How integrating systems saved the company “an enormous amount of time” and delivers more accurate reports.
Despite its name, Little Real Estate is the largest privately owned real estate business in Australia, with more than 300 employees in around 20 offices across Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland managing some 22,000 properties.
The company was facing a problem encountered by many mid-sized companies: inefficiencies due to lack of data integration and the business outgrowing some of its systems.
CFO Rebecca Kerr told Business IT that Little Real Estate uses the Agentplus property management system that serves as a CRM and takes care of trust accounting, though it didn't link to the company's previous accounting software. That resulted in a lot of manual effort to combine data from different sources into reports via Excel spreadsheets.
However, following the adoption of Oracle's JD Edwards enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Service (PBCS), information from Agentplus can be automatically combined with that from JD Edwards.
This “saved an enormous amount of time,” said Kerr, and it delivers more accurate and more timely reports.
For example, a report can show the number of properties managed, the nature of any gains or losses (such as a property being sold, or an undesired loss where a landlord has taken their business elsewhere), and the revenue impact of the changes.
The way it works is that Agentplus generates reports in its normal way. PBCS can take those reports, and then manipulate and combine the data the data they contain with that from other sources such as JD Edwards. This process is simple enough for Little Real Estate’s financial controller to set up additional reports as required without technical assistance, Kerr said.
The result is that the company’s management now has access to timely reports because they are generated quickly and automatically. Furthermore, there is less concern about data integrity because manual activity has been minimised.
Reports can be generated across the entire business, at the state level, or for a specific branch.
PBCS allows stakeholders to log in and view live reports rather than having to wait for scheduled reports. They are also able to conduct their own drill-down analyses, without having to go back to the finance department with every question they have about a report.
Additionally, PBCS allows users to build and explore models in order to investigate changes to parameters such as free management periods and commission rates.
While the change of software resulted in the removal of one position from the finance department, the morale of the remaining staff has improved because they are doing more interesting work, such as providing more analyses and better commentary on the data, Kerr observed, and they have more opportunities for career progression.
The implementation of JD Edwards and PBCS took less than four months.
Little Property Maintenance, an associated business, uses the Oracle Field Service Cloud Service. This takes care of job scheduling (the software learns about travel times and how long different jobs take, allowing progressively more accurate scheduling, Kerr noted), invoicing and other functions.
Little Real Estate staff log task requests in Agentplus, and those handled by Little Property Maintenance are automatically allocated in Oracle Field Service, saving time for both businesses.
PBCS is capable of incorporating data from Oracle Field Service into reports when that becomes appropriate.
Kerr said Little Real Estate’s experience shows that such software is viable for smaller organisations when it can be consumed from the cloud, as that makes it affordable and generates genuine savings.