Two Become One 21 June 2021 Digital Transformation after a merger

Lincolnshire Housing Partnership was born in 2018 from a merger between Boston Mayflower and Shoreline Housing Partnership.

We had 12,700 homes, but two of almost everything else. We were two different organisations, with two different cultures using two different sets of systems to deliver services.

We also had two differing and conflicting digital strategies – both in terms of risk and investment.

The challenge I was tasked with was putting in place good governance around programme management to create one landlord with a single digital strategy working to a single mission.

Culture first

There were plenty of technical issues to address – the nuts and bolts of making sure services continued to be delivered and all our systems were secure and pointing in the same direction.

But it was defining and setting the right culture that was the priority. Culture is the seedbed from which you grow your transformation. It acts as a springboard into the future.

It is not just about moving everything on to one housing management system. It is about understanding what the purpose of your organisation is and then planning your digital capabilities around that.

An important part of our approach was to bring together IT, HR, and communications under one remit. These business areas are the holy trinity of transformation. Having oversight of our digital offer, our people, and how we communicate with them helped us work towards a single vision for the organisation – ensuring that the message didn’t get lost along the way.

Our approach to digital transformation

Our culture change programme involved a huge amount of input from colleagues and tenants.

We wanted a new digital strategy that was driven by what tenants wanted – not by creating a hybrid of the current systems we were using.

We took our time and spent around five months talking to staff in workshops to understand how they wanted to work in the future, the systems they liked to use and the ones they knew didn’t give the best service to tenants.

We brought in a range of suppliers for show and tell sessions. All this gave us the foundations for a specification to use in a tender process as we looked to build a unified digital capability. We made sure staff who would be using different technologies were involved in the tender process.

It has taken almost three years to get here, but now staff can see they have, or will have very soon, the systems and processes in place that they have asked for and designed. It has proved to be very empowering.

COVID

In February 2020, we launched our culture change programme, The LHP Way. Then COVID hit.

We’ve still made big strides and in many ways the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation we were already planning.

Within three weeks the IT team had done upgrades to systems, 250 laptops had been delivered and MS Teams was being used by more than 70% of the organisation.

We launched a SharePoint intranet system so colleagues could stay connected and access all the information they needed remotely.

It now means we’re much more flexible and much more agile. There’s no right or wrong. The cornerstone of our digital transformation strategy, a new housing management solution, is due to go live in July this year. Some mergers will decide to use one legacy system instead of starting from scratch.

There is never a right or wrong way to approach this kind of alignment. We wanted staff to be able to influence and own the decisions and have a high level of transparency in the selection of the solution.

Our approach has been successful, but we knew the risk. By breaking down our approach and rebuilding our digital offer from scratch our alignment of processes has taken longer.

We’ve had to work hard to deliver really good services in the interim. Ultimately, these processes need to reflect the values you want to set as an organisation.

And remember, if you are going to ask staff what they want, you’ve got to be willing to listen to what they have to say.

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