Property software rewritten for mobile working
Copyright: David Lawson
Published in Property Week July 2009
Property software is moving into a new era as programs are recast to meet the needs of mobile and home working. We talk to some of the leading suppliers:
Argus - Paul Broadley, managing director Europe
It must be the recession driving it, but these sorts of technology really have do seem to have come of age. We have a number of components within our software that helps with home working that we are seeing come to the fore recently for instance.
Hosting: We have the ability to host our software for the client. One of the reasons clients say that they like this is simply because they can work anywhere there is an internet connection.
ArgusZone: A collaboration zone that we give free with our applications, allowing clients to share a workspace globally with colleagues, both internally within the company and externally.
Qube - James Lavery, customer relationship team leader
It is not just home working that is driving our flexibility of approach and development in terms of web access. Companies are offering agents, partners and tenants the opportunity to share access to data to improve customer service and working practices. In addition, managers of global organisations want to be able to access key performance indicator data from any location across international portfolios.
Increasing use of handhelds has also changed our offering. Facilities and estates teams are reaping the benefits both in terms of cost and savings. Utilising mobile technology can significantly reduce the amount of time spent recording maintenance and repair activities. Databases can be uploaded to a handheld unit, making data collection quick and simple. Time and location are no longer a restriction as data is accessible at all times therefore workers no longer need to return to the office to pick up jobs, leading to reduced costs and increased productivity.
Home working varies across the property industry because of restrictions including health and safety rules, staff management requirements and limitations on IT. Some staff are clearly in office-based roles. Many smaller customers don’t have the infrastructure to choose mobile working but they are catching up fast.
The green advantages of home/mobile working and hot desking also depend on each organisation's priorities as to whether this is one of their primary drivers. But flexibility in working practices is clearly becoming more crucial and we are constantly adapting to match these demands.
Raindrop Manhattan - Jason Allaway, commercial director Europe
Latest developments in property software are ensuring that processes are being geared around the requirements of the end-user. It is now possible for more and more roles to be carried out by people who don’t need to be sitting behind a corporate desk. Leasing, customer relations, acquisitions and disposals modules give remote workers and hot deskers the same ability to exchange documents and notify - and be notified of - issues as if they were in the office.
Web-enabling was the first step forward a few years ago but this still required a plug-in or some form of third-party software to enable access in a browser. Manhattan Web 2.0 has now moved on and there is no need for plug-ins or downloads. Software is automatically updated and bandwidth demand is much lower because data can be stored on the server and accessed remotely. Authorised users can simply log in with any browser wherever they are, making it easier to disseminate information to remote offices and workers.
Many clients have a traditional head office installation but it is now possible for external users such shopping centre managers, agents and others in the collaboration chain to access and influence information in real time. We have been providing access to central databases via PDAs and handhelds for many years. Manhattan OnSite was introduced for remote workers such as building surveyors carrying out condition surveys.
Remote working has security issues such as property managers ensuring data does not get into the wrong hands. Secure logons are essential, as are firewall settings. Raindrop has been working on the ability to lock out other clients - or even managers from other regions - as well as by property type.
Aperio - Angus MacFadyen - managing director
We use a business model which fits the needs of home and mobile workers as our financial software is available on demand. We do not follow the industry norm where every computer requires a licence which can cost several thousand pounds. Many of the 500 users we have acquired in less than five years in the market say they had to travel to regional offices because smaller firms cannot afford multiple licences. Our financial appraisal programs cost as little as £5 a day for light use such as one day a week, which is often as many smaller operators require. Software is accessed online via our servers, so we can tell where users are based and many are working away from offices, either from home or on the road.
Yardi - Martin Gedny – European marketing manager
Yardi Voyager provides access no matter where the user is, or what the time is, as long as there is access to an internet connection. Businesses can continue to run effectively and efficiently regardless of factors such as the weather, office relocation/disruption or anything else outside clients’ control. Not only do we offer an easily accessible 24/7 web interface, Yardi also provides data hosting through its own centres across the world. Companies have an in-built disaster recovery plan for their applications as standard. This also allows outsourcing of repetitive tasks, as these can be accessed from anywhere.