Upgraded software and communication systems take property service firm to the next level

Barry Property Services

July 17, 2013— St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador

Barry Property Services technicians can now enter information that is relayed directly to head office from their trucks immediately after each job.

In business for 16 years, Barry Property Services is a Newfoundland success story. With 35 employees and province-wide reach, the profitable St. John's-based landscape construction and maintenance firm was already the biggest player in its market—but its owner, Don Barry, could see the writing on the wall. The firm was making minimal use of digital technologies while newcomers to the market, equipped with the latest technologies, were starting to nibble away at his market share.

Realizing it was time for a change, Barry got in touch with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) to see if his firm might be eligible to participate in the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP).

"The challenge was: How could the firm achieve greater profitability when there was minimum potential to grow its market share?" explains Cathy Favre, the Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) who worked closely with ITA colleagues in Atlantic Canada to assess the company's eligibility and provide project oversight. "The answer was: Become more productive."

Climbing the learning curve

The way to do that was to harness digital technology. But Barry would need assistance to identify high-priority business areas and productivity gaps, and to overcome the attendant challenges: the firm lacked internal expertise in new technologies; implementing them would be expensive and time-consuming; and the firm's administrative staff, many of whom had been with the company since its inception, were accustomed to paper-based methods. There was going to be a steep learning curve.

With DTAPP support, Barry Property Services installed Real Green Systems, an off-the-shelf software package designed as a complete management system specifically for the lawn maintenance business. A previous version of the software was already in operation, but staff had been using "just the basics of it, at best," says Favre. Barry knew there was an opportunity to get a lot more productivity out of it.

Secondly, the firm brought in mobile technology for its field technicians, installing computers in their trucks that communicate directly with head office. This has greatly reduced the need for paperwork and phone calls, improving productivity dramatically.

"There was a lot of lost productivity prior to that, when paperwork went missing or field technicians had gone home and couldn't be reached for questions," says Favre. Now, all the information from service calls is immediately computerized and recorded for access by office staff at any time.

In addition, the firm's phone systems are now integrated with the marketing features of its customer service software.

Moving on from paper

Overall, these changes have reduced paper transactions significantly, improved customer response times, increased the firm's ability to win new clients, reduced the risk of errors and lost records, and eliminated the duplication of manual and electronic records.

According to Favre, the success of the project relied heavily on establishing an appropriate change management strategy, including training and the smooth integration and seamless roll-out of the technologies—all areas where she could lend expertise.

"DTAPP enabled us to use the existing capacity we had that was not being fully utilized, and allowed us to get more technologically advanced by taking up most of the training costs."—Don Barry, Owner, Barry Property Services.

Barry says the best thing about the DTAPP project was the ability to follow his business through a full year-long production cycle. As a seasonal business, the firm faces different challenges and demands at different times of the year, and Barry greatly appreciated the opportunity to receive advice and support through the ups and downs of each.

Based on its new understanding of the potential of digital technologies, Barry Property Services is now in the early stages of exploring an NRC-IRAP innovative R&D project that would leverage mobile, wireless and other technologies across all of the firm's systems.

Thanks to DTAPP, Barry Property Services:

  • Is on its way to the biggest sales year in company history
  • Has reduced its outside sale force by 80 per cent
  • Has seen a 300 per cent increase in contacts made via website and email
  • Has reduced its administrative load by 25 per cent, with a corresponding increase in production personnel

Barry says the new technologies implemented through DTAPP have made him aware of the "huge, huge marketing potential" that his firm hasn't even scratched yet. "The new system just works. It is phenomenal."

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