If you own or are renting in some Canberra strata complexes and your tap starts leaking, chances are your calls for help will be assisted by an artificial intelligence system that will send a plumber straight out to fix it.
A new state-of-the-art process automation system is now taking care of the more tedious and repetitive tasks of building management in at least one Canberra-based strata and real estate company.
Civium Property Group CEO Doug O’Mara says his company is making the most of artificial intelligence to streamline its operations – from invoicing to property maintenance – with his staff and clients throughout the ACT, NSW, Victoria and Queensland the big winners.
“Our business has a fairly high reliance on accurate processes and workflows, and during the years, we’ve had people doing these functions, but unfortunately, people make mistakes,” he says.
“This artificial intelligence system is like a digital workforce saving everyone time while also adding safeguards that can prevent mistakes.”
While most businesses are outsourcing processes to call centres offshore, Civium Property Group has taken the next step, with computer servers handling almost any task that requires the click of a mouse.
The industry leader’s AI workforce consists of 35 digital workers to carry out dozens of low-level and repetitive jobs, including receiving and redirecting emails within the strata management department.
“That’s where we started this journey,” says Doug.
“Our strata managers were dealing with up to 200 email requests a day, and now it’s half that level, and the work gets completed without all the to-ing and fro-ing between departments.
“We’ve designed programs to scan content, pick up on keywords and send emails to the right person, and many of our clients allow maintenance requests to be automated with work orders sent directly to a tradesperson.
“We’re the only company in the strata management space in Australia that has this type of technology employed within our business.”
Civium Property Group is using automated processes primarily across the accounting and compliance areas of the business. It’s technology that Doug says is saving time and money.
“It’s been an expensive exercise for us, given our scale, but it gives us confidence in the reliability of the financials and reports on behalf of our strata clients,” he says.
An unexpected benefit of engaging artificial intelligence has been catching out dodgy contractors.
“We’ve built optimal character recognition software that scans an invoice, identifies what that invoice is meant for and then automatically uploads the information that’s in the invoice and verifies the supplier is registered for GST,” says Doug.
“The biggest eye-opener has been the number of suppliers that are not registered for GST.
“They might register for GST in July, but often cancel their registration and continue to send out invoices, thereby defrauding the Commonwealth.
“We engage around 9000 contractors who do work for our communities across the country, all providing invoices into our office. There would be 200 dodgy invoices rejected by our robots every week.
“This is just a small example of how we’re using automated processes, but it has had huge consequences for the business.”
The end of financial year has always been a hectic time for Civium Property Group, with strata managers, accounts payable and accounts receivable all having input into the income tax process.
“We’re particularly proud of our income tax returns and BAS returns that we do for our strata plans,” says Doug.
“Financials across our entire portfolio all over the country are audited by AI to ensure they’re accurate.”
So with computers handling so much of the workload, what about the Civium Property Group staff?
Doug says no staff members have been made redundant during the switch to robotics, but they have been given more time to focus on complex tasks and build relationships with clients.
“The staff are not stressed out by the sheer quantity of mundane tasks they were handling, so they’re much happier,” he says.
“We’re not trying to dehumanise the service, just take away a lot of the admin work.”
The new systems, while costly, will grow with the business as it expands across Australia. Doug says clients will benefit from a more reliable and efficient service, as well as competitive fees.
“We continually strive to look to the future and take a progressive approach to technology by delivering unrivalled value for our clients,” he says.
Civium Property Group is a family-owned business that has been operating in Canberra since 2003.