Our client, a company that provides CRE property valuation services to large real estate funds, was excited about the possibilities process automation offered in terms of laying a solid foundation for their longer-term digitalization ambitions.
It became clear that automating would gain the company huge wins
Working with us, it became clear that automating the quarterly valuation process would gain the company huge wins in terms of increased productivity, more accurate data delivered more often, increased customer satisfaction, and the ability to scale their valuation service without hiring more people and so drive revenues.This thinking is in line with findings in the Altus Group CRE Innovation Report, which said that 52% of industry leaders surveyed believed that valuations and appraisals could be totally or highly automated across all processes and workflows.
THE BUSINESS CHALLENGE
Simply getting the various data sources into an aligned format that could be compared and analysed to produce the quarterly valuations was taking our client a month to do.
The reasons for this were threefold:
- The format of the information:data had to be manually extracted from rent roll PDFs; combined with Excel-based income and expense statements, and CapEx statements; and finally be wrangled into a format where it could be easily compared with the previous valuation data extracted from ARGUS Enterprise
- The sheer volume of data:rent roll PDFs could run into hundreds of pages including data for thousands of tenants for a single fund, every quarter.
- Manual interventions and processes:not only did the previously unavoidable reliance on manual data input and other processes take a long time to do, it tied up highly-skilled, highly paid members of the valuation team in boring, repetitive, frustrating work. In addition, when a human does this sort of work, errors are inevitable.
In addition to the manual data processing, humans would need to log into ARGUS Enterprise to up- and download data throughout the setup phase as well as the subsequent variance analysis process and setting the final valuations. Each quarter’s new information would also be compared with the information received the previous quarter to ensure the raw data lined up as well.
THE OPEN BOX SOLUTION
By leveraging the power of Open Box’s Real Estate Automation Engine, we were able to eliminate the manual requirements of the data formatting stage, and also reduce it during the variance comparison and valuation stages.
Open Box’s Real Estate Automation Engine, known as Rob Sparke, is powered by Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and delivers automation services to Real Estate organizations over the cloud, on a Robots-as-a-Service (RaaS) basis. RaaS allows companies to use software robots to take over tedious, repetitive, manual work, freeing up humans to do more intellectual, creative, strategic work.
This workflow now takes less than a day and a half, compared with a full month when done manually
Today, our client’s valuation consultants email the new data and existing program files to Rob Sparke, along with valuation period and client code information. Rob then takes over and carries out all the previously manual data wrangling, from interpreting the data, formatting the files for comparison, emailing the two comparison reports back to the consultant for review.
Rob has highlighted the variances in the proposed updates report, and the consultant can easily accept, reject or amend these variances on a line by line basis. The consultant emails these updates back to Rob, who logs onto ARGUS Enterprise as a human would, and loads the data for the current quarter.
By removing these two big manual processes – formatting the data and then entering the adjusted data, this workflow now takes 35 hours, or less than a day and a half, compared with a full month when done manually.
Once the updated information has been loaded, Rob generates a new comparison report, and he and the consultants round robin this by email until there are no further variances and the valuation of the portfolio is complete.
The project lifecycle included managing the scope, business process revision, development and implementation.
Duration: 10 to 12 weeks
Person days: 100
The project was implemented into production following user acceptance testing and is currently operational.
Good to know: While this solution is currently implemented for one of our client’s customers, now that the foundation process has been automated it is a straight forward matter to train Rob Sparke to deal with additional customers’ data formats, processes and valuation requirements. This makes valuation process automation an ideal way to achieve a quick win with the initial project, and then easy to roll-out further when you are ready to achieve additional gains.
Automating the manual parts of the valuation workflow, and reducing the time it takes from four weeks to less than two days has delivered the following business benefits to our client:
- Faster actionable intelligence to aid better decision making
- Improved data accuracy by eliminating human error at multiple points of the process
- Freeing up highly skilled, highly paid people to focus on strategic, revenue generating work
- Happier, more productive people
- Improved customer satisfaction thanks to faster data and better analysis
In addition, the client has gained the ability to carry out valuations more frequently, which means:
- They can service more customers with the same team, driving additional revenue
- They can carry out valuations more often, ensuring compliance when regulations demand this.
Together, this makes the client more competitive from a business point of view, and, sets them up for more sophisticated digitalization projects.