- Melissa Safak
How First Step Homes took their first steps towards automated work
Updated: Jan 20
Using fu3e. at its small Irish housing arm gave Trinity Investment Management the confidence to roll out the management software across Pioneer, its UK science park business.
First Step Homes faced many of the same nuisances any business would. “We realised that our systems and processes were built around the old school way of email and Word and Excel,” says director James Evans.
Files were saved to Dropbox or OneDrive; communication was all through email or WhatsApp. Everyday tasks like raising invoices and tracking them were inefficient, prone to human error and lacked traceability, while reports to investors had the potential to be streamlined and made more consistent.
He says the company could have “muddled through” the old way of doing things but decided to standardise operations about three years ago.
First steps towards automated work with fu3e.
What is fu3e.?
Designed for real estate, fu3e. calls itself an “umbrella” that sits on top of other software and streamlines management processes.
In practice, for First Step Homes, that means everyday tasks become easier. An invoice will go into the system with supporting documentation; Evans will get an alert to give his approval; that approval then gets sent to the funders for second-stage approval.
“From the moment we receive an invoice to the moment that it’s then ready to be paid, it can be done in about three minutes,” Evans says.
All this gets logged, which allows users to:
Keep a record without fear of file deletion
Ensure the right version of a document is saved, and
Pull up a dashboard that collates data within those files (in this case, budgetary data).
The dashboard also allows approved third parties, such as investors, to log in and see progress, rather than ask the company to produce reports. If they do need a report, fu3e. can export the data into a PDF.
What are the benefits?
fu3e.'s aim is simple: cut how long it takes to do usual daily tasks in a way that adds up over time. In theory, if a management team of 20 improves its reporting efficiency by 20%, it can save an organisation up to 160 hours per week.
In reality, how much time it can save depends on the functions for which a client uses the software. First Step Homes took what Evans refers to as a “lite” approach, which means there are certain features (such as risk management) that it has not used.
fu3e. estimates that the features the developer does use – such as fund reporting, monitoring capital expenditure and drawdown request approvals and reporting – reduce the amount of time those tasks take between 20-30%.
How was the adoption process?
fu3e. does discovery calls to understand a client’s internal processes and what they want to report on. This will often include costs and risk management, though it does vary.
“What we found by working with lots of different funds is that they all work in a slightly different way and have slightly different methods of reporting,” says James Keyworth, director, property solutions, at fu3e..
The software provider then handled training as part of onboarding First Step Homes.
The process took the best part of a month, though Evans says it could have been quicker had First Step Homes “engaged more”. Between having to fit it around their day jobs, getting buy-in from across the team – and from third parties they work with – and then having everyone populate the software with the information needed, adoption dragged on longer than it had to.
“It’s that engagement that’s the hardest thing,” Evans says.
How will the product and relationship grow?
First Step Homes was a convenient and simple place for the wider organisation to experiment with fu3e.. The residential developments are not particularly large or complicated, and the professional teams delivering the buildings belong to the contractor. That meant the team needed only some of the features that the software offers.
“What it did do was build confidence in the product and confidence in the team,” says Evans.
Looking forward, Trinity Investment Management is now planning to roll out fu3e. across Pioneer, its science park business, which is considerably more complicated.
The developments themselves will be more complex, involving conversions from other types of buildings into laboratories and offices. That involves bigger teams, more complex management and more documents and data.
Ahead of this, fu3e. is improving its automation to get rid of some of the remaining manual tasks teams have to do, such as importing transaction documents. That is a key concern for Evans. While First Step Homes could handle uploading its relatively small flow of transactions, automation will be essential for Pioneer where the volume of transactional data will be much higher.
A spokesperson for fu3e. says: “Improving connectivity and automation is a key focus area for us moving into 2023. These areas will help us provide additional value and increase the efficiency savings that we can provide to our customers.”
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