Blog May 19, 2021

Innovators in the sector: Building leading solutions to drive change

By MRI Social Housing

Thursday 13th May concluded the MRI Ascend EMEA Conference, which showcased the best of MRI Software and our partners. The last day of the event was dedicated to our social housing suite of products. A key theme across the sessions centred on looking to the future to build best-in-class solutions with our sector partners to better equip the communities that our clients serve.  

During the Ascend sessions, members of our team alongside our partners and clients helped illustrate the multiple touchpoints along the social housing resident journey that our solutions can support housing providers with. We looked to the future at some of the key developments, innovation and projects we will be aiming to bolster the sector with as we move forward.

There were many inspiring speakers at this year’s Ascend Conference. Here, we showcase just three of the most future-focused sessions. MRI Senior Manager – Product, Joanna Lewis spoke with COO at Optivo Housing, Jane Porter, touching on what’s next for our solutions using machine learning and AI analytics to inform better decision-making. Solutions Principal at MRI Software, Doug Sarney outlined two of the thought leadership programs that we have underway, The Data Revolution and The Resident Voice Index™ initiative. Lastly, our Director of Product Management, Deborah Matthews tackled the ‘why’ of what we do and shared our work on building people-centred solutions, co-created with East Ayrshire Council.

It’s important for us at MRI Software to enter new territory, to do new things and try brave new things.

Doug Sarney, Solutions Principal, MRI Software

Income management with machine learning & AI

In a session that outlined the income collection challenges that housing providers have encountered over the past year, Joanna Lewis outlined the next steps MRI are taking with the Housing Analytics suite to support income teams throughout the whole of the tenant journey.

Access to better data can drive income services from reactive to proactive, with teams able to offer support before crisis occurs. Looking to the future, the use of AI and machine learning will only increase in order to support better decisions.

Joanna explained, “Currently we are able to see who is in arrears and severe arrears and prioritise them and we have the ability to do bulk actions on those lower-level arrears. The feedback we’ve had from customers is around identifying residents in the middle of the pack, who may have had a change in circumstances – which is particularly relevant now. They may be in low level arrears or indeed, credit but that change in circumstances could push them into arrears. Being able to predict this sooner allows providers to be more proactive in the support that they provide.

“In the new technology that we are producing this year within Income Analytics, there will be a set of data within a list that exceeds the parameters of what would have been expected, telling customers that this is a set of data you might want to take a closer look at and understand better.”

We do have to stop doing things that we’ve always done and expecting different results. If you want something different, we have to do things differently.

Jane Porter COO, Optivo Housing, MRI Ascend Conference 2021

Resident engagement with The Resident Voice Index™ initiative

MRI Solutions Principal, Doug Sarney spoke about The Resident Voice Index™ initiative; a new suite of sophisticated indices and insights publications for use by the entire social housing sector that challenge current customer satisfaction methods and performance indicators.

As a vehicle for innovation, “The Resident Voice index™ is a thought leadership project that we’re going to use to enter new territory. MRI Software’s advanced data visualisation techniques in the form of always-on dashboards are going to be used to display this information to deliver high levels of representation and enable people to turn the data into decisions.”

The surveys of residents will provide, “Punchy and timely information to facilitate change available to those who are able to drive that change.” From MRI, the commitment to driving collaborative change will be central. “All of the questions will be co-created with our resident focus groups and industry partners for the project.”

“The Resident Voice Index™ project has a philanthropic aspect; we want to give something back to the sector above and beyond our general corporate social responsibility activities. The outputs will be publicly available and free to anyone that wants to consume them. MRI Software is not being paid to do this; this is important because it makes the service truly independent, it makes it very compelling and hopefully, difficult to ignore.

“The audience for this project are people that can make a difference, people that can improve services and neighbourhoods. People within organisations that steer policies can change the way that things are done. I hope, like me, you feel that this is one of the most exciting projects to emerge in social housing for many years. Keep an eye out for next steps!”

Co-creating sector-leading solutions with our customers

Deborah Matthews opened her session by theorising that in order to create solutions that have buy-in from teams and residents, the ‘why’ of a product or project needs to be identified. Joined by two members of East Ayrshire Council, the session explored the creation of the innovative MRI Housing Register and Allocations solutions, helping East Ayrshire’s residents to find the home that’s right for them.

Blair Millar, Strategic Lead at East Ayrshire outlined his vision for the solution and the experience working with MRI Software on delivering a product that aimed from the outset to be sector leading.

“For some time, we were looking to modernise the way in which we engage with the people we serve. The current system is very administrative-focused and took significant resource. Our belief is we could allow our residents to interact in a more person-centred, digital way. We wanted to provide a system that was highly accurate and an information rich resource.”

I’m so proud to see a vision like this brought to a reality, in fact the product really surpasses my own high expectations of it.

Blair Millar, Strategic Lead, East Ayrshire Council

Approaching the project, Theresa Mackin, Business Support Manager at East Ayrshire Council made central a ‘blue sky thinking’ mentality with multiple stakeholders. “We didn’t just want to design an online application form. What we wanted to do is design something really unique, something that wasn’t already out there, something that we felt very proud of, that we could look at and go, ‘that is market leading, that is best practice’.

From the outset, MRI Software got the vision, the process. Our design sessions meant that they knew what we were trying to achieve, taking the journey from paper to product and improving it as well.

Theresa Mackin, Business Support Manager, East Ayrshire Council

Looking to the future, MRI Software is excited and proud to deliver projects that build sustainable tenancies and help our customers in their mission to build thriving communities. We will continue to collaborate with our partners across the sector to make sure our output is relevant, purpose-driven and driving the sector forward.

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