by Byron Connolly

CIO50 # 26-50: Darren Oliver, Herron Todd White

Nov 21, 2017
Technology Industry

Having a specific date when a technology project will be finished is not as important as having transparency into the progress. This is the view of Darren Oliver, the former national director, business and technology solutions at Herron Todd White.

“Technology projects can appear to be black holes with a lot of complexity and it is up to the technology leaders to provide simplicity and transparency to the project or program of works,” he tells CIO Australia.

He recalls a situation where dates were promised by people outside of the technology team for a certain project to be completed. This was not possible and when the dates were inevitably missed, there was a level of discontent from the stakeholders, understandably so, that increased the stress levels and pressure on an already high performing team, he says.

“Conducting a retrospective on the events that led to the missed dates saw the reason the dates were given in the first place was because there was a lack of understanding of where the project was up to.

As a result, Oliver created a project roadmap across all initiatives with a purpose of not providing specific dates but rather give a snapshot of where specific requests were up to in the pipeline, including what was currently being worked on and what was planned for the future.

The roadmap is available to every staff member and updated monthly by the project and technology teams, ensuring that it provides an accurate assessment of current and ongoing work. This provides the added benefit of being able to easily show what has already been completed and removes a lot of the concerns and queries about project progress.

“While in hindsight it was quite a simple thing to deliver, the impact was highly beneficial in fostering trust in the technology team,” he says.

An app for a niche industry

Oliver was chief information officer at Herron Todd White, one of Australia’s largest property valuation companies, since 2014 before finishing his role in June this year. He says that the valuation industry is very niche and as such, needs bespoke software to cater for its needs.

With the increasing pressures of competition and clients’ requirements, it is imperative that valuers can complete and deliver reports back to their clients – which include banks, corporate organisations and government departments – while out in the field within minutes of completing the inspection.

Combined with the low turnaround times, it is necessary to provide accurate and detailed reports. Being in a highly regulated environment, it is imperative that data is kept secure and clients’ regulatory requirements are maintained.

“Banks are our major clients and they have big expectations in terms of fees, quality and time hellip; so we need to make sure we are as efficient as possible and the industry has had to innovate to ensure we meet those challenges.”

Herron Todd White’s custom-built Windows tablet application, HAWKi, helps valuers overcome these challenges when they are completing property inspections and valuations. The app provides valuers with access to more than 20 million data items and integrates Google Maps, floor plan sketching, as well as report annotation and production capabilities. The app also has an offline capability which is useful when valuers are working in areas where mobile connectivity can’t be guaranteed.

Property valuation is not the sexist industry and it needs to attract younger valuers, and the availability of technology can make the difference between someone working for Herron Todd White or one its competitors, says Oliver.

The latest app is the fifth generation of property valuation tools within the organisation and represents a significant shift towards a service-oriented architecture, providing the ability to decouple the in-field data application from its core bespoke ERP system that runs its backend services.

“Every minute saved in a job process is equivalent to 400,000 minutes per year and we were working on probably at least 10 minutes saved on each job each day with HAWKi. If they are doing six or seven jobs a day, that’s an extra hour that they can focus on providing more value,” he says.

In addition to the current capabilities that have revolutionised the way that property valuers can inspect and process data, the organisation has built the foundation to integrate the solution with drones, machine learning, and virtual and augmented reality technologies in the future, Oliver says.

“These are important innovations that are in the pipeline that will help us provide a greater level of service to our clients,” he says.

Byron Connolly