Golden Threads: What Are They and How Are They Relevant to Social Housing?

Those who keep a keen eye on developments within the social housing sector will have no doubt heard the term ‘Golden Thread’. Up until recently, the term was predominantly used in the building and construction industry, referring to a centralised stream of pertinent data that is surfaced and used for project management purposes. However, following the Grenfell Disaster, Dame Judith Hackitt’s report ‘Building a Safer Future‘ recommends that a ‘golden thread’ of information is formed for each tall building from design, construction and management when occupied, to have an immediate and clear picture of the building’s safety status for the whole of its life cycle.

Golden Threads of Data within Social Housing

The whole idea of a ‘Golden Thread’ is really about the intelligent use of data, as it can shine a light on hidden trends and answer many of an organisation’s questions, and it can be used in a wider context in social housing rather than being confined to tall building safety and management. Defining a ‘Golden Thread’ is merely a case of identifying which strands of data are the most pertinent and valuable. To be able to bring this concept to life, landlords need to harness intelligent, intuitive technology solutions to surface and harvest the relevant information that will help formulate solutions to issues.

Technology such as Artificial Intelligence, and in particular, supervised machine learning (a type of AI), has the ability to turn large, unstructured datasets into actionable insights. The outputs from this are invaluable for social housing providers as they can be used to pinpoint issues and help formulate the necessary responses.

At Mobysoft we have developed an AI model trained to identify ongoing, problematic maintenance issues. The engine identifies repair repeat jobs and is agile in self-learning different words that have the same meaning (for example loo and toilet), understanding abbreviations and mis-spellings. Then being able to decipher if and where repair jobs are linked and importantly how the customer experience has been adversely impacted.

Lending A Hand Operationally

Social housing providers have access to huge amounts of data about their assets and customers. Sometimes however, the sheer volume can make it difficult to determine the potential value of specific and collective datasets. In implementing a ‘Golden Thread’ though, social landlords can join the dots and ensure that data helps to provide more informed insight to help make better decisions.

Utilising such an approach can improve outcomes for tenants by delivering higher quality repairs and homes. How so? You might ask. Well, tenant behaviour data can inform landlords when the optimal time is to replace a boiler (as opposed to just waiting until a set period has elapsed). A young family of 5 for example will use more central heating and hot water than a single elderly resident, so measuring usage of boilers can ensure boilers are replaced towards end of life, rather than at a set time, irrespective of wear and usage.

A ‘Golden Thread’ can improve services and ensure they are delivered more effectively, efficiently and equitably. The AI used in RepairSense identifies those properties with ongoing, problematic maintenance issues, interprets unstructured repairs notes and jobs, and identifies underlying repairs issues by linking unseen repeat jobs. This insight can then be used to predict where repairs issues need to be resolved and ensures that the right repairs are prioritised for the right tenants.

Potential Barriers to Implementing A ‘Golden Thread’

Many housing providers, through lack of resource and time available to review legacy procedures and systems, can fall into the trap of working in silos. This often results in information not being efficiently shared. To overcome this obstacle, the adoption of a cloud-based central system with open APIs for best-of-breed systems is imperative.

Concerns about data security can also put off organisations from implementing a ‘Golden Thread’. Security and robust procedures are paramount in terms of data management, however, utilising a best-of-breed cloud solution means that data protection and high-level encryption will be a central tenet of such a system and provide piece of mind to both administrators and customers.

A cloud infrastructure is the biggest enabler for golden threads. Also, important is the ability to create a centralised repository that allows landlords to store structured and unstructured data – such as a data lake. The final piece are the BI tools that enable landlords to begin to make sense of their collective data.