Interview with Jay Sagger (HACT)
Early Friday morning, the 26th of January 2018 and just a couple of days before the official launch, I had an interesting and inspiring conversation over coffee and tea with Jay Saggar, Launchpad Coordinator at HACT.
HACT is a charity, social enterprise and industry-focused think/do tank, established in the 1960s 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. Time to learn more about this project and how the resulting Data Standard will benefit the sector.
Q: 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 influenced this project?
A: 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. Both HACT and housing providers found the advantages promised from developments such as ‘big data’ were hard to come by due to the quality of data in the sector.. When a number of housing associations in Wales got informed (and 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 became involved in leading the project that momentum really began to gather
This coincided with a feeling amongst the sector that time was right for change, many organisations have now begun to look at digital transformation projects and Data Standards are a backbone to making these successful, there is also a growing awareness that software systems should be working for their customers not the other way round, these factors coming together have driven the apetitie to push forward of a data standard now and will likely be the reason this attempt progresses beyond where previous attempts at creating standards have stalled.
Q: What is expected from a housing association to make the standard into a success?
A: Enthusiasm in the first place. HACT has developed a implementation guidelines to help interested housing associations move from considering the Standard to starting an implementation project through to using 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.
Q: How will suppliers be involved?
A: Both for housing associations as well as all suppliers the new data standard offers loads of (improvement) opportunities. This is for established suppliers and their systems as well as new entrants to the market. We’ve decided not to implement a formal procedure for compliance, as the cost and time associated with type of activity would act as a high barrier blocking suppliers’ participating and We do encourage suppliers to contribute financially and to spread the news and their own commitment and enthusiasm and we think that will in the end have more and better impact than a formal ‘accreditation process’. We do hope and expect that the data standard will enable suppliers to offer innovative services that unlock value for their clients and moved beyond high integration costs
Q: What has been the role of the Dutch CORA standard?
A: CORA provided us with a lot of material, inspiration and enthusiasm. For us it wasproof that data standards can work within the housing sector, that it is possible and that real people and organisations are using it to their benefit. 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 ‘eat the cake in one piece’ (don’t try to do everything in one go) and to bring people with you on your journey instead of doing all just by yourself.
As an idea of NL-UK co-operation in the area of housing data standards, Jay suggested to organize a two-day workshop (in The Netherlands) to bring together data standard ‘enthusiasts’ in order to learn, share ideas and best practices, discuss new developments and to co-ordinate the development of future releases of both the Dutch as well as the UK version of the data standard. In the CorpoNet calendar we’ve penciled in the 17th and 18th of May, 2018.
All interested in attending and/or contributing (in whatever way) to this event, please contact the UK standards team (mr. Jay Saggar (HACT): jay.Saggar@hact.org.uk) or the Dutch CORA team (contact person mr. Arjen de Vries (Lefier housing): A.deVries@lefier.nl).
Q: is the model easily adaptable for usage in countries other than the UK?
A: As more that 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 in that process as well as the implementation process, so that should be a great starting point for others. The IP (Intellectual Property) of the standard is owned by HACT and OSCRE but the standard 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.
The launch event on Monday the 29th of January, 2018 attracted well over 100 delegates.
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
CorpoNet, The Netherlands