Recently in Housing Executive our operations director John Blackburn outlined some of the biggest IT challenges facing the social housing sector and the role that outsourcing could play in resolving them.
When it comes to IT provision, housing associations (HAs) aren’t known for their big budgets, and there is increasing pressure to streamline systems and demonstrate greater return on investment. However, privy to large amounts of sensitive data, they still need access to high-quality, robust tech support.
Achieving budgetary and operational efficiency
Managing a range of complex, integrated systems and portals is no easy task for social housing IT professionals. And with an increasing number of daily help desk tickets being raised — comprising login queries, authentication issues, antivirus questions, and more — everything can rapidly feel like a competing priority.
Enlisting the help of an experienced IT partner — whether for help desk requests and security, or larger technology integration and transition projects — can bring significant financial and operational benefits.
Offering the ability to scale up or down as required, it means housing associations have the support they need, and only pay for what they require at that moment in time – with the guarantee that the resource will be readily available.
It is commonly misconceived that outsourcing IT replaces in-house teams. The reality is the two can, and should, complement and enhance one another. With external assistance, internal teams can afford the time and headspace to focus on the core business applications and tactical future of the HA’s tech stack, without getting engrossed in help desk issues.
Overcoming recruitment challenges
The shortage of high-level talent within IT teams and beyond is a growing concern for social housing organisations across the UK. Not having the right personnel in place can greatly impede growth, stifle efficiencies and productivity, and result in spiralling recruitment fees. And this will remain a reality if a solution is not found.
To help avoid skills shortages within technology departments, outsourced teams could hold the answer – whether temporarily or permanently.
As experienced specialists who are highly skilled in their role, they can be engaged at short notice to bring an immediate solution to an urgent project need. Furthermore, outsourced teams regularly work across a spectrum of clients and industries, which means they can use knowledge and learnings from other projects to help quickly solve persistent issues.
Ensuring a strong security posture
The dramatic shift to more flexible, hybrid, and digitally focused ways of working means that effective cyber security strategies are essential — enabling full visibility over software and hardware updates, antivirus technology, firewalls, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), and more. But it also affords more secure access control – ensuring only authorised personnel within the organisation can gain entry to sensitive data.
Specialist outsourced IT support can also work with housing associations to improve the performance of virtual and physical servers, including when they should be backed up and at what frequency — whilst also devising a robust recovery plan. This details the steps to be taken to regain access and functionality to IT infrastructure — following events such as natural disasters, cyber-attacks, or business disruptions. For example, in the case of a hacking attempt, what data protection measures will the recovery team have in place to respond?
By having processes and procedures for a disaster recovery plan set up, and regularly testing and optimising security and data protection strategies, social housing providers can successfully navigate such challenges.
Obtaining peace of mind
Against the current backdrop of IT-resource challenges and economic uncertainty, having the flexible, specialist support of outsourced IT can not only alleviate some of the burden but boost efficiency too – providing housing associations with the peace of mind that their IT infrastructure is fit for purpose both in the present and for the future.
Central Networks are a strategic technology partner. Excellent technology is a given, customer service, trust and long-term relationships are what drive our business. We support CEOs, Heads of IT, IT technicians and transformation directors to ensure technology provides an edge to their organisations.