Poland A solid relationship for yearsMaterial partner
The implementation of any property management system is complicated and stressful, but this annoyance can be minimized and the risks prevented as long as both parties have the right experience and treat each other in partnership. Does the ideal system exist and what model of cooperation is optimal? - this is what we asked the head of NOVO Technologies, an experienced provider of an operational and financial system for property and asset management, and a no less experienced director of the asset and property management department from Savills.
In search of the ideal
Is it possible to be tempted to identify common characteristics of an ideal system? Experts unanimously point out that it must be functional, easy to implement in the facility, user-friendly for people of different professions and positions, as well as well adapted to the needs of the user, the realities of the market and local specifics.
“Not all global tools can do this, even if their developers claim so," stresses Michal Bryszewski, director of the asset and property management department and member of the Savills management board. – “Implementing a Western European or American system in Poland usually requires huge expenditures and consumes a lot of time for customization. The credibility of the manufacturer is also important”, the expert points out.
What does this credibility consist in? Well, sooner or later every user encounters a situation in which even the most perfect system does not meet some need/s, so it requires modification.
And here comes the issue of the manufacturer's responsiveness, i.e. its readiness to refine individual functions, its commitment to these modifications, its speed, and, well, the cost of this process. In other words – “it's about the quality of after-sales service, ,believes Michal Bryszewski.
“Also important are all kinds of - let's call them - reminder functions, e.g. about upcoming payments, about overdue receivables, about contracts expiring soon. Our system allows users to review the entire property from many angles, and it also monitors the financial sphere in real time and informs users of sensitive deadlines. With many properties and hundreds of leases, no office software can keep an eye on this, let alone the unreliable human memory," assures Monika Zakrzewska, CEO of NOVO Technologies. – “From the perspective of our more than 12 years of experience with the NOVO PM operating and financial system, I can say that a system that is close to perfect must be developed long enough and modified on an ongoing basis, then the chance that the user will be unpleasantly surprised by something is minimal”, the expert believes.
A separate issue is to match the offer to the client’s experience in using IT tools, because this experience results in different expectations - completely different in the case of a company that has already used dedicated IT solutions, and completely different in the case of a manager who has so far been satisfied with a spreadsheet for daily work.
“Regardless of the level of experience, all these individual needs must first be identified by the provider and then met. Most often, an audit is necessary for this purpose", adds Michal Bryszewski.
Because sales are just the beginning
Many buyers of IT systems have learned firsthand how important it is to have efficient support from the vendor during implementation and after-sales service.
“For us, the responsiveness of the companies from which we buy systems, especially the main supplier, is extremely important. What is invaluable is responsiveness, readiness to help and openness to joint problem solving, that is, the whole culture of cooperation, which cannot be decreed in a contract or replaced by artificial intelligence algorithms. Even on this digital plane (or perhaps: especially on it), human relations are extremely important and sensitive, and we appreciate the flawless cooperation with NOVO Technologies in this regard", assures Michal Bryszewski.
“At almost all our sales meetings, people from the support or implementation department are also present. We are aware that we bind ourselves to the client for years, as the implementation process itself takes many months. That's why we call our product a "support service using the NOVO PM system," so it would be wrong to think that our job is to write a program and sell it to anyone willing to pay for it. A good brand is built over years, while instrumental treatment or disregard for the client immediately takes its toll on reputation”, the head of NOVO Technologies argues.
Interestingly, both NOVO Technologies and Savills readily admit that their successful cooperation has not always been strewn with roses.
“There are always bigger or smaller problems with transferring real estate portfolio data from one system to another, and such occurred during the NOVO PM implementation”, admits Michal Bryszewski. – “What was unique and invaluable was that NOVO Technologies did not run away from the problem, but was ready to talk and solve the problem together. This willingness to dialogue is, unfortunately, not common. What is also desirable is the willingness to develop together and the humility that comes from knowing that no one knows everything, but we can learn from each other, so the willingness for such an open partnership enriches both parties - and Savills as a system user, and NOVO Technologies, which can improve its product thanks to us", the Savills director has no doubts.
Michal Bryszewski also argues that there is nothing worse than the conviction of one's own infallibility and exaggerated promises at the level of the presentation of the systems' capabilities by their developers. It's clear that everyone is a salesperson in his or her own way, moreover, everyone should be aware of the advantages and uniqueness of his or her product or service, but sometimes there are such discrepancies between presentations and reality that they can overturn an implementation.
“On the presentation you see beautiful, colorful user panels with powerful features, but then it turns out that they were actually for a different product, and the time needed for implementation was scaled, however, not in weeks, but in months", the director from Savills points out.
Locally and globally
Property owners operating in global structures, or even European ones, usually have a common property management system imposed on them, which makes reporting easier, for example. The intention is clear, but it doesn't always work, because different countries have different characteristics of property management. In turn, adapting a local management system to corporate standards - if at all possible - takes a lot of time.
“At Savills, we have used a number of financial and accounting systems, and I can say from the perspective of a long-time user that the incompatibility of global systems with Polish realities is sometimes troublesome, such as the inability to map in such a system the provisions in contracts, which in Poland have a specific construction. To use an example: common in Poland are clauses on indexation of rents in connection with changing exchange rates, dates of invoices or their payment. All this must be synchronized at the system level, otherwise the finance and accounting team will lose many hours manually entering this data into the system", points out Michal Bryszewski.
Both interviewees stress that the key issue for F&A system providers is continuous development - not only because the F&A environment and legislation in Poland are changing, but also the needs of users - they are not only evolving, but growing, as are the responsibilities of managers.
“A few years ago, for example, the whole sphere related to ESG, which involves an extensive reporting system, came to us. Financial and accounting systems either need to enrich themselves with "green" modules, or allow integration with external "green" systems. Because the net operating income of a building is no less important than its impact on the environment, the local community, or the well-being of the people working there", believes Michal Bryszewski.
“It is worth mentioning at this point that the NOVO PM system enables convenient data export and integration with other systems used in asset management, including those providing information from the ESG sphere, such as carbon dioxide emissions or green energy production. Clients often want analyses that combine these two spheres, and with incompatible systems such studies are very labor- and time-consuming (and therefore expensive), or impossible at all”, Monika Zakrzewska warns.
How much and why so expensive?
The best products (not only in the real estate market) tend to be the most expensive. So is it possible to make a compromise between price and quality when it comes to finance and accounting systems?
“A compromise is not so much possible as desirable. The price of NOVO PM - like other products of this type - depends on many variables, mainly the number of properties and users of the system, also the number of leases handled, and of course functionality. Therefore, the modular design of the system is invaluable here, which allows clients to purchase only those modules they need at the moment, but on the other hand - it also allows them to expand in the future. You should certainly not overpay for functions that are unnecessary at the moment", Monika Zakrzewska argues.
A solid, reliable financial and accounting system is nowadays the basis for the functioning of any property and asset manager, regardless of the size of the portfolio and the complexity of operations.
“I like and respect spreadsheets, but for the management of commercial buildings they are not suitable, unless one still understands "management" as handling the accounting of several tenants. But the spreadsheet won't even process the information that we consider today as basic for any rental relationship, such as calculating indexation or the amount of service charge, for this we have the whole sphere of reporting that is, keeping an eye on costs. In addition, a professional system is meant to serve not only the manager, but also the entire range of specialists involved in property maintenance: the owner, tenants, or companies providing maintenance services at the facility”, Michal Bryszewski enumerates.
“The best systems, such as NOVO PM, also have extensive analytics, which is an invaluable support in making business decisions - the program not only keeps an eye on the timely rental payments of, for example, shopping mall tenants, but also calculates the profitability of a contract or the footfall generated by a given store in the entire property. Thanks to this, the owner will find out, for example, which clothing stores attract the largest number of customers to the catering area", explains Monika Zakrzewska.
NOVO Technologies has been on the market for 13 years, and, as its CEO admits, its greatest success has been that during this time the company has not once stopped, but - regardless of market or global turbulence - has methodically grown.
“The big test for us was the pandemic, when many clients said: "Check!", and we had to prove that our system was indeed fully functional regardless of the global location and market situation. When minor glitches appeared in the system (because no one had designed systems that took global epidemics into account before), we were able to fix them on the fly without burying our heads in the sand", Monika Zakrzewska recalls.
Such a strategy was appreciated, and the whisper marketing worked, so that during and immediately after the pandemic the company gained many new client, although some of the competitors had to severely hamper their business.
“We are aware that - regardless of the market situation - aesthetics, simplicity and intuitiveness of systems are also always important, and user preferences related to this are constantly evolving, so two years ago we completely changed the look of our applications. We are constantly working on developing more modules for NOVO PM and will soon expand the functionality of the system. Well, and we invariably listen to what client say to us - only they know exactly what they need", concludes the head of NOVO Technologies.