Long gone are the days when Kanban lived only in the factories of Toyota. Modern Kanban is as close as it gets to a universal fit for your process management needs. More and more companies are happy to discover that the principles of the method can be applied almost anywhere to increase team efficiency and productivity. By structuring the columns and swimlanes on their board, creating custom fields based on their particular needs and setting up automation policies and WIP limits selectively, project managers worldwide are finding online Kanban boards are one of the contributing factors of the continuous improvement of their team’s workflow.
One of the fields where Kanban is making tangible headway is that of real estate, where realtors are using Kanban boards to track their buyers, sellers, contracts and listings.
As it turns out, complex CRM softwares built to facilitate the processes in this field are largely considered simultaneously excessive and dysfunctional for small to mid-size realty businesses, of which there are many in the profession. Although you might not consider it as such, the real estate game is one of the most competitive professions in the world, and becoming more so every year as market prices soar.
An analysis by The United States Department of Justice states that, “real estate professionals compete fiercely for listings from potential sellers, for potential buyers, and many times, for both.” The same report presents that there are approximately 2.5M active realtors in the United States alone (National Association of Realtors) and in 2014, over 5.5M existing and newly constructed homes were sold in U.S.
When the stakes are high on so many levels, these business professionals need a platform to collaborate with their teams, push them towards their productivity goals as well as track their most important metrics. The Kanban method is beginning to prove itself as one of the most likely candidates to promote realtor success by optimizing resources, managing customer relationships and tracking sales. Considering the above presented statistics in Kanban terms, 5.5M cards in the listing board, 5.5M cards in the sellers board and 5.5M potential buyers in the buyers board. Tackling them one by one helps realtors navigate their market in a more efficient way.
We approached some of the real estate practitioners using our service Kanbanize. They showed us how Kanban is helping them keep up with the housing market.
FROM POST-ITs TO KANBAN
Susan Nelson – Crowley, the lead realtor at Tampa Real Estate Pulse of RE/MAX Metro, shares how she came to use an online tool for Kanban after using post-it notes on a board. When she began her career, Susan was using a physical board to track her clients. She says “it was incredibly cheap and useful for several years. It became slightly more sophisticated as [her business] gained momentum. I was moving post-its from left to right, using green post-its for sellers and pink post-its for buyers. I didn’t know what Kanban was at all but I was doing a version of it.”
Naturally, as her business evolved she began looking into real estate CRM systems which could successfully profile the various people she communicated with, track her results and archive her contracts once they were completed.
Susan cited problems with the typical Customer Relationship Management software such that did not have a visual dashboard to track client and contract progress, too much overhead in terms of various complex and unnecessary functions crowding the interface. In general, features her team just didn’t need to get the job done, and done well. She was searching for a software that would not block her progress with extra information she did not need interfering with her day-to day activities.
Her husband, an IT specialist, introduced Kanban to her as a popular method in his field. Although Susan states, “Realtors are more date driven, not process driven. A buyer might take a very long time to close but, in the end, make a very big sale,” she knew that Kanban would work for her team. She stands by this still.
They are currently using Kanbanize for contract/transaction management, listing process management, buyer process management, and team specific project management.
STRUCTURE OF KANBAN BOARDS
In the description of their Kanban cards, they keep all the contact information of each of their buyers. Overall, there are four different project boards in their account – a buyer board, a contract board, a listing board and an internal board.
The buyer board includes the buyer interview Susan goes through to get a sense of what the motivation of her company’s client is. He or she is then ranked as an A, B, or C buyer based on their intention in the custom fields of the card. This is what the buyer board at Tampa Real Estate Pulse looks like:
The contract board chronicles all the due dates, paperwork and status notes for all transactions under contract. Card fields include the important due dates of every contract—the effective date, deposit date, date, the date(s) of any additional contingencies, and the close date. It is easy to add dates and tasks unique to any transaction. Subtasks are tagged onto the different cards in the contract board to show if there are any meetings upcoming or past relevant to the proceedings. This is what the contract board at Tampa Real Estate Pulse looks like:
The listing board was created to host prospects. In other words, someone her team is scouting, the date their listing went live, how many showings it has had and the general scale of the listing itself. This is what the listing board at Tampa Real Estate Pulse looks like:
Their internal projects board is only for tasks for her internal team of three – herself, her buyer agent Kate and their assistant Ashlee. Here, they share documents such as buyer drift reports, collaborate on blogs and sync on the progress of their operations as a whole.
Although Susie and her team are not currently taking advantage of WIP limits, one of the key tenets of Kanban as a method, there are ways that she can add this to the way she structures her workflow, especially in the internal projects board where tasks must be completed in a timely fashion and rarely depend on external agents outside her own team. In the contracts board also, Susie has the opportunity to track how fast her company can process a contract internally and set up a column labelled “Tracking Others” in order to track and know when to expect her clients’ responses.
HOW TO: In Kanbanize, there is also a way for Susan and her team to communicate with their group of buyers through one of the four boards in the account so that the entire exchange can be archived in the comments section of the card. Email integration allows a more unified approach to communicating with buyers. With the new Moxtra integration in Kanbanize, Susan and her team can even conduct their interviews through the video conferencing feature, record them and archive them in the history of the card.
Based on her experience with Kanban, she will be presenting the various benefits and applications of the method to the real estate process at this year’s ReBar Camp, a uniquely structured un-conference that brings together a large group of her industry peers to discuss trends in their business and the future of their field.
KANBANIZE IS THE RIGHT MATCH
Have you ever been part of a project that takes forever to move forward, or one that never reaches fruition?
This is actually quite common within the commercial world, given the myriad of demands that an increasingly sophisticated customer base is placing on industry in general now. Having a true focus on continuous improvement and, not only meeting but, exceeding these customer expectations within your sector really is the key to business success. And a main driver of this is instilling a robust continuous improvement process which becomes an integral part of your business culture. So where does the Kanban system fit into this? How can Kanban help businesses to ensure that workflow is manageable and productivity is maintained at the correct level to meet this high-end customer demand? Quite simply, embracing the use of a Kanban system will ensure: less customer escalations, shorter time to market, reduced cost, less missed deadlines and better product quality. If you identify with any of the challenges we’ve highlighted here and want all the benefits too, you should definitely try Kanbanize.