Thanks to a new app, a Chicago real estate company has dramatically reduced the number of its e-mails but still maintained its employees' ability to collaborate.
By William Atkinson
In its early years, @properties, one of the largest residential real-estate companies in Chicago, implemented key Web and e-mail-based technologies. However, with the company's explosive growth came a downside. The very technologies that enabled the company to move quickly in its first years began burdening its 1,200 employees, who are located at 13 offices in the city and surrounding suburbs. "We pride ourselves on collaboration among agents and staff," says Joni Meyerowitz, @properties chief operating officer. "However, because of that, e-mail was getting out of control. As our company grew, we realized that e-mail communication was on overload." Mailing lists accounted for 30 percent of the e-mail usage within the company, for instance, and e-mailers often cc'ed 20 people to make sure everyone stayed in the loop.
The company realized that whatever solution it adopted would need to support every desktop, tablet and mobile device that users carried in today's world of bring your own device. In addition, performance and security would need to be maintained wherever in the world the users were. And, of course, the solution needed to be more efficient than e-mail.
@properties ended up selecting Yapmo, a mobile software provider. Yapmo's mobile workflow tools are designed to help employees draw upon the collective knowledge of everyone in the company, anytime and anywhere. In specific, the technology reduces information overload by delivering relevant content, reducing the time spent in meetings and on e-mail, and making knowledge and expertise more widely accessible.
"We didn't even consider other vendors," says Meyerowitz. "The reason was that, early on, when Yapmo was developing the app, they asked us to be part of their development process. As a result, we were able to provide our input on what we thought was important, and they ended up incorporating a lot of those ideas into the app."
Less E-Mail, More Time
Unlike e-mail, the Yapmo @gent app only sends notifications based on personal interests and user-name mentions, thereby reducing distractions and giving valuable work time back to employees. Yapmo allows users to access the app, quickly find the information they are looking for, and get out. In addition, users don't need to follow other users in order to gain access to information that they need as an employee within that job function. The app also provides security zones that put users into groups, so that they are exposed immediately to the information to which they need access. The information is also organized in a familiar discussion-type format, allowing for meaningful business conversations to occur.
"Now, instead of sending all of our company communications over e-mail, we use the Yapmo app," says Meyerowitz. "In addition, if we used to post something on our intranet, such as sales materials on one of our developments, and hope people would go there to reference the information when they needed it, we now send the information on our app with the document." Agents can search any time on that development, and all of the posts on that development are located in one location, not across multiple emails.
There were no challenges with the @gent app implementation, according to Meyerowitz. "One reason is that we weren't replacing something, so there was no migration," she says. "It was a completely new product for us. All we really needed to do was train people on how to use the app and how it would make their lives easier."
The Yapmo app has eliminated 25,000 e-mails per day across the organization, replacing them with a handful of targeted notifications that enable agents to immediately jump on live opportunities that are pertinent to their geography or clients. This, in turn, has helped to generate as many as 61 in-house property sales and $1.28 million in gross commissions per month.
"While the additional sales are nice, the biggest thing for us is the increased collaboration," says Meyerowitz. "So much of our collaboration is built upon people communicating with each other, and Yapmo really improves the opportunities for this collaboration."
About the Author
William Atkinson is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight article, "Botanical Garden Gets Connected," click here.