Elite Agent TVEPM: TransformPM Transform Coaching 2016

Transform PM Ep 2: Technology & Property Management, Alister Maple-Brown

Thank you our Episode 2 sponsor:

Rockend, Property Software Solutions Provider. Rockend provides innovative property management software, strata management software, document management software and real estate trust accounting software. For more information, visit rockend.com.au


Alister Maple-Brown

Coaching Transcript:

00:00 Introduction by Samantha McLean

01:15 Technology – always there, always changing

First of all, I would like to welcome everyone here to our office today, it’s a great pleasure to host you. It’s a real pleasure to be involved with Fiona and Sam in the PM Transform program. For us, as a supplier to the industry, our job is to make you as successful as you possibly can be, and training is a really, really key role. So I’m excited to be here and I hope you all are excited to be part of the program.

What I want to talk about today is just a bit about technology and technology’s around us all the time and it’s rapidly evolving. I don’t know about you guys but I find it hard to keep up because it’s literally changing every single day, there’s always something new. It’s difficult sometimes to decipher what’s valuable and what’s just cool. I think if you can get things that are cool and valuable, certainly valuable, then it can make a significant impact to your business.

02:12 Making Property Management Work

There we go, so, just starting off, really high-level: Making Property Management Work. So, you guys live and breath this every single day. This is the investor at the top, property to the right, tenant down the bottom, service providers. You literally sit at the middle of that whole process and you take inquiries and you facilitate and you manage relationships through all of those different entities and it’s a really, really challenging thing to do. Obviously, bandwidth and the ability to cater to all the different demands is a great challenge.

Obviously, investors, what do they want? Investments taken care of, access to information, the highest return possible. Properties well maintained, access to information and no hassles from the tenant perspective. Service providers, they want access to work, they want clear instructions, they want to be paid quickly. A property manager, solve problems quickly and ensure everyone’s fully informed and ability to be proactive. Now I’m sure the list on that bottom section is about 100 times bigger than that, but you get the idea.

For all of those things to work in unison, it’s a really difficult thing to achieve. We recognise that, understanding the industry and the processes that you go through, as we do.

03:27 Technology’s role and benefits within the property management model

What we believe technology has a large role to play is how do we ensure that each and every entity in that list gains benefit? When you think about the business itself, there are two major areas. First of all, the side of the business that brings in the revenue, and they’re the investors because they are giving you a slice of their income, and then the cost to the business is predominantly the labor, which is the property management side.

How does technology work to either increase your revenue and keep your costs flat as option one, or keep your costs – so your revenue flat but decrease your costs, or ideally increase your revenue and decrease your cost. Ultimately, if technology is not either helping you save money (in other words, save time) or helping you increase your business or build your business (in other words, create your money) then it really is a waste of time. I think I always try to share with people that if you can decipher technology ,and even features, down to, ‘how is it going to save me time’ or ‘how’s it going to improve and increase my business by attracting or retaining the clients I already have’. Use really those two things as the main things to go for.

The evolving cost and profit challenge. If we go back once again to the dollar side of things is, I know and I hear out in the industry all the time, is that you are having to do more for less. Your customers are wanting to give you less of their cut. 7% as a norm is no longer the norm so that’s really being squeezed, and I think Fiona will show you some fascinating indicators of exactly that when you drill into rent rolls and some of the management fees that are being charged. Let’s say, so those revenue streams are dropping but your costs are staying level because the expectations of your customers are remaining the same, if not increasing. Then profit goes down and profit going down is not the right direction. Profit needs to be going for businesses to be sustainable and for the service to be sustainable.

Margin squeeze, I think we accept that it’s going to continue. Then we have to help businesses, help them take their costs down so that the profit is either the same as it is today or it increases. The only true way we can do that is via the use of technology. Once again technology can be used in so many different ways, but as long as we focus and say how does it work specifically in a business to do either: reduce our costs or to increase our business and increase our revenue. Then, I think that’s a simple way of evaluating. Because ultimately, that’s the goal for all of us in the room.

06:40 Technology Today VS The Future

Technology today versus technology in the future. I’ve alluded to this over the last few minutes is that, really, you sit as the bottleneck, you sit as the purveyor or the holder of all information and that’s a really challenging place to be. Our view is that transparency needs to be pushed out into the industry and you need to have a platform by which you can share information to the right people at the right time on one hand. While at the same time, let a system and a machine do a lot of the mundane tasks that you do, such as keeping people informed. If we go one further and we say the property, and I’m going to say ‘property’ as another word for saying ‘the platform’, and you put all of those entities around the edge. They all feed information into the platform which is around property.

07:36 Automation: Providing information, rather than seeking it out 

In the same way, and I want you to think around Facebook. We’re all extremely familiar with Facebook and Facebook is a depository of information that is then shared between people that you want to have it shared between. When actions and things take place on the platform, certain automation happens all the time. When a particular post is created, that person who created the post doesn’t have to say, ‘well I want to make sure it goes to these people’, it’s pushed out to those people if those people choose to receive it. As a really simple example, how does that impact what you do everyday? I think it impacts so much of what you do everyday because every action that you take, there is another entity or individual who needs to be aware of that action. If it takes you more time to inform of that action and that process, then it’s taking you away from getting onto the next core task.

We believe that platform must work to push information out. Gone are the days of all of us having to go in and find information or look for information. It needs to be pushed out to us. We see that everyday because our inboxes are full of stuff and these things buzz all the time. How can these things buzz to an investor when a certain task has been completed? As opposed to your client saying, ‘well I wonder when, or has that been done?’ Same goes for a tenant. So ‘your rent has been received, thank you very much,’ or ‘that maintenance job has been received and a tradesperson has been allocated to it’. Simple things like that, that we take for granted in our consumer life, has to be brought into the business service world, so that your lives can be far more effective and you can manage more properties and provide a superior service.

It’s really fertile what you can think about. Automation and triggers, so that’s a lot of what I was talking about then, it’s not only the automation but pushing the information. When a certain thing happens, another thing will happen, and then another thing can happen. To be able to configure that to the way that you want to drive your business is really, really important. Because you want to be able to differentiate the way you do things from someone else. Your clients want to feel like they’re part of a unique service.

10:07 Integration of Systems

Integration and leveraging IP, and when I say IP that’s intellectual property. Integration of systems in the past has been really difficult because systems have sit behind security mechanisms in businesses. What it means is those particular providers of systems, whoever they may be, have had to build all of the functionality into a large complicated program. That can be across all sorts of different areas. What integration is, is obviously leveraging the other amazing applications that people all across the globe are contributing to everyday, and being able to tap into that in ways that help you run better businesses, provide better services and to decrease cost. Because a provider like ourselves, we will never ever be able to provide everything you want with the demands that are consistently changing for you. We will never be able to do that for you, it’s just not going to happen. Other businesses will be able to provide some of those things at different times and so integration is the future of technology and services and we see it in the consumer world.

A lot of the time if you go to a new web service and they ask you to sign in with Facebook. Really simple example but it shows that it’s making it easier for the end user. Those two companies has integrated in the back-end somehow and just makes it simpler for the consumer to do what they need to do. It’s not another damn password you’ve got to remember. Then when you go to, let’s say, an eCommerce site and you’re tracking the package that’s being sent to you. Now that eCommerce site is not tracking the package at all. There’s a logistics company behind that showing you exactly what’s going on. You as the end consumer have the service of both the eCommerce (the transaction), but as well as the logistics, and you follow that transaction all the way through. Our belief is that in the future – starting today, it’s already around us – that there is so many wonderful tools that do small things really well. The beauty is being able to pull that together, not being able to build everything from one place.

Because cloud technology available always or anywhere anytime, that it’s becoming the norm for all of these providers too open up their systems, open up their data and open up the way that the systems talk to each other. What that also allows us to do with your help is think, ‘OK, well for 15 years we’ve been doing a process this way, if we forgot about the process itself but focused on the end outcome, i.e. what we’re trying to achieve’. Because it might be a communication to an investor, as opposed to ‘we need to get a letter in the mail to that investor,’ it might be quite different. Then we leverage technology to get to that outcome. It could be done far more quickly and simply than it is done today. Integration is a really, really important piece.

13:27 Transparency & Mobility of Technology

Transparency. We all want transparency in business, we want it as consumers, we want it as people receiving a service. I think we all speak about that all the time. I’m sure your clients are wanting more access to information all the time. Technology will only be able to, I mean, you think about what we can access from governments these days today from statistical companies. Even from their banks and things like that. Transparency’s everywhere and it’s what we all expect.

Mobility, that goes without saying, who been on a train recently? It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? You sit in a carriage with 35-40 other people, I would say 1 or 2, if you’re lucky, are not on their phone. They might all be playing games, but I reckon a majority, or not a majority necessarily, but a significant amount would be actually transacting and doing things productive. As opposed to playing games. That’s what people want, that’s what we all want as consumers. That’s what, therefore, our clients will want.

That point about, ‘we’ve only got to look in the mirror to understand what our customers really want and if we were sitting in their shoes,’ so really great point. Once again, this is just hammering home the whole concept of mobility and people wanting it all the time. Look we’ve all expected that for a long time. I think it’s we’ve got to deliver and we’ve got to deliver it fast.

15:06 Changing demands / expectations of consumers

Changing demands and expectations: they want information yesterday, they want information wherever they are, they want to be mobile, dislike paper, they’re impatient and they want to pay less. It is interesting though isn’t it? When you think about what we can all access for no charge at all out online and that drives the mentality of ‘if there’s information, we should be able to access it’. To be able to pay for a service that people expect when people don’t expect to pay for it, really challenging.

15:41 Changing role of a property manager into the future

Changing role of a property manager into the future. So re-active task focuses today, to a proactive relationship focus. While this is being muted and discussed over time and it is a little bit of a nirvana. I truly believe that the next generation of technology when we create a lot of the automation and a lot of the triggers and a lot of leveraging of different intellectual property and systems to create great integration. Then we will help your businesses do more with less. At the same time, ‘wow’ your customers to the point where they don’t need to go and look for alternative services.

I think this is the interesting thing, when you look at some of the other macro-changes in the marketplace about sharing economy and you think of Uber and Airbnb and those types of services. Our goal is to ensure that you remain providing a service that your clients love because then they won’t have to go anywhere.

I think part of what your clients will love in the future is the ability for you to slice and dice your services in ways that are different from today, and be able to do that so that the technology doesn’t get in the road, but actually facilities you being able to do two services out of a possible 5, or 3 out of 5 or 5 out of 5 if it’s a full service. I think user demand in the future will say, ‘you know what, I don’t want you to do everything but I do want you to do some things’. I think slicing and dicing it will be interesting for providers and property managers in your space.

17:33 Virtual reality 

We see a little bit of virtual reality as individuals being able to experience places without actually having to go there. We’re seeing a lot of video conferencing and obviously Facetime and the fantastic advances with that. But actually being able to create real-life, not ‘real-life’, but virtual experiences walking through properties, I think, will be really amazing and will help to transform this industry. Artificial intelligence, using bots to help you be more efficient. There’s an incredible service now available that’s in beta testing over in the States whereby if you want to create a meeting between two people, the instigator will email that person but they will CC a robot. It’s called Fredrica or something like that, or Johnny. Then that person will then go back and forth with the recipient via emails working out a time in plain English, to the point where people do not actually realise that they’re communicating with a robot.

It’s a really simple example of what far more is coming, so that we can get a lot of those things that are a pain in the backside sometimes, and take up a lot of time for something that is fundamentally quite simple, but we can now outsource it to a machine. That sort of stuff is here and on its way.

19:12 Mapping and Big Data

Obviously in the property space, the power of maps we’ve had exposure to for a long time, I think that will only increase. The power of mapping data and the overlay of neighborhood-style data and details of properties will only become more and more efficient, effective and insightful to yourselves and obviously to consumers. I think that’s one of the parts of the industry where it’s really changing. The value that you bring as a consultant-style resource, as opposed to just providing that plain information about a property.

So, the mapping – and then last but not least, I think, big data is something that will provide industry practitioners, like yourselves, really fascinating insights into how businesses are well-run, not-so-well-run, what are trends and being able to have access to that real-time.

20:10 What’s next for techology?

That’s my piece. I think technology is unbelievably exciting, there’s so much going on. It’s challenging though to work out what will work and what won’t work. It’s also important to try things and I think that’s where we have a responsibility to you to be trying things and to be failing and to be aware of what else is out there in different industries that can be used within this industry to help you do your jobs more effectively, more efficiently and help you save your cost and increase your revenue. So, that’s me! Thank you.

20:55 Conclusion

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