Brad Perry, VP of technology, and Greg Tantum, lead full stack developer, talk about how Action Property Management uses technology for property inspections.
[00:00:25.650] – Matthew
Welcome to The Uncommon Area. This episode is going to be all about HOAs, technology and property inspections. Joining me to talk about that today is Greg Tantum, our Lead Full Stack Developer, and Brad Perry, Actions Vice President of Technology. Appreciate you guys joining this episode. I think the best place to start, Brad, we want to talk in this episode about doing property inspections with HOAs for HOAs and how technology might help with that. I know in our background and how we’ve approached this issue going back several years, we had a bit of a start and stop approach to this.
[00:01:08.600] – Matthew
I know maybe just to set this up, my instruction to you at that time was there has to be a way to use technology to make our property inspections more efficient, more effective, more productive. But we’re already developing all kinds of technology right now. Let’s go find whatever we can off the shelf, integrate that with what we’re currently doing and keep moving forward. Maybe you can speak a little bit to what we did based on my direction at that point.
[00:01:40.230] – Brad
Yeah. I went out and I went out into the web and did some research and try to find all the companies that were doing property inspections specifically for HOA. Some companies said that they were in different industries, and we found the best product that we could find out there, and we implemented it and we deployed it.
[00:02:02.950] – Matthew
How did that work out for us?
[00:02:04.500] – Brad
It was horrible.
[00:02:08.610] – Matthew
I guess the suspense is gone there. Primarily it was horrible because it actually made our managers less effective, less efficient, less productive, because the technology while it seemed cool at a certain level, it was just a lot more steps to do everything we wanted to do.
[00:02:28.120] – Brad
Yeah. It was just essentially poorly designed and hence why Greg is here and he has his team is because that’s what they’re focused on, is making products that are well designed for the purposes of efficiency, but also for the purposes of making it easy for the end user to use.
[00:02:49.180] – Matthew
Just from a CEO standpoint, and you mentioned paying attention to the end user, my concern, I don’t know all the ins and outs in what’s going to make it be great technology, but I do know that I want as few clicks and keystrokes as possible to go from A to Z. I know that at the end of the day if we’re going to introduce technology for property inspections, it just has to make us faster and better and more efficient in what we’re doing. Greg, you got brought into the story on this in that we said, okay, well, we’re not going to go with the off-the-shelf product, we can develop something better. If you remember what was your thought process as you began to look at that as the objective?
[00:03:37.770] – Greg
The biggest thing was making sure that the user regardless of where they were whether they’re walking up the side of a hill or in a high rise building or in somewhere with no service at all, in a property that doesn’t have any service, that they can still do their inspections, see their list of properties and within a few clicks they’re able to move on to the next thing.
[00:04:01.890] – Matthew
Just so that we’re clear, I think everyone understands this, but we’re talking about to see that information on an iPad or a phone, a tablet, something like that, right?
[00:04:10.610] – Greg
[00:04:11.680] – Matthew
You’re talking about the challenge of what happens if there’s not service, cell service or Wi-Fi service. How do we address that issue in our application?
[00:04:24.490] – Greg
What we’ve built in conjunction into our app is that the ability for the first time the manager is accessing their property, that it’s downloading all that information onto the device. Then if they go into the property and they have no service, all that information is already in the device, so that when they’re interacting everything is saved locally to their phone, to their tablet. Then when they have service again, we’re then sending the information back up and it’s putting the systems for whoever else to go from there.
[00:04:53.180] – Matthew
All right. Brad, what else were we thinking about in the development of this product to make it be effective?
[00:05:00.450] – Brad
Well, like, what we do with all of our products is we were very cognizant of the amount of clicks, like how many actions are required for the manager, ’cause you have to understand, they’re walking these properties and we actually walked the property with them. We followed them and shadowed them. The other thing is, and we talked about this in the other series also, which is we went to the managers, we went to the assistants, we went to the senior managers and asked them what are the requirements that they need to be able to have an application that’s going to function out in the field. Then we went out in the field and we actually mimic that. To answer your question, we are very particular about how the application worked when you were physically using it. That’s that UX, that user experience type of application.
[00:05:58.870] – Matthew
When we talk technology at Action, we’re always coming back to a particular word, integration. When we think about property inspections and the use of the inspection app portion of our management software, how does integration play into this?
[00:06:20.130] – Brad
Well, yeah, going back to your question about how did that go when we bought that other product, it was because it was totally disconnected. It was completely disconnected from all of our internal systems. There’s a lot of individual pieces. You have the homeowners, the homeowners information, the property address, the property information. Then we have these internal systems where either the violations are stored, historical information, and sometimes even architectural information and then-
[00:06:52.160] – Matthew
Included in that information that you’re saying is our pictures that need to be included into how all this functions and flows.
[00:07:00.250] – Brad
Well, yeah, but what I’m building is basically the baseline. The baseline necessities for the product to even be functional you need to know the property address, the homeowners, the information, and all historical information. If you have all of that and all of that stuff is on the device, then you physically go out to the property. Now you can see the photos, you can see the previous violations. Then also when you’re using the product, you can then take those photos and then upload it, integrate it directly into our systems. The way that we built it in such a way is as soon as that information is synced, it’s synced to our systems, it’s in the resident portal, it’s in the board portal, it’s in the management app, it’s all one database.
[00:07:45.260] – Matthew
Then it flows out of all of that into some form of communication as needed, for example, to a resident, whether it be by email or an actual physical letter. But all of that just happens as a part of the process in the application.
[00:07:59.370] – Brad
[00:08:01.410] – Matthew
Greg, you mentioned to start with just the connectivity piece as far as if you don’t have cell service or whatever it might be. Beyond that, what was the biggest challenge in the development of that application?
[00:08:21.370] – Greg
Probably the biggest challenge was actually making sure that all that information that Brad was alluding to is downloaded in an efficient amount of time, that the user is not having to sit there, click on their association and wait, oh, it’s got to download all this information, and it’s taking minutes, which is way too long. The biggest hurdle was building everything in a way that it could be downloaded efficiently and the user wasn’t burdened as it was doing that. Also, updating in the background, the user doesn’t necessarily have to go in and click, okay, upload this one thing, when it’s able to it’s able to do that on its own without the user’s interaction.
[00:08:59.420] – Brad
Yeah. One of the things that I remember was the biggest challenge also is you were talking about the integration piece. Not to get too technical, but we had to build our own API, our application program interface, because that’s the way that mobile apps work. They only can talk to an API. Greg and his team built an extensive API that talks to all the back end and made sure that API, that interface was extremely efficient. For instance, we took our largest association and with the largest amount of data, and that was our baseline. If we can have this thing sync within a few tenths of a second or different items within their few tenths of a second, we’re counting milliseconds at that point, then we know that every other property is going to be fine.
[00:09:52.880] – Matthew
Yeah. Well, that’s good. Well, anything else that either of you want to add about the inspection app and how we need to think about that for HOAs?
[00:10:02.990] – Brad
Well, I think right now it’s at a point to where we’ve got every single property at Action Property Management using it. I think the last time I looked at the inspection app database, we had almost 10,000 violations that have been processed through the system. The nice thing about Action Property Management is that we build applications for managers by managers, and they use them, and they use them and give us the feedback. It’s gotten to the point to where they know that our team is so engrossed in what their day-to-day operations are, that the things that they’re asking us most of the time we can say, sure, we can do that, and we can make it better. The answer to your question is we’re not going to just stick with what we have. We are going to continue to make it better and continue to make it more efficient, and we’re going continue to make it something that the managers are going to love.
[00:10:57.030] – Matthew
Cool. All right, well, that’s a good place to wrap this up. We want to thank you for watching.