Digitalisation is the other pillar of the Equistone value creation plan for FirstPort and after two-and-a-half years of Equistone’s investment period, the business is nearing the completion of a new IT system implementation.
“In due diligence it became very obvious that the property management industry was still quite analogue, but also that it was difficult to build a system that can deliver what is required to manage blocks at scale,” Isabella says.
Despite the upfront investment and complexity involved in systems-overhaul, Nigel Howell, the chief executive, was convinced of the value and return on investment that new technology would drive across the business.
With Mr Howell driving the project, Equistone has supported FirstPort in the roll-out of a “best-of-breed” software platform combining and integrating four industry-leading software applications covering property asset management, third-party procurement, customer service and sales, and accounts and finance.
“The idea is that by integrating all these things, you have an automated property management tool that combines the key aspects of property management,” Isabella says. “It makes reactive repairs quicker and more streamlined, enables proactive ongoing property maintenance, and ensures clear, real-time reporting and communication.”
The project has involved significant capital investment and any digital systems upgrade of this scale comes with risks. To mitigate these, Mr Howell has been heavily involved in the project, and the modules have been rolled out gradually to make the switchover more digestible. FirstPort was also introduced by Equistone to Phil Tyler, who has been brought in as Chief Digital Officer to support the transition and drive improvements in the underlying systems.