Crucially, all work described in this case study was performed within the existing production application without disrupting the day-to-day operations of the heavily used system. A continuous delivery strategy (Azure DevOps pipelines) that incorporates feature flags (Launch Darkly) allowed Mercury to perform new development without impacting current daily users.
Enterprise Data, Operations and Reporting in the Cloud
Founded in 2006, Franklin Street has become one of the fastest-growing full-service commercial real estate firms in the Southeast with a national reach. Through its multiple locations, Franklin Street provides a full complement of commercial real estate service lines including Investment Sales, Management Services, Tenant and Landlord Representation, Capital and Insurance services.
After several years of active growth, Franklin Street’s business line agents had adopted myriad real estate industry point solutions to run their day-to-day operations. This software included independent desktop-installed software packages and client-server systems running on premises. While agents were enabled in their individual work, the software sprawl introduced a lack of cohesion across the company and significant manual work to produce business reports. Franklin Street knew they needed to use technology to leverage its team’s extensive market intelligence and industry expertise and create a point of competitive advantage.
MercuryWorks went to work to develop a comprehensive cloud-based custom firm management system to provide executives full end-to-end visibility to all deals across business lines. The resulting application called “Frankie” provides custom CRM management for all properties Franklin Street manages and the people with whom they interact with across the entire enterprise. Agents and line leads now have the ability to smoothly connect deals to centrally-stored contact people and properties entities while IT can rest easy with this central and secure storehouse for enterprise data. Modernized transaction management for all business lines fully integrates into the digitized Frankie process.
Frankie has enabled Franklin Street to eliminate several manual processes and dramatically increase information visibility. Invoices are now system-generated and automatically emailed, as scheduled. Complex commission calculations are now computed by Frankie with an integrated workflow that allows agents full transparency to calculations prior to processing. Reports are produced in real time from transactional data in the system for executive management via dynamic dashboards. Frankie greatly increases efficiency of transaction processing, provides smooth access via mobile devices and deliveris a plethora of executive-level analytics.
The Challenge – People, Properties and Activities
People and Companies
The cornerstone of every Franklin Street business process is the client – properly researching, engaging with, intuiting business needs and tracking interactions are key to forging a deep business relationship. The customer relationship management (CRM) aspects of Frankie enable Franklin Street professionals to do just that – associate all contacts with relevant properties and business activities, track all phone calls, emails and other touches and compile a detailed dossier of every partner.
Each deal that Franklin Street manages revolves around a piece of real estate property. The Frankie CRM provides long-term tracking and management of these properties including a wide array of property attribute data, historical ownership history, and detailed history of each transaction and service type associated with the property. This linkage allows visibility across business lines to facilitate cross-selling and proved the clients with a rich, unified experience.
Each deal that Franklin Street manages are complex, long-running transactions. Frankie allows agents to easily manage transaction by capturing all relevant data points, performing analytical computations and capturing all associated documentation so that Frankie becomes the single source of truth for that deal. Workflow management with progressive validation rules ensure data quality. These complex deals are managed by multiple internal agents collaborating with outside agents from other firms, and Frankie performs all the detailed commission calculations and splits to track every dollar from invoice to payment receipt to distribution.
Financials at Their Fingertips
Prior to expanding Frankie to accommodate detailed transaction tracking, the use of disparate and non-integrated systems required a significant amount of manual work to pull all the information together. By unifying these processes into a single enterprise system, agents manage the individual transactions and all financial data is derived from this data.
The manual process involved creating individual spreadsheets for each deal and manually transcribing transaction data from the various systems into the spreadsheet. In the new system commission calculations are performed in real time and each agent has immediate visibility to their distribution amounts. As the details of the transaction change the commissions are recomputed immediately. Once the deal is complete, an automated workflow allows each agent to perform a final review and approval of their commissions. Once finalized, Frankie generates a consolidated report for Accounting that documents exactly who needs to get paid what.
Previously, invoices were generated manually in QuickBooks by copying and pasting transactional details from various spreadsheets and emails. With Frankie’s modernized automation, all invoices are auto-generated and routed to clients via email. Corrections that need to be applied are performed in Frankie to ensure all invoices and commissions are consistently updated across the board.
With previous disparate systems, it could take up to a week to assemble a complete picture of the activity pipeline of active deals across the company, which was not only time consuming but error-prone. Now company executives have a real-time view of the entire business with the push of the button and can make business decisions based on up-to-date business intelligence.
We developed Franklin Street’s Frankie using these core technologies:
Provides a robust data storehouse and query platform to store contacts, companies, properties, transactions and other business data. In-cloud SQL Server was used to provide instant scalability and rapid querying.
Provides database storage, web app, authentication and web services. Azure provides an ideal solution for back end mobile applications with a multi-data center Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud solution that offloads bare metal and network connectivity oversight to Microsoft.