Kinsella Estates is an Estate Agents with offices in Gorey and Carnew. In 2017 they got in touch with us to see if we could improve their efficiency with some of their business processes – namely the property Valuations process.
For many reasons, homeowners will contact auctioneers to value their property. The auctioneer will inspect the property, take photo’s and create a report on the value of the property including details on location, number of rooms, condition of property etc. Typically the details are manually recorded during the inspection by filling out a paper based template with a pen. This information is then taken back to the office where the final report will be generated, photo’s added and emailed to the client.
We held a number of meetings with the client to understand the process from start to finish. During these sessions the requirements became clearer and over time we finalised those requirements. At a high level, they wanted:-
- All property information (address, house type, construction details etc.) to be gathered digitally – replace pen and paper method
- All reports to be archived and stored in a database
- Ability to modify reports after they have been created
- Photo’s (up to 5) to be associated with the report
- Unlimited reports
- Ability to manage user profile
- Final reports to be formatted automatically and emailed to main office
- Multiple user support
- Functionality must be available in offline mode (i.e. no internet access)
It was very clear from early on that this project was going to be mobile based as there was a very clear need for camera integration. This left us with 2 main options. A bespoke web app optimised for mobile, or a native IOS app (the client expressed a preference for I-Phone). The webapp comes with many advantages but the main disadvantage was a showstopper for the client – that was the offline availability requirement.
The client described that very often the property they would be inspecting would be in a remote location with no mobile internet coverage – this meant that having an online web app would not work in these cases. They needed a native app running locally on the phone that would work without internet connectivity and save the report on the phone to allow for submission when internet access was available.
Based on this, the client and ourselves came to the conclusion that a native app was required and we began the development of a Proof of Concept prototype.
We felt confident that we could deliver all of the functionality as set out in the requirements but also felt that it was important to keep the client involved with the development to make sure that we were both on the same hymnsheet and to get as much feedback as possible before the final version was developed. We collaborated closely with the client and delivered weekly incremental prototype builds so that they could see regular progress and get a feel for how the final build might look.
This process was invaluable as it allowed us to iron out many issues before the final build. The client suggested a number of changes during the prototype phase and as the new releases came they were able to use the app to generate their reports for the first time.
The prototype process outlined above allowed us to gradually introduce the app features to the client over an extended period which meant that when the app was complete and released, they were very familiar with all of the functionality so it wasn’t a ‘big bang’ implementation.
It was a very satisfying project to work on in the sense that we were able to completely replace and improve upon a manual in-efficient process for property Valuation. We were able to include some added functionality along the way too – such as using the phone’s geo-location functionality to automatically include GPS coordinates of the property in the report. The client was not expecting this and was very pleased to see this feature integrated.