PICA scraps in-house IT systems, taps Urbanise for cloud

PICA signs agreement with Urbanise for cloud-based strata management system

Prudential Investment Company of Australia (PICA), one of Australia’s largest property management companies, is scrapping all its in-house IT systems and moving to a cloud-based solution from ASX-listed property management software company, Urbanise.

PICA said it had signed a 10-year, $16 million partnership agreement that “marks the most significant technology investment in Australian strata management history.”

Following completion of the move, PICA will also offer access to other strata managers in what it says is a bid to bring much needed digital innovation to an industry that has been tardy in adopting the latest technology.

PICA CEO, Greg Nash, told Computerworld Australia that rapid unit construction in Australia’s capital cities was putting huge pressure on the strata management industry. “There will be another 283,000 units in Sydney and 167,000 in Brisbane over the next 12 to 18 months,” Nash said. “We need 150 new strata managers in Sydney over the next 12 months.”

Nash said that, under its agreement with Urbanise, PICA would transfer the management of all its 12,000 buildings under management in Queensland, NSW and Victoria to Urbanise’s cloud system.

“The PICA platform will be developed over the next 12 months and in the following 12 months we will transfer all our 200,000 lots at the rate of 50,000 every quarter,” the CEO said.

Nash said that Urbanise had been chosen after extensive review of technology options from Australia and overseas: “The platform’s scalability and technology roadmap aligns with our vision for the broader strata industry. Cloud-based solutions will become fundamental to professionalising strata service delivery in the future.”

He told Computerworld: “Urbanise’s CRM was a big winner in terms of our evaluation of the various platforms. None of the strata accounting systems have ever had a complex CRM system and that is absolutely vital in the 21st century. We need to turn data into information, we need to know more about our customers.”

Urbanise’s global head of strata, David Bugden, said that Urbanise would replace “pretty much the entire PICA platform” with the existing Urbanise platform, although some systems integration to external partners such as Macquarie Bank would be maintained.

The Urbanise platform also provides services direct to tenants and owner. Bugden said: “Every building on our management system gets its own web site and every board member, owner and tenant has secure access to that web site.”

Urbanise was founded in 2002 and listed on the ASX in September 2014. Today it has 60 staff across eight offices around the world and claims that its system are providing services to 6,900 buildings. Bugden said al software was hosted on AWS. “We have data and privacy protection requirements wherever we operate. All our Australian clients are hosted in AWS’ Sydney data centre and we have instances with AWS in Frankfurt and Singapore.”

A key part of the PICA’s agreement with Urbanise will be the development of a system that will be offered to other strata management companies in Australia.

Nash said: “Our go to market strategy is that we will develop what the are calling the minimum viable product over the next 12 months Urbanise will build our specified system comprising the best of what we have, the best of what Urbanise has, the best of what’s available in other competitive offerings on the market and our wish list of things our customers are telling us they want, and all the interfaces we need to peripheral systems like banks and financial institutions and trade directories. We will then make that available to other strata managers as a bureau type service.”

Asked about the rationale for offering services to competitors, Nash said: “We have pondered that many times, and in some ways we are giving the industry a free kick, but in its efforts to provide excellent customer service the industry needs to improve. We are a big player and I think we should be leading the charge. If we can do that, so much the better. This industry has underinvested in technology. So we are looking to the future.”

PICA recently undertook a study trip to Japan and Nash said: “The three most important things to community dwellers in Japan are security, utilities and a sense of community. A strata accounting system does nothing for that, so we have to think about offering services around people’s needs, wants and desires as they live in these large complexes.”

Urbanise is also getting into the smart building business. It has developed its own monitoring technology that uses sensors of various kinds, communicating over wireless to a 3G gateway that relays data to Urbanise’s central monitoring platform.

Nash said that PICA was already trialling the system in a 5000 lot community on Sydney Harbour, but would not name the development.

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