How integral is I.T. to your estate agency?
If you answered ‘not at all,’ then I can only assume I have perfected the art of time travel and you are currently reading this blog from a cave in prehistoric Britain whilst contentedly munching on a Brontosaurus burger.
For the modern, UK-based estate agency, I.T. is more than a necessary expense it is a core function, and if used to its greatest advantage can save you a significant amount of time and money.
Why would your estate agency benefit from I.T. support?
The role of IT is something that was touched upon in our recent podcast:
“I.T. is the connected central nervous system and heartbeat of any estate agency business.”
The right technology, when used properly can help agents and property professionals manage their workflows, organise their day-to-day administration as well as facilitate seamless communication between team members, tenants and landlords.
More specifically I.T. can:
- Centrally manage, personalize and organise your contacts.
- Generate reports to help with customer acquisition, demographics as well as key property, landlord and potential tenant vetting data.
- Enable remote working on tablets and phones as well as real-time access to key information such as documents or client details for TO LET and Sale viewings.
- Integrate with essential third-party applications to allow potential clients to easily find the properties you have on offer.
- Sync schedules with other team members so team meetings, viewings and appointments are efficiently updated with the minimum of effort.
- Perform essential advertising, research and marketing activities.
- Potential tenant matching and property pairing.
- Property management tasks.
There are more processes but that’s enough to be going on with. There is no doubt that when all of this is working then in I.T. you have an irreplaceable team member.
The difference between a managed I.T. system and an unmanaged one.
- If you currently run an estate agency in the UK, how effectively are you using your IT?
- Do you, for example, use IT for the key areas listed above?
- And what happens when it all goes wrong?
Regarding the last point – unless you have a managed I.T. system in place, then the chances are, your team (at least in part) will come to a halt; you are at risk of data being lost, appointments being missed, and your time and money is completely wasted.
Cheery, aren’t I?
Also, the chances of you selecting exactly the right technological solutions to cover your team both now and to allow for future growth (unless you are skilled in that area) are pretty slim.
This post is going to guide you through the two main managed profile types currently used in the UK and also unveil what we expect to be the soon-to-be industry standard in managed I.T. systems.
Estate agencies in the UK and the Break / Fix model
This is the old-fashioned – and yet still widely used – model many small businesses and estate agencies in the UK use.
The Break / Fix approach is simple:
Your estate agency signs on with an I.T. company and whenever something goes wrong with your IT they come out and fix it.
That’s because it is.
There are however a few major drawbacks to the Break / Fix approach:
When a system goes down then the knock-on effect to the rest of your estate agency can be quite catastrophic, with people and technology not doing as they should you lose precious time and money.
Loss of time and money is a term that is often overused and therefore can be skipped over. We have done our homework though and, in the UK, estate agencies who use this model may as well give each of their employees (on average) two and a half weeks of paid holiday every year in time lost waiting for I.T. systems to be fixed and run properly!
Some Break / Fix companies will offer a service level agreement that ensures they will react to and if possible, have the problem fixed within a certain time frame – say four hours. Which on the face of it seems like a great idea. We have seen this agreement work in the interests of the I.T. company however, instead of the business that they are supposed to be supporting – the simplest of five-minute fixes take the maximum amount of time allowed to increase the money given to the Break / Fix company.
Therein lies the fundamental truth to every I.T. company that chiefly uses this approach with their estate agent clients:
The Break / Fix companies only get paid when they fix your computers. Their entire business model, therefore, relies on your I.T. systems NOT working for them to survive.
Estate agencies in the UK and the Managed Services model
There is no escaping that there will be occasions, even with the most sophisticated approach that some systems will break and will require an I.T. expert to come out and fix them. The more ethical I.T. companies will try to drive down those reactive hours to save the estate agency as much money as possible.
This brings us nicely to the Managed Services approach.
Estate agents and the Managed I.T. approach.
What is an MSP?
A third-party firm that manages a client’s information technology (IT) infrastructure and end-user systems is a managed service provider (MSP). MSPs are employed by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMBs), non-profits, and government agencies in the UK to offer a specified range of day-to-day management services.
Network and infrastructure management, security, and monitoring are all examples of such services.
There is little doubt that MSP is a step up from the break/fix model that we all love to hate as it cuts down some of the hours spent fixing ‘broken’ I.T. systems. Typically, an MSP looks after your systems on a regular basis, enabling estate agency businesses like yours to concentrate on getting on with the job at hand with minimal interruptions caused by I.T. malfunction and repair.
Specialist managed services providers
MSPs can be very industry-specific or task-specific (or both). So, you can have an MSP that handles data storage or security for financial services for example. To cut down on their costs and time spent on site, many third-party MSP companies will provide their service remotely and over the internet as much as possible.
Why might an estate agency use an MSP?
We listed some of the tasks (above) that a modern estate agency has come to depend on technology for. And, unless your estate agency has an extensive I.T. department then the chances are you will benefit from the expertise of external help for some or all of the following:
- Manage the day-to-day operations of IT infrastructure.
- Provide technical support to agency staff.
- Control user access to IT resources (which can be linked to the security measures below).
- Monitor and maintain system security.
- Handle contract negotiations and administration.
- Monitor compliance with regulations and risks associated with IT usage.
Many MSPs operate a gold silver bronze style of service where the involvement and obligations of the MSP provider are very much dependent upon the amount your agency pays. Rates are often determined by the number of employees your company has.
You will enter into a Service Level Agreement (SLA) which will outline exactly what you will get from your MSP. Do beware though, if they say they will spend ‘X’ number of billable hours to perform a task, then some companies will spend the whole of that time performing the task, regardless of how quick and simple that task may be. Not all companies do this of course. It isn’t right, it isn’t ethical and let’s face it … it isn’t British!
You what is also British?
To wait for a long time to adopt new technologies, by which time they are out of date.
Slightly cynical, I know but let’s face it. America does tend to do things first and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they work for several years (or more) before we Brits feel comfortable enough to take them on.
This leads us to the last section…
The Estate agency and The Technology Success Provider model (TSP)
Not many British I.T. companies are aware of this model and fewer UK-based businesses and estate agencies know of its existence. Our American brethren – by comparison – are well aware of this model and all agree it blows MSP out of the proverbial water.
Imagine an I.T. service that works within your business infrastructure at all levels – business technological processes and procedures are proactively catered for, considering future plans as well as your current environment.
With the TSP model, technology is no longer a reluctant expense but is a core function and an investment into the most efficient and cost-effective way of realising your business goals.
The TSP model begins with an in-depth assessment of your company’s technological needs, where you are currently and the best way to achieve your goals. The TSP takes into account best practices and works in real-time with your business, proactively combatting potential problems before they have had the chance to surface. This means hours spent on fixing malfunctioning hardware and software (mentioned above) are restricted to a fraction of what they would be in the MSP or Break/fix models.
Munki Business IT exclusively use the TSP model and has found that estate agencies throughout the UK spend on average one-sixth of what they would normally on I.T. repairs and replacement over a year. The businesses also benefit from a much smoother, more reliable and efficient system.
Thanks for reading. I hope you have found this helpful.
If you would like a free, no-obligation analysis of your business I.T. systems fill in the form below and we will be in touch within 24 hours.