2006 Consensus Software Awards
Mentum Group Australia Pty Ltd
VALMAX provides a comprehensive end-to-end system for managing property valuation activity.
It brings together a range of software components and technology to manage the process of client request, data acquisition, job scheduling, report preparation and invoicing in a unique product customised to suit the specific needs of the valuation industry. It tracks project status and provides early warning signals of timing delays using colour highlighting.
The software incorporates use of Microsoft MapPoint to provide convenient additional information about the location of the subject property, and relevant sales data in its vicinity.
The VALMAX system enables valuers to manage their work schedule efficiently and coordinate their activity effectively with their back-office administration.
The product has been successfully operated by a large valuation organisation in Australia, with demonstrated cost savings and efficiency improvement. It has significant market potential within the Australian valuation industry, as well as in offshore markets, particularly North America.
Valmax is an end to end property valuation management system. It is used by practices of property valuers and manages all business processes from receipt of client requests to produce property valuations, through all stages of production, electronic delivery of valuation reports and management of the invoice to payment cycle.
From a technical perspective Valmax is a web based application developed in C# using Microsoft’s .Net platform. The database is SQL Server 2000. It uses Microsoft MapPoint web services to geo-locate property addresses and deliver map views of properties. It also uses AJAX technology to deliver rich browser experiences to users.
The key business processes managed are:
Job receipt and acceptance,
Allocation and scheduling of valuation tasks to valuers,
Valuation report production, quality assurance and report delivery,
Valuer and typist management, and
Timely delivery of valuations is a critical business requirement. Valmax displays progress of each valuation through its lifecycle by an effective “traffic light” display, enabling managers to view progress of every valuation at each lifecycle stage.
Providing each valuer with an efficient list of property inspections is key to business performance. Valmax uses Microsoft MapPoint web services to display daily inspection runs for each valuer and the location of selected sales evidence in close proximity to the subject property.
Valmax supports thirty eight valuation report types and links standard fees earned to each report type. This ensures work delivered aligns with supply agreements and invoicing is timely and complete.
Some valuers and typists are paid on a piece work basis. Valmax maintains valuers and typists details and provides reports showing value of work done and performance against budget.
For management, Valmax provides a comprehensive suite of financial, client, and staff reports that provide a snapshot of the complete business at any point in time.
Product at a glance
Target Industry Sectors
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Contact for more information
613 9533 7611 or mobile 0409 981 770
Valmax has the capability to transform the property valuation industry in Australia and potentially internationally. It does this for both valuer practices, their staff and for their customers by allowing each stakeholder to integrate their businesses through web services and views from a common database. New mapping technology enhances user performance.
For valuer practices, Valmax reduces valuation delivery time to their customers and drives down internal costs while managing quality standards. Management understand production progress for each valuation, that customers are recognised and billed consistent with commercial agreements and completed work is paid for. They can set goals, measure work performance and reward appropriately.
Valmax has transformed work practices for valuers and staff. It has enabled major social change by introducing flexibility into the workplace: choice of work location and hours introduces exciting new ways of doing business. Valuers receive inspection runs using only an Internet Web browser. Innovative use of Microsoft’s MapPoint web services presents address and location details for each property and enhances the search for recent sales evidence to support property valuations. Standard valuation reports are produced using centrally managed standard templates.
Microsoft MapPoint web services has also transformed the task of allocating valuation tasks to valuers. A centralised allocation role can view the location of all new jobs on a map and allocate each to valuers based on preferred geography and efficient travel times. Valuer production has increased by 20% over earlier practices.
Customers can access Valmax using a browser to view progress on valuations underway and completed valuation reports. They view their invoices and payments status online. Alternatively documents can be transacted between customer systems using web services. This tight business integration adds significant value to the relationship between customer and valuer introducing new opportunities and products such as industry data and trends.
Valmax has been used commercially since July 2005 at PRP (Vic) Australia Pty Ltd. It was enhanced by introduction of Microsoft MapPoint web services in December 2005.
The first production release was developed over 8 months as an enterprise wide system using rapid application development with short delivery cycles. Over 30 deliveries were made through the development phase. The application presents approximately 100 user pages. In the database there are over 90 tables, 37 user views and over 900 stored procedures. Overall Valmax comprises approximately 750,000 lines of code.
Critical to development success was a product champion within PRP who maintained the business vision, understood business requirements and industry standards, trained staff and ensured benefits were achieved.
For effective operations, users need sub-second response times for frequent tasks such as report typing or new job entry. Where a richer user experience with the interface is required we have implemented AJAX controls. In complex tasks such as searching sales evidence, we achieve search times comparable to industry experience; however we gain significantly by reusing search results without re-entry and error correction.
By structuring tasks like new job entry, client and property details are correctly captured at the outset. Time is saved by removing rework and client relationship is improved by removing the need to make multiple references for job information.
Because all previous valuations are stored within Valmax, data gathered during previous valuations can be re-used. This saves time and improves quality.
A close relationship between developers and users promotes an attitude for high quality support. Our rapid application development culture enables changes to be made, tested and delivered into production on cycles as short as one day. All issues are logged and to date more than 600 issues, ideas and suggestions have been implemented to improve user value.
Valmax has been designed from the outset for global application. The original vision was to build the application for use across Australia and New Zealand as the first market focus. This has now been achieved. Our service oriented design has allowed us to broaden its applicability to international markets.
Architecturally, there is no constraint on where a server needs to be located to service a market. Valmax can deliver property valuation business services to users in any location. The mapping features are only constrained by availability of maps from MapPoint web services.
Our immediate plans are to roll out Valmax to five other PRP offices located across Australia and New Zealand adding an additional 150 users. This will prove scalability and localisation capability. This rollout is expected to complete over the coming nine months.
Beyond Australasia our plans are to take Valmax to Europe via PRP’s association with the King Sturge group of companies. King Sturge is one of the largest international commercial and residential property consultancies in Europe, with a network of over 100 wholly owned and associated offices in the UK, mainland Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific.
We have prior experience in taking software products to the international market place. Having now established Valmax in full commercial use in one business enterprise and a rollout to a common group of similar business enterprises in final planning we have the right components of experience and product capability in place to move more broadly.
Other information the judges should know
3.1 Background to the development
As background to the genesis of Valmax, it is useful to understand aspects of the valuation industry in Australia and the significant business pressures that valuer enterprises are feeling.
Valuer business practices have historically been small professional practices employing up to 30 valuers, focusing on limited geographies and delivering specialised valuation services. Their major clients are the large banks and lending institutions who in turn lend to property owners. As competition has intensified in the lending business, pressure has come on valuers to shorten delivery times, reduce costs and improve quality. APRA as Government regulator for the financial industry also requires that banks maintain quality for their property loan business by having effective valuations in place. Furthermore, large lending institutions wish to deal with national practices under wide geographic delivery contracts rather than retaining the task of managing many small suppliers under multiple business contracts.
In response to these business pressures, some valuer practices have formed into national groups to provide broad coverage and continuity of business. However, change in business practices has been incremental and business systems that support improved performance have focused on parts of the process such as evidence searching and valuation data recording. Little investment has been made to improve end to end business processes and to utilise current technologies such as web based systems to change the way work is performed and managed. Perhaps more importantly little has been done to add value to the relationship between valuers and their customers and between valuer businesses and their staff.
PRP (Vic) Pty Ltd is part of an Australasian practice took the decision to invest in developing a new business system that will enable significant change in business processes and work practices and provide new ways for clients and staff to interact with the business. Mentum Group Australia, who specialises in developing business applications, brought to the table the technical and broad business expertise to develop the application, while PRP provided the business focus and the detailed requirements.
The first core capability was developed over a period of 8 months and delivered to production in July 2005. This has been significantly upgraded with addition of property sales information and map based visualisation of properties. The application is now being prepared for use across all PRP businesses in Australasia.
3.2 Overview of Valmax
The diagram below provides an overview of Valmax as it was designed and developed and illustrates the workflow through the application.
Clients place requests for jobs directly online. When accepted the job status becomes “Received” in Valmax and each valuation task becomes available to allocate to a valuer. A valuer may be an individual or a sub contracting organisation. Allocation is determined on the basis of valuer location and availability. Valmax assists the allocation process by showing the location of each valuation on a map together with details of the subject property. This map presentation uses Microsoft’s MapPoint web services.
Once allocated, the valuer may schedule the inspection and manage the details for access. Any delays are entered into Valmax and reported electronically to the client. Prior to inspection the individual valuer can search for sales evidence, rental evidence or previously completed valuations for similar properties. The location of potential evidence is shown on a map and an evidence report produced for the valuer to take into the field. This evidence is updated from external data sources and from individual valuers as appropriate.
The valuer inspects the property and evidence, gathers relevant data on the report specific field note, and then calculates the valuation. He can either dictate the valuation report for typing later or type it directly into a template in Valmax. The status for the valuation is automatically updated from “inspected” to “typing” as soon as data entry begins in the report.
Once the report has been completed, it is subject to quality testing to check that the content is complete. If acceptable, the valuer signs the report and it is sent to the client by the client preferred delivery method. If the valuation amount is beyond reasonable limits the report is inspected by an independent valuer and the valuation amount confirmed or otherwise. Property value ceilings may be set for each valuer. If the valuation amount exceeds the valuer’s ceiling, the report cannot be signed by that valuer and an authorised valuer needs to sign the report.
Valmax also has a comprehensive accounts receivable capability. It generates invoices for jobs where valuations have been completed. When the invoice is paid, the payments are recorded in Valmax and allocated to individual valuations. The capability to produce statements, credit invoices, and write off bad debts is provided within Valmax.
Valmax has a range of standard reports that enable management of a valuation business, performance of valuations produced against defined standards, payments due to valuers and typists, and the status of valuations in progress by client. These are detailed below.
A full audit capability is provided which shows details for all transactions made by all users.
We can demonstrate the application in our test environment at the following web address:
Please contact Rod Jones at Mentum Group to obtain a username and password and for guidance about using the application. Rod will also answer specific questions about items in Section 2.
613 9533 7611 or mobile 0409 981 770
MGAP Pty Ltd trading as Mentum Group Australia
Level 1, 616 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, Vic 3004
Group Australia Pty Ltd
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