Leading Innovation in Strata Management
This interview with Greg Nash, CEO of the PICA Group and David Bugden, Head of Strata at Urbanise was published in the SCA Inside Strata, June 2017 edition and covers the role of innovation in the strata management industry.
The PICA Group and Urbanise have signed a 10-year technology agreement, worth over $20M. The partnership marks the largest technological investment to date in the strata management industry in Australia.
This deal represents a considerable investment in technology and innovation. Do you think this was a natural progression for the PICA Group?
Greg: Yes, most definitely. Our Group had been using a 20 year old proprietary application software system that we designed ourselves and the technology was becoming out-dated. Two and a half years ago, we decided to replace our core systems. We wanted to secure a strategic partnership with a credible industry partner.
David: The industry in general had a very similar history to Greg’s company. It’s a 40 year old industry serviced by a few major technology providers who started early on and are still offering server-based solutions to the market. The industry as a whole hasn’t really innovated from a technological perspective but it’s growing quickly and is ripe for innovation.
What are the expected benefits of this investment and how do you think your clients are going to benefit?
Greg: Our primary consideration is our customers. They deserve an advanced and modern service delivery system. A winning feature of the Urbanise platform was the self-service web portal that’s at the heart of the software suite. It will revolutionise the way properties are managed. Customers now have the ability to efficiently self-service through a portal. Another good example would be the repairs and maintenance area of the business, which the Urbanise technology will streamline significantly by automating most of the process electronically.
David: The technology that Greg is explaining gives visibility to strata managers, customers and the supplier all on one cloud platform. All information about services is being shared in real time to participants. The industry is desperate for smarter tools that reduce the administrative burden of strata managers and allows them to spend more time on asset management.
Greg: A sensible aim for any strata management company should be to reduce costs. We estimate the PICA Group will experience a 40% increase in productivity as a result of implementing this technology.
What are the most important trends that will shape the future of strata management in the coming years?
Greg: Knowing your customer. The customer-relationship management system that has been specially built to suit the property service industry by Urbanise is going to be very important. Another current area of interest is the sustainability of buildings and utilities. Many companies, including the PICA Group, are starting to focus on sustainability.
David: Mobile will be a game changer in our industry. We already offer a mobile app for suppliers called “Force” which connects suppliers and engineers in the field to strata managers and their customers. And we are now in the process of launching a community app designed for strata owners and committees where they can access all their strata information, raise requests and buy services, either strata related or maintenance and lifestyle services.
Another emerging trend is the Internet of Things (IoT). This involves devices connecting and communicating with one another over the internet. By collecting and sending information from the field straight to strata managers IoT devices enable managers to proactively manage assets and locations. Some practical examples include flood sensors in lift wells that detect flooding, motion sensors that detect when garage doors are open too long or vibration sensors on AC units. These sensors encapsulate the concept of proactive asset management, helping to reduce expensive maintenance costs and insurance risks.
What role do you think strata companies have in making their buildings green and do you think they have a responsibility to keep national emissions down?
Greg: We have a responsibility to try and bring solutions to our clients in many areas, including sustainability opportunities. We are receiving a lot more enquires into what we can do, not just to make buildings greener but also to save money through energy saving opportunities. We are looking at partnering with companies that provide solar systems, embedded networks off the grid, sharing of energy between buildings, lithium battery storage, smart metering systems and smart billing systems. Technology will boost the efficiency of these things over the next 10 to 20 years within the sustainability sector. Of course, we have a role to play and we take that role very seriously.