Callum Board, client success director at REdirect

As more property companies in the UK are embracing PropTech and seeing the benefits of the technology, there remains some scepticism around Robotics Process Automation or ‘RPA’.

Adoption rates for these technologies are still relatively slow in the UK, compared to the US. The US had 56% global market share of the PropTech sector last year, with over 2,500 tech companies competing to develop the next best solution for a property sector keen to adopt technologies that streamline business processes. The higher adoption rates in the US property sector and healthy competition between PropTech companies allow for innovation to thrive and this is leading to strong ROI for property businesses across the pond.

The good news is that AI and automation are now becoming widely incorporated into tech solutions and therefore adoption rates in the UK are growing steadily.

What is RPA?

When dealing with the management and sales of bricks and mortar, robotics process automation or RPA can be seen as a world apart. Simply put, RPA is about automating the most mundane and repetitive computer-based tasks and processes in the workplace. It is technology that will free up your workforce for more meaningful pursuits and drive your business towards a greater level of efficiency.

The impact of RPA

RPA is not a human replacer, but rather a human enabler. Automation can take care of tasks that take up valuable hours and resources. This becomes more acute during tough economic times, when it’s cost savings and efficiencies that allow us to keep our businesses going.

Tasks that RPA can handle

Incorporating automation into software such as Yardi, MRI, RealPage, Spreadsheet Server, or Nexus can help you streamline the following on a daily, weekly or monthly basis:

  • Weekly or monthly bank reconciliation
  • Daily monitoring of predefined bank transactions and the automated recording of cash receipts or journal entries
  • Report distribution – RPA can check for the existence of external reports and/or data completion and can remind you of missing data.
  • Data entry – the technology can read documents such as email attachments, sort data into various systems and even attach original documents.
  • Market intelligence reports – to aid decision making when it comes to real estate investment or to add value to service offerings to clients.

RPA can be tailored

Although there are clear benefits to implementing the technology, some business owners may have concerns about spending money on solutions that could prove to be a white elephant. Automating the right processes is essential — otherwise, companies may be throwing money and technology at a problem without solving anything.

A start-up company run by one individual may not have the funds to employ a bookkeeper or a full-time administrator. In this situation, tasks such as invoicing and bank reconciliation can take place automatically on a weekly or monthly basis.

Larger organisations may use RPA to provide regular market intelligence reports to inform investors on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, or may have several bank accounts for each property in a property management portfolio. The processes that need automation will depend on the needs of the organisation.

Planning is essential for effective change

This kind of technology can be implemented easily alongside existing structures, which in turn creates minimal disruption to the business and delivers maximum output when it comes to efficiency, cost saving and employee satisfaction.

A reputable PropTech solutions firm will assess the needs of the individual business, develop a strategy based on those requirements and develop an implementation programme to minimise any disruption whilst the new technology is being adopted.

Training staff on how to use the system is essential for a seamless transition to any new processes or ways of working too. It is also a good way of gaining employee buy-in and helps them to understand the benefits early doors. Additional support during the adoption process is also important, whilst staff are getting used to the new systems – change is a team effort between the business and the tech provider and it’s essential to get everyone on board.

The real benefit is Time

The true benefit of robotics and automation is that it frees up your team to take on more tasks and diversify their workload. Automation also improves accuracy, reduces errors, and gives you a better picture of how your business is performing.

For example, automating Accounts Payable (AP) processes ensures that all invoices are paid on time. This keeps clients and suppliers happy and ensures that users are never hit with avoidable late payment fees. Automating AP also assists with a business’s cash flow by ensuring that all payments are going out precisely when they should be. With improved visibility, businesses know exactly what is happening with their finances at any given moment.

Reporting is another area that has seen an increase in the use of automation. Without automation, an administrator would need to download multiple reports, review the documents, combine these into one PDF with a cover page, ready for manual distribution.
This process is not only highly time-consuming, but it is also at risk from human error.

Automating the reporting process not only ensures consistency and accuracy, but it is also highly customisable. It can be implemented according to the frequency of reporting, precisely which data is needed and the format in which the data needs to be presented.

Handing over repetitive, monotonous tasks to bots frees up your staff to do the parts of their work that cannot be done by a machine.

Future Outlook

RPA is not something out there in the future. It is here now and property companies looking for business growth and futureproofing business practices are investing in the right processes now. The property sector overall will increasingly look to automation to get accurate, up-to-date data into the hands of decision-makers quickly and seamlessly. Increasingly, tech solutions are also including ESG targets, especially in the UK, where the priority to meet Net Zero goals by 2050 is driving innovation in this area.