If you work in property management, you will understand how the regulatory environment, taking on new properties, and tackling new lines of business can result in an ever-increasing paper mountain.
Reliance on paper documents can result in operational difficulties. These include physical storage space, efficiency problems when it comes to retrieving them and difficulties controlling who can view and work on them.
These can prove to be a barrier to business growth and will adversely affect customer service and supplier relationships.
This blog looks at how four property management companies, operating in different lines of business within the industry, addressed a variety of problems caused by paper documents.
Flat Maintenance Management
Francis Butson & Associates manage and maintain all aspects of over 80 blocks of leasehold apartments across the south of England.
They deal with the sale and purchase of each flat and maintain both the internal communal areas and exterior of the properties and the surrounding grounds. Francis Butson also acts as the company secretary for the majority of the blocks.
These activities produce enormous amounts of paperwork and resulted in them using up all available office space for this paper storage.
They decided to implement a document management system that allowed them to move from paper to digital documents and store them electronically in one place. They organised their documents so that each block of flats has its own folder. The documents relating to each property are easily filed, stored and retrieved, enabled by improved searching capabilities.
Now, they not only saved the space previously occupied by physical documents, but they also provide a more efficient and professional service to their clients.
Growing the Business
When Robert Oulsnam & Company expanded the lettings side of their business, they began to produce a lot more paperwork. With over 50 members of staff distributed across ten offices, they needed to get the right information in front of the right employee quickly to enable customer service.
The vast amount of paperwork was suppressing business growth, so they realised they needed to change.
Like Francis Butson & Associates, they decided to digitise all of their documents and manage them using document management software. They integrated it with their CFP Residential Lettings and Property Management software to ensure all documents are in one place.
Now they are much more efficient. It only takes them seconds to find what they need compared to three or four hours each week before. They can share data across the different offices and they have vastly improved their customer service capabilities.
Additional to the physical space savings they also experienced a 50% stationary cost saving as they no longer need to print documents or emails to physical client files.
Removing Tiring and Disjointed Processes
Metrus is one of London’s leading property advisors with combined assets of over £4 billion. As the business grew it struggled to manage the increasing number of supplier invoices they received and management time was consumed dealing with clerical tasks.
Supplier invoices had to be accessed and then refiled into physical folders and cabinets for activities like payment runs and as support for reports to third-parties and the year-end audit. The process of sending physical invoices out for approval often resulted in invoices going astray.
They decided to implement an automated accounts payable solution, with document management and workflow capabilities, working with electronic documents rather than paper supplier invoices. Once this was complete, they began to digitise other documents, like leases. These were all stored in their document management system and they utilised workflow capabilities to circulate them for review.
Implementing this new system freed up management time and enabled them to grow their business without any bottlenecks in accounts payable (invoice numbers growing from 18,000 to over 30,000 over five years). Physical document storage requirements have been significantly reduced, allowing more office space for their increasing number of employees.
Consistency in Commercial Property Management
Lambert Smith Hampton processes over 100,000 invoices annually, resulting from the provision of Facilities Management services to over 1,200 properties and the commercial property management services provided to over 12,000 properties.
With this vast number of properties, they struggled to ensure there was consistency across the application of expense codes to supplier invoices. They often had problems with facility managers using the wrong expense codes for properties, which resulted in a lot of extra work during their Year-End to put it right.
Their Property Operations Director, Mark Butcher, also noted, “around 5% of all our invoices were going into a black hole … sometimes we were requesting four of five copies of invoices”.
They decided to make a change by automating their accounts payable process. They needed to reduce the risk of coding errors. Now employees can only apply the correct expense code to each property.
They now have visibility of which stage an invoice is at when being processed, ensuring the right people are approving them. It is now easier for the finance team to search for specific invoices and who has actioned them. This has put the business into a stronger position to grow without the barrier of facing these accounts payable issues.
Go Digital, it is Easier than you Think
Do you see yourself having any of the above problems?
If the answer to this is yes and you have decided to make the change, send us a message and we will see what we can do to help.