25 years of United Welsh

To celebrate our 25th anniversary, our Chief Executive Tony Whittaker has been musing on the changes he’s seen since joining the organisation in 1992.

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I was rummaging through my desk drawers the other day in search of something or other, pulling out a variety of old and useless bits of tech- a blackberry with broken screen, an old vodaphone PDA which was my first touch screen device requiring the use of a detachable stylus, an early incarnation of the i phone, again hopelessly outdated. I know, I really need to recycle these. At the bottom of the drawer I came across a “Sanyo Mini Talk Book”, into which I used to dictate stuff and then pass the tape to my PA to dutifully type for me; no batteries in it but rather worryingly there was a tape inside. So swapping the batteries from my mouse I nervously listened to a younger version of me dictating a number of letters in response to letters I had no doubt received that week, one to an unhappy tenant, one to the regulator as well as a number of “internal memos” to various members of staff. It made me realise just how much the workplace has changed and the part that technology has played in bringing about that change. Our first email communication at United Welsh was sent out on 5th February 1998. I remember well an earnest debate we had around that time when someone boldly suggested that we work towards allowing every member of staff to have a PC on his or her desk. Nonsense, I said! People would never get any work done!

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What do I know.

I suppose the point of this reflection is not only to chart just how far we have come in a relatively short period of time but also to consider the impact the digital revolution will have on the way we deliver services going forward. The majority of our customers are regular users of smart phones or tablets and demand more and more services via their handheld- the use of twitter and facebook as means of communicating requests or giving feedback is rising exponentially and we ignore the power of these media at our peril. A member of the baby boom generation and a bit of a #diNOsaur I may be, but I do recognise the needs of Generations X and Y both inside and outside the workplace which impact on how we resource and deliver our services going forward. A note of caution however. There was an interesting debate in Inside Housing last week, where a high profile housing Chief and prolific tweeter was criticising the housing sector for failing to embrace the digital change. Reading some of the responses to this debate, I was taken with those of Julie Fadden, the inspirational CEO from South Liverpool who feels that there is too much “boring stuff” out there on social media and I tend to agree. They are powerful communication tools but are so often used in the workplace to post trivial and meaningless bits of information. Don’t waste your time on boring stuff, she implores – spend it making your neighbourhoods fantastic places to live in with IT systems that enable tenants to run their tenancies better. Spot on.

Now I feel the urge to send a memo on the subject. Where’s my Sanyo……

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