The technology sector remains one of the driving forces for innovation and growth across the UK economy. Rapid developments in digital, mobile and cloud-based technologies are transforming the business paradigm and driving efficiency, productivity and profitability gains in organisations across almost every sector. And, as the green shoots of economic recovery emerge, another bastion of national growth – the housing market – is also showing embryonic signs of resurgence.
In fact in some areas, the effective deployment of new technologies is providing a powerful engine for innovative property development – both in how residential property management companies are delivering more efficient services to tenants and, equally, in how innovative technologies are enhancing the residents’ experience and raising the bar of rental accommodation.
A good example of how technology is being optimised to transform residential letting can be found at East Village, London’s newest residential community, built on the site of the Athlete’s Village from the London Olympics. The development is not only contributing to the much-vaunted legacy of London 2012, but its ambitious IT infrastructure is building a similar legacy to inform the future use of technology in property development – and highlighting a gold standard performance from the IT managed services organisation that was responsible for its implementation.
In January 2013, Get Living London, post-Games owners of the Olympic Village and responsible for the development of the flagship East Village, appointed Fifosys to design, develop and deliver the IT strategy for the complex East Village project. Within a few months, the company had evolved from being Get Living London’s ‘IT services supplier’ to being its trusted business partner – and critical to the success of East Village.
Fifosys was initially commissioned to set up the Management Office (MO) for the letting operations and to support them through implementation and roll-out. But Get Living London, a joint venture between two of the world’s most prestigious real estate investment companies, Delancey and Qatari Diar, quickly realised that the scale of East Village meant that the IT requirements were far greater.
With 11 work streams across the project, each presenting complex IT demands, they needed their chosen IT partner to cover the full spectrum of services required, not just the MO but also management information systems, the residents’ offer and the comprehensive wireless network, with connectivity across the whole site and mobile and remote communication.
The project also builds on a diverse range of core strategic pillars including community engagement, retail and enlivenment, health and wellness, business and employment, education, mobile communication, transport and system interoperability.
“The research, due diligence, experience and expertise that Fifosys demonstrated during the original competitive pitch indicated that they had the depth and breadth of skill-set to deliver the holistic solution we required,” says Anandh Owen, COO at Delancey. “Fifosys had already shown that they understood our business, our vision and our requirements, and they presented a compelling business case that identified the key challenges with proposed solutions.
"Moreover, when it became clear that the project was growing in magnitude, they were proactive in assessing our future requirements, engaging with the key stakeholders from each work stream and then presenting a paper detailing a comprehensive long-term strategy. It was a no-brainer to work with them. They developed a plan and, more importantly, they’ve gone on to deliver it.”
Designing, implementing and maintaining a complex IT infrastructure that integrates the needs of these multiple diverse stakeholders – and satisfies all the major political, economic, social and community imperatives – presented major challenges. The additional requirement for an innovative offering to drive efficiencies and improve the residents’ experience created further pressures.
“Innovation goes way beyond technology,” Owen says. “Fifosys has introduced innovative ways of working that have helped improve processes, drive efficiencies and, impressively, improve our commercial offering. For project management, for example, they introduced an innovative dashboard system that has allowed us to monitor progress and measure performance against agreed objectives and milestones. It’s given us greater transparency and visibility within the project as well as improving communication, enhancing information-sharing and encouraging collaboration across all stakeholder groups.
“The Fifosys solution not only recognised the likely challenges of this project and offered proactive solutions, but it also emphasised ease of use, putting simple protocols in place that made processes more efficient, made staff more productive and helped accelerate the delivery of key project activities."
From a technology perspective, Fifosys has developed systems that have significantly enhanced the residents’ offer. Central to this proposition is providing residents with a unique portal to manage direct interaction with the landlord and deliver services that improve the residents’ experience. The portal is a management system, also accessible remotely, that allows residents to log requests, report maintenance issues and communicate with the owner/operators in order to fix them. As Anandh explains, “Residents can manage their rental account securely and take advantage of other services and useful information."
This portal system also supports a key strategic objective to improve community engagement, through the dissemination of local information and social activities.
In addition, the development boasts 1,439 private homes for rental – each with Wi-FI and satellite TV, CCTV, security/entry systems and key tracker technology. With a hi-tech Academy, medical centre and more than 30 restaurants and retail outlets on site – as well as robust transport links to Central London – the technology infrastructure of East Village is significant. And it has underlined the importance of having the ongoing support of a trusted, specialist partner.
As Olympic legacies go, it’s a pretty impressive one. And it’s shown how technology can raise the bar for innovation and growth in residential property letting and indeed across the UK economy.