Customer Story

Seeff Properties: Building better communications with G Suite

Seeff Properties

The real estate experts at Seeff consolidate an international network of more than 220 franchise operations with easily deployable G Suite tools for easy uptake and remote management.

Google Cloud Results

Helps improve security with mandatory 2-step verification

• Simplifies email for tech beginners with accessible, intuitive tools

• Delivers cost and time efficiencies, replacing travel with Hangouts

Seeff Properties has come a long way since 1964, when the South African company was founded as a small, family-owned business. Today, the real estate player is one of the most successful in the Southern Africa region, with more than 220 branches and over 1,200 agents in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland, Malawi, Mauritius, and Mozambique. As part of the international franchise, Seeff’s licensed businesses work on everything from residential rentals to agricultural and industrial properties.

“A lot of people in the real estate industry are concerned about disruption from technology. The way we see it, you can either put your head in the sand, or you can decide how best to optimize your return on technology investment.” - Stuart Manning, CEO, Seeff Properties

“In the last decade, the real estate industry has been dominated by transformation, specifically legislative changes that have enforced a need for qualifications,” says Stuart Manning, Seeff Properties’ CEO. “Additionally, we have new and qualified agents coming into the industry who are quick to embrace the opportunities offered by technology, alongside a large legacy of employees who are less confident with new tools. Implementing systems that can be embraced by both tech-savvy agents and those less comfortable with technology, is probably our biggest challenge.”

In addition to the mixed abilities of staff, each of the licensed operations was run with a different level of technological sophistication. Seeff looked to bring this diverse network together with standardized communication tools that appealed to a total novice as much as an ambitious innovator.

“A lot of people in the real estate industry are concerned about disruption from technology,” says Stuart. “The way we see it, you can either put your head in the sand, or you can decide how best to optimize your return on technology investment.”

Easy to implement, easy to use, easy to run

Franchises and license-based operations often have to cope with inefficiencies caused by the ways licensees choose to adopt technology. With more than 220 branches across multiple countries, Seeff worked with a combination of tech-savvy offices, teams using fax machines, and every level of sophistication in between. Within that highly varied landscape, new legislation, including data protection regulations, had created a need for the implementation of improved security with a tighter, more centralized control of IT.

“Traveling is not efficient. A meeting could involve over eight hours of travel. The technology is available to have face-to-face conversations on Hangouts, so why waste time and expense flying around the country? Hangouts alone can save huge sums of money.” - Stuart Manning, CEO, Seeff Properties

To address that combination of challenges, Seeff looked for a new communications solution that would be easy to implement, easy to use, and easy to administer from a central base, delivering greater unity and consistency to the network without compromising the independence of individual offices.

G Suite was a perfect fit. Because it’s based in the cloud and accessed through a browser, Seeff did not have to deploy additional infrastructure to branches or send staff to install hardware and software. “From an IT support perspective, the fact that everything's in the browser makes our lives a lot easier,” says Lester Segal, IT Manager at Seeff. “From our central office, we have oversight on usage and remote access to accounts, so we can troubleshoot issues without delays and provide immediate assistance to users, wherever they are.”

Gmail was the first G Suite tool to be rolled out, helping even tech beginners engage with email and facilitating widespread adoption of the G Suite accounts. The next, ongoing step was to deepen that adoption and develop the use of other tools on the platform through hands-on, direct training. “We have two people who go from branch to branch to facilitate change management and IT education,” says Lester. “That can mean explaining very basic things about online communication, as well as more advanced aspects such as sharing documents.”

Whether explaining the advantages of using Sheets or the benefits of Hangouts Meet hardware, the workshops present the practical, everyday advantages of technology in an accessible way, demonstrating the impact of G Suite tools on day-to-day concerns, such as travel.

“The uniformity that we can apply to our extended network through G Suite gives us a lot of peace of mind. Other stakeholders in the regional real estate industry are still battling with establishing security protocols. I tell them to look at G Suite.” - Stuart Manning, CEO, Seeff Properties

“Traveling is not efficient,” says Stuart. “We work across a large area, and a meeting could involve over eight hours of travel. The technology is available to have face-to-face conversations on Hangouts, so why waste time and expense flying around the country? Hangouts alone can save huge sums of money.”

Enforcing two-step verification for a more secure network

“In the past two years, levels of cybercrime in the real estate business have spiked drastically,” says Stuart. “Our industry is seen as a soft target. We also have new, GDPR-like regulation, which we expect to come into force in either 2019 or 2020. As a result, security is of paramount importance for us.”

One of the most effective steps Seeff has taken to tighten up security is to use 2-Step Verification in G Suite. “2-step verification has had a significant impact in making our group more robust,” says Stuart. “We have experienced two security incidents at Seeff, and in both cases parties had not activated the 2-step verification protocol.” Now 2-step verification is mandatory on all Seeff G Suite accounts. “From an IT policy perspective, it is very easy to enforce with G Suite administrative tools,” says Lester. “We simply choose that option, and security across the organization is dramatically improved immediately.”

Helping to Ensure peace of mind

Seeff has successfully deployed more than 1,800 individual and shared accounts across its international network. “We expect to onboard another 300 accounts in the next few months,” adds Stuart. “That would take our base to over 2,000 users. Although Drive has been adopted to store our media and share it between branches, we know that there's a plethora of offerings within G Suite which we're yet to take up.” Now Seeff is testing ways of improving productivity and efficiency with the platform, keeping the company coherent without dampening its entrepreneurial spirit.

“The uniformity that we can apply to our extended network through G Suite gives us a lot of peace of mind,” says Stuart. “Other stakeholders in the regional real estate industry are still battling with establishing security protocols. I tell them to look at G Suite.”

Deployment Partner (G Suite authorized reseller)

Opennetworks

Opennetworks is a Google Cloud Premier Partner, helping organizations adapt to cloud-based infrastructure and navigate the Google ecosystem.