CIO50 2020 #26-50 Sheridan Ware, Charter Hall
As COVID-19 hit Australian shores, property fund manager, Charter Hall’s technology team had just embarked on a new customer-centered organisational structure and operating model designed to integrate technology expertise and digital thinking with those who consume technology. These include staff, investors, tenants and building communities.
Sheridan Ware, chief information and technology officer with the company says that this customer-oriented approach has been embedded within the organisation’s COVID-19 tenant response team, enabling them to:
1. Provide financial relief to tenants
Ware says the team rapidly re-engineered the organisation’s property processes and various parts of its platform, including its CRM, finance and analytics systems to do something that they were never designed for: giving money back to tenants at scale.
“In a moment of unprecedented stress for our tenants, taking a technology-led approach meant that we could process requests at an industry-leading pace while pivoting quickly to emerging requirements and, above all, responding with empathy and certainty during an extremely difficult time,” says Ware.
2. Feed timely and accurate information back to the investor community
The impact of the federal government’s ‘code of conduct’ for commercial tenancies has obvious financial ramifications for our investors but, through intuitive purpose-built dashboards, Charter Hall provided timely information back to its investor customers to help them navigate through a challenging situation.
“This clarity also meant that Charter Hall was one of the few listed property companies that was able to reaffirm its earnings guidance to the end of financial year reporting period,” Ware says.
3. Ensure all staff were able to provide services to tenants productively and safely
Ware and her team seamlessly transitioned more than 600 staff to work from home in less than a week by communicating, collaborating, and deploying cloud technologies while monitoring infrastructure to ensure data was securely managed regardless of work location.
4. Experiment with emerging technologies to help communities return safely to properties
The team rolled out thermal scanning, contactless entry, and social distancing monitoring technologies, while helping tenants better utilise car spaces to provide options for staff concerned about catching public transport.
“Our COVID-19 tenant response not only proved that an embedded customer-oriented technology model works. It has allowed us to build on our organisation’s ‘test and learn’ culture and overcome structural and operational challenges that have hampered past digital transformation efforts,” Ware says.
Lifecycle of assets
Charter Hall now manages more than $40 billion in funds of behalf of its investors. In the last five years, the number of properties managed by the group has grown from 300 to more than 1,100.
“As our business grows, we’re leveraging technology to create efficiencies, improve scalability, reduce risk, generate insights and provide expectational customer experiences.
“One of those areas is how we manage our property assets across the full lifecycle from acquisition to onboarding, valuation, and disposal,” Ware says.
Recognising that there was not a fit-for-purpose solution on the market, Ware and her team developed a proprietary product called ‘Radius’ to move away from manual, Excel-based processes, firstly the way that assets are valued.
Radius has enabled Charter Hall to decrease the time it takes to complete a valuation process from 10 weeks to one week, and centralised key asset data and valuation metrics for use across its operating platform. It has also helped the team demonstrate the potential of digitising traditional processes and new ways of working.
“Following 100 per cent adoption of the valuation module, we now have support to develop Radius into a full asset lifecycle management tool for market intelligence, deal tracking, onboarding and disposal,” says Ware.
“This iterative ‘test and learn’ approach we took in developing Radius now informs all of our digital transformation efforts, and the initiative’s leader, a long-standing investment expert, is now a member of the IT leadership team and is responsible for defining how we best leverage technology to serve our investor customers.”