Real change of (e)state
Aktiv Eiendomsmegling is one of the major real estate agencies with high ambitions. Sharing our vision of internal operations being alpha omega for driving sustainable growth, we teamed up to create real change in the real estate industry.
The real estate industry in Norway is traditional and highly regulated. Most of the companies have standard, repetitive and manual business processes which are significant cost drivers. Despite that, current innovation is focused on customer facing products, rather than increasing efficiency of internal processes.
Today, processes are handled by skilled professionals in a back-office system. These processes are well defined and consist of over 50 steps for each home transaction. These steps often include copy/paste, reading scanned documents and clicking through the system. Many of these processes could be automated with better IT-systems, integrations and more digital input data. On top of that, each process is fragmented with several waiting points and people involved. All of this results in a bunch of mundane tasks where Aktiv employees do not use their skills in value creating ways.
- The real estate industry in Norway is both traditional and highly regulated, which results in many and complex business rules. Risk management practices while automating processes with complex business rules put high demands on the project team.
- IT systems configurations are rigid and highly customized. Some of the incoming data is documents. Optimizing and automating in this case requires detailed insight into all process steps before one can propose a plan for optimization.
- Creating a shared understanding of what robotics and automation is and how it creates value and works along with people is important. Creating trust for the tool that will help you be more efficient by replicating your work is crucial in order for it to be adopted.
This is why Aktiv teamed up with Avo – to challenge their business with the ambition to identify possibilities for digitizing and automating back-end processes and create a strategy for scalability and growth. Improving internal processes will ensure more efficient operations, lower cost base and increased delivery capacity, as well as allowing employees to apply their skills in the best way possible.
Our key focus:
- Identify potential for digitizing and automation of internal processes
- Create quick Return on Investment with defined KPIs for resources and costs saved
- Generate and visualize data which provides insight into operations efficiency and gives direction for the way forward
Aktiv provides services within sale, purchase and rental of real estate, valuation, project brokerage and business brokerage.
Phase 1: Creating a shared understanding of the current and an optimal future state
With our mission to evaluate possibilities of transforming back office-operations to make them robust and scalable to handle increased volumes, the first phase focused on creating a shared understanding of the existing business model and processes in order to set a baseline. What problems are Aktiv faced with today? What are we spending our time on? What drives our costs? These were some of the questions we asked in this phase. Focusing on the challenges to be solved contributed to identifying root problem causes before identifying key areas of improvement.
So whatDID we DO? We started with a thorough analysis to gain insights into overall goals, challenges and interdependencies between business units, processes and systems. This was done together with the management team and employees through interviews and observations. Then we proceeded with in-depth analyzes of the most promising areas to evaluate necessity, risk and reasoning for automation. At that point we established a good understanding of all the processes and their input and output, as well as established business-related baselines we can measure against once changes are implemented and value realization is expected.
Phase 2: Creating a plan for closing the gap between AS IS and TO BE
In Avo, we pride ourselves on creating transformation plans that our customers can actually implement. We do not believe in fancy slides and buzzwords that sound impressive but are not actionable. Therefore, creating concrete actions on how to achieve the defined goals was our focus in the second phase. Working side by side with Aktiv, we created a detailed plan on how Aktiv could transform their back-office operations. The plan included a wide specter of measures from process improvement to integrations and technology implementation. The plan was accompanied by a business case that we would work to realize in the implementation phase.
Main points to take away from this phase:
- Thinking business first and technology second allows you to identify all potential optimization opportunities and make sure you do not miss out on low-hanging fruits like simple process improvement or standard system adjustment.
- To create sustainable value through change the organization should own the initiative. We believe in customer enablement through training and knowledge sharing in every phase.
- Business model and process understanding is defining to be able to set good goals that can be achieved and measured over time.
Phase 3: Discovering new opportunities while automating processes
We entered the implementation phase of the project in which we automated several of the back-office processes in Aktiv. This will allow the company to grow without adding human resource capacity and will in turn minimize the cost base of operations. To further identify growth opportunities, we analyzed today´s sales process. The residential real estate market is very competitive, and sales often depend on quick follow-ups of potential home sellers which can be demanding with manual lead qualification processes. We decided to challenge the status quo and use data analytics to look for better ways of qualifying and handling leads in this traditional industry.
To be able to do this, we analyzed historical sales performance data with the goal of finding patterns in agents’ work which defined success or failure in signing a home. We discovered potential for automating the lead handling process while at the same time creating a better user experience. The opportunity will be realized using machine learning algorithms which simulate the human decision-making process and predict the best way of handling a lead. The new process is expected to significantly impact the lead handling times and conversion rates in the near future. The solution will also collect data continuously that will be available for Aktiv to further analyze and make fact-driven decisions in their business.
Today, we work with Aktiv to help them transform their operations into a more scalable and efficient company. The full effect of our common efforts is still to be seen. However, employees already experience increased efficiency in operations – as well as new insight that is useful for planning their days.
In the longer run, our analysis indicate that automation can help Aktiv to:
- Scale their operations by 100% without adding additional human resources
- Significantly increase lead conversion rates
- Develop a data driven culture across business areas
- Meet changes in the industry by having agile/digital processes able to scale
- Ensure that they meet ever-changing customer demands through freeing up resources for customer service
“New technology creates huge opportunities to build competitive edge, but the key is to know how to implement it in a way that makes employees better and creates engagement in the organization. Avo’s domain knowledge and experience have helped us create real organizational change and value since early on in the project.“