A locally developed software suite has reversed the usual order of things by debuting in the US before being bought by a large New Zealand organisation.
Knight Frank, one of the largest facilities and property asset management companies in the country, is implementing Work-flow Solutions' Property Management System after the software was sold last year to San Juan Unified School District, which operates 97 school sites in California, with 60,000 pupils, 8000 staff and 1100 buildings.
Knight Frank general manager Martin Grounsell confirms that the San Juan sale was instrumental in Knight Frank’s decision to buy the product.
The Property Management System is in fact much broader in its application, with integrated asset and facilities management capabilities. That was important to Knight Frank, where property consultancy now makes up 70% of the business. In pure property management terms, it has more than 5000 properties worth over half a billion dollars but it also does facilities management for large organisations such as the BNZ, Westpac Trust and IRD, with more than 1000 properties involved.
It’s a complex portfolio requiring an integrated management system.
“We had two goes at doing an RFP but no one was confident they could provide a totally integrated package,” Grounsell says.
“Then we found out about Workflow’s product. San Juan was important in our decision because something like a large portfolio of schools is akin to our business.”
He says the Workflow system will give good benchmarks for property costs and produce savings through rationalising contracts. “It will allow us to track contract costs very closely and compare costs across portfolios.”
A lot of property owners, he says, work on such an ad hoc and regional basis that they aren’t able to consolidate information.
“Our facilities management system this year will log 30,000 calls, process 40,000 invoices and handle $15 million worth of property-related expenses.”
Frank Knight is owned by the CDL group, which manages the Millennium and Copthorne hotel chains in New Zealand. CDL is understood to be looking at the product for hotel facilities management.
Workflow is also building a general ledger receivables and payments for Knight Frank as part of the solution.
“The functionality in version 4.0 of Remedy allows us to do that,” says Workflow managing director Bryan Hall. The full suite of modules will go live early in April.
The company has been the Remedy agent in New Zealand for several years.
“To secure our future, I knew we had to deliver our own value-add product,” Hall says.
“Remedy asked us to visit San Juan schools when we attended the Remedy user group conference last June in the US. San Juan had been in discussion with a number of US organisations about deploying facilities applications but had found those organisations didn’t have a good understanding of what facilities management was about.
“We spent a day with San Juan, and could meet around 80% of their facilities requirements. But they also had a requirement to legally manage hazardous materials such as asbestos.”
Hall and his team built a prototype that night and submitted a proposal. They demonstrated the prototype just two days later, and the proposal was accepted.
The rapid acceptance had much to do with the legal need to address the hazardous materials problem, along with year 2000 issues.
“We’re now live with maintenance and a work order system, as well as the asbestos module,” Hall says. “And we’ve got a proposal with San Juan for 10 further applications, which is worth potentially $US500,000 to us.”
The potential is much more than that. Workflow is demonstrating its San Juan system in mid-March at CASBO, the Californian schools administrators’ conference.
Hall has high hopes. “We have an integrated system. Everything else I’ve seen out there is components.”
The US is also about to introduce legislation requiring tracking and managing of lead. The asbestos module can be easily adapted to do that.
Support for the San Juan project is currently provided from New Zealand over the Web but Hall says Workflow is likely to establish an office in California. “We’re also looking at forming an international partnership to take our applications to the world.”