Key Technologies Boost Functionality and Lower Costs

While market lamentations rattle forth from every industry and market segment, few would argue that the housing and relocations markets are the hardest hit. Among those straddling the widening gap between a profitable past and a promising future is SIRVA, a company that conducts more than 300,000 relocations per year, transferring corporate and government employees as well as individual consumers. The company operates in more than 40 countries with approximately 4,000 employees and an extended network of agents and other service providers in over 175 countries.

A recent example of the company’s high-profile moves is the relocation of the entire Seattle Super Sonics professional basketball team to Oklahoma City. SIRVA’s well-recognized brands include Allied, Allied International, Allied Pickfords, Allied Special Products, DJK Residential, Global, northAmerican, northAmerican International, SIRVA Mortgage, SIRVA Relocation and SIRVA Settlement.

Erik Keller is CIO at SIRVA and the man left with the mother of all Rubik’s cube question to solve: squaring IT cuts with the need to increase IT to curb the hemorrhaging of the company’s real estate risks.

“There’s no question that the U.S. economy has put pressure on both the relocation and the moving parts of our business. That in turn drives things within IT where we need to make sure that we are spending money in a way that makes the best use of our investments,” he said. “But at the same time we are doing things within IT with tech(nology) to make sure we are managing real estate risks as effectively as possible. So, in some cases, it’s actually driving investment with the economy being where it is.”

Keller thinks BPM will be his saving grace. “BPM has really provided us a means of increasing efficiency that makes it easier to contend with this market,” he said. To date, his focus with BPM has been on the relocation side of the business. An analysis is underway now of Lombardi Teamworks on the moving side of the business. Also ranking high on Keller’s list of most valuable tech tools is VMWare and Microsoft .NET.

“VMWare is very easy to manage and we’ve seen really good ROI, and it’s helped us to reduce costs significantly. We like Microsoft .NET for reliability and performance. It’s allowed us to integrate it with some other technologies we have.”

Over the last couple of years SIRVA has been focused on system consolidations. The company had multiple back office systems at both its moving and relocation parts of the business. “There have been some pretty significant consolidation efforts that have been completed successfully, that really show good bottom-line and productivity savings within the company,” said Keller. “At the same time, we’ve launched core technology initiatives such as BPM, BI, document management, and are starting to see some of the benefits of those.”

Understandably, Keller is hyper-focused on real estate risk management. “The business processes that we have developed and implemented with Lombardi Teamworks allow us to quickly review real estate risk for various homes that we need to handle as part of our corporate relocations,” he explains.

For instance, if somebody has a septic tank, or if somebody has a previous lien on a home, there are various things that SIRVA needs to understand in considering the eligibility of the home to go into its program. “Being able to quickly route these issues to the right people makes it possible for us to manage the risk of potentially some day owning that home,” said Keller.

“Again, it’s the basic idea that we came from a company that rolled up from different smaller companies, so there’s a legacy or culture of disparate business processes that we’re using BPM to get a handle around things and standardize processes,” he explains. “Right now, BPM allows us to get participation from other constituents. So now clients and bankers can participate in the process which drives customer satisfaction and productivity.”