tenants customer experience when interacting with the organisation. Less time spent on hold or waiting for email responses for tenants, means more time spent on actions and outcomes and higher customer satisfaction rates for your organisation.
In the modern digital world no single piece of software can be an island and gone are the days of siloed systems. Modern software solutions must interface with and talk to an ever growing number of disparate, 3rd party software solutions. Modern low-code platforms can enable direct integration with your core systems, for example your Housing Management System and can enable low code configurators to access pre-prepared integrations into these core systems without the need to write their own, specific APIs. The Meritec low code digital platform, for example, comes with a proprietary Integration Hub that exposes key Webservices calls that low code configurators can consume in their everyday configuration tasks. Ultimately this results in much better systems integration, achieved at a much faster pace.
We all know technology moves fast, and with tenants expecting the same level of customer experience digitally between the private and public sector, this means low-code suppliers are looking at the technological horizon to integrate with future technologies. We are of course talking about technology like ‘Internet of Things’ which we’ve already seen examples of in fire safety systems, artificial intelligence providing tenants access to a chatbot that enables them to organically find any information or initiate a service request.
We’ve already talked about the adaptable nature of low-code workflows and their ability to deal with change, but regulatory and business need change are separate to technological change. Our low-code digital platform ensures that an organisation can adapt to almost any changes across technology, regulation, social or business need due to the very nature of low-code development and the fact our digital platforms development road map is driven by our customers, their feedback and their ideas.
What are the benefits to low code adoption?
Whilst adopting low code as a future technology for some Social Landlords may seem daunting, there are numerous advantages in doing so. From system consolidation and being the masters of your own future destiny, to rapidly enabling digital workflows and integrations all without the need for trained technical development resource, it is clear to see the huge benefits that can be afforded by low code adoption.
To find out more please see the link below to register your interest in attending our #lowcodelowdown event at 10am on Wednesday 9th February 2022 where we will be joined by Dave Loudon from DTL Creative and will be discussing the benefits, potential and case studies of low code platforms in the Social Housing sector.
Please click here to register for this exciting event: #lowcodelowdown.