A random twitter conversation with @PaulBromford prompted a discussion about how small the market is for housing systems in the social housing sector. There are a handful of key players which have comprehensive unified solutions that are designed to be ‘one size fits all’.
There are a few problems with this approach.
- They’re potentially expensive & bloated for smaller organisations.
- They tend to be closed systems with limited interoperability with anything else.
- The development cycle tends to be long.
- Often built on a foundation of old technology.
- Documentation is generally hard to find or non-existent.
This had me thinking about alternatives.
What if we had a ‘WordPress’ for housing systems? WordPress is an open source blogging framework (you’re looking at it right now). Anyone can download WordPress and use it completely free of charge. You can even openly modify it to suit your individual needs.
In fact, WordPress is so flexible that it’s now being used not just for blogging but for shop fronts, forums, jobs boards, support desks.. the list goes on. WordPress has become so prevalent as a platform that being a WordPress developer is now a career path in its own right.
What if we applied this approach to a platform for the social housing sector? Imagine a framework that gave organisations the freedom to use as much or as little of a system for FREE.
There are 1700 registered Housing Associations in the UK. Rather than toiling away in isolation trying to make our ‘off the peg’ housing systems work for us, why don’t we work together on creating something that can be as diverse and powerful as the organisations we work in?
Unlike the private sector, it’s hugely beneficial for us to work more closely together – and I don’t mean so that we can all be the same, but by remixing others ideas to suit our own organisational needs. By collaborating openly with each other on a housing system framework we could..
- Accelerate learning and ideas.
- Drive down development costs.
- Tackle the biggest headaches together (self service, mobile working etc.)
- Iterate (and innovate) faster.
This feels distinctly like a market that is ripe for a good dose of disruption. Food for thought!