More convenience thanks to digital solutions

Better service and lower costs? Time savings and greater efficiency through connectivity? Interviews with Aareon customers in France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom show how much industry-specific day-today business can benefit from the use of innovative ERP systems in conjunction with integrated digital solutions. This gives rise to a company-specific digital ecosystem that connects market participants and raises collaboration to a new level.

The digital word can seem like an impenetrable jungle. That’s why it’s great to have a confident guide to lead the way through the dense vegetation – who knows where the water holes are and which plants don’t just look good, but are also edible. The image is admittedly rather elaborate, but it illustrates one fact very clearly:

Companies need a digital strategy – and one that is tailored to their particular requirements. Not every system and not every solution, no matter how attractive they may seem, can satisfy a company’s needs.

Companies that want to exploit the opportunities presented by digitalisation to the full have to know their own requirements and objectives to the letter, particularly in turbulent times such as these. Only then can they establish an IT infrastructure geared to their corporate strategy – an individual digital ecosystem that can be expanded flexibly as required. New solutions must be able to be integrated if optimum interaction is to be achieved. Crucially, all parties involved in the process must experience the clear added value provided by new digital solutions in their day-to-day work. The type of added value in question may vary: frequently the focus is on better service, more efficient processes and time savings, on reducing costs or even on new business models.

reports from the European property industry

How are Aareon’s digital solutions proving their worth in practice?

We asked four customers of Aareon subsidiaries in France, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom, each of whom reported on their experiences with the innovative portfolio of the European property industry’s leading provider of ERP and digital solutions.



stands for Office Public de l'Habitat de l'Eurométropole de Strasbourg. The Strasbourg public housing office manages 20,000 residential units in around 20 local authorities in the greater Strasbourg area.

Our questions were answered by Isabelle David, Head of Information Systems at OPHEA.

What is your digital strategy?

We are currently in the middle of a transformation process that started in 2017. Our main objectives are threefold: to improve our service quality, support the transformation of our business processes, and optimise collaboration between our departments.

Which digital solutions from Aareon France do you use?

We use several solutions, but the implementation of a BIM solution was a real big step for us. BIM stands for Building Information Modelling, and it enables us, through the buildings digital knowledge, to manage our systems more efficiently, because all the information is collated and can be shared and retrieved by all. Of course, this also helps us to better monitor the building’s evolution over time, to reduce our costs for technical management and maintenance and to create value for all stakeholders. What’s more, our departments now collaborate much more closely. We also use Aareon’s tenant portal to improve the quality of service for residents and to optimise customer relationships. And we have other solutions running too, for instance one designed to take a mobile inventory of fixtures and fittings.

Can you summarise the added value offered by these solutions?

They enhance efficiency and service quality, while saving both time and costs.

What was the reaction of your employees to the new solutions?

Collaboration between departments has undergone quite a transformation thanks to the BIM solution, with teams much more closely integrated. We are seeing a real reorganisation of our processes. Thanks to the new connectivity, every employee is now an important player who is able to offer information and know-how. This approach is a great lever for the further development of our processes and our employees’ capabilities alike.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work?

Of course, Covid-19 has affected everyone’s day-to-day work. Luckily, we started our digital transformation long before the pandemic took hold, and so were able to continue our work relatively smoothly from home, despite the difficult conditions.

Which particular challenges will OPHEA and the industry as a whole need to address in the future?

At OPHEA, we plan to continue our digital transformation. For example, we will set up an extranet for suppliers with a view to facilitating interaction and cross-functional collaboration with our various service providers. And we intend to automate further processes, such as orders for routine maintenance work.



is a housing association with over 16,500 units in the Rotterdam region, and in the towns of Hellevoetsluis, Maassluis and Spijkenisse in particular.

Our questions were answered by Igor Zandee, Head of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and Madelon Spee, Project Manager for ERP Implementation.

What is your digital strategy?

We have created a stable ICT landscape over recent years. Some 85 per cent of it has been rebuilt with Aareon products, while IT management is now in the capable hands of Aareon Cloud Services. We strive to be a smart follower by continuing to digitalise processes and services – where it makes sense to do so.

Which digital solutions from Aareon Nederland do you use?

We use the ERP system Tobias AX and the document management system ShareWorX, which allows us to save and manage documents and files in structured fashion. What’s more, our Fox portal and associated apps enable tenants to settle any rental issues from home or on the go at any time. Other solutions include Plato for maintenance budget planning and Facilitor for all facility management business. Thanks to ValidSign, we are able to use legally valid digital signatures in our processes. We have also implemented further digital solutions from Aareon partners – Marlin, NeMo and Mail to Pay – as well as our very first software robot for process automation.

Can you summarise the added value offered by these solutions?

Our tenants have seen a gradual improvement in and digitalisation of our service – which has become more state of the art as a result. It is now much easier to manage and exchange our data. There is one single database for all. As a case in point, the property development department specifies the data for a new building complex, which is subsequently used in advertisements by the leasing department. Potential tenants thus have all the information they need on the property in question. And tenants themselves can access the customer portal with a direct repair request or the like. This makes for good interaction between processes and departments.

What was the reaction of your employees to the new solutions?

Good! We got a large number of employees involved at the implementation stage to ensure that all processes were compatible with their day-to-day work. We had made our organisation more process-oriented in advance, so the real change was already behind us. The new system encourages even more process-oriented thinking.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work?

We had been live for six weeks when our employees had to start working from home – and it was absolutely no problem. But the exclusively virtual system training was a challenge – it sometimes took a little longer to figure out how to use the new software. We intend to take a cautious approach when implementing further developments, so that employees are not overwhelmed by too many new functions at once. But our digital strategy itself has not changed at all – rather, it was validated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Which particular challenges will Maasdelta and the industry as a whole need to address in the future?

Technological advancement offers housing companies a wealth of opportunities. However, it is important not to tackle everything at once, but to build on a solid foundation gradually. We have now laid this foundation. One of the next steps will be to optimise data usage in fields such as predictive maintenance. And we want to automate more recurring processes. This will free up time that can be devoted to developing tailored solutions for our tenants.


Nybro Bostads AB

a public housing company based in Nybro, in the south of Sweden, manages around 2,200 apartments and the premises for the municipality in Nybro.

Our questions were answered by Magnus Thom, IT Coordinator at Nybro Bostads AB.

What is your digital strategy?

We are digitalising our day-to-day operations in an environment that is as integrated as possible.

Which digital solutions from Aareon Nordic do you use?

We opted for the ERP solution Incit Xpand with the tenant portal uPortal, as well as the Mobile Workspace for the field workers. It allows us to manage the municipal properties as well as our own. By and large, it provides just what we need in our daily work on behalf of our customers – without having to integrate too many external systems. The web solution uPortal contains numerous smart self-service offerings for tenants, who can now check their energy consumption or fault reports at any time of day or night.

Can you summarise the added value offered by these solutions?

They facilitate and simplify our daily work. A good example of this is the publication of vacant apartments in our tenant portal. Our employees can handle the entire workflow, from notice of termination all the way to re-letting, smoothly in one and the same system.

What was the reaction of your employees to the new solutions?

Digitalisation can be unsettling, especially for colleagues who have been using pen and paper for a long time. Many are concerned that the need of logs and documentation will increase their workload. But once new methods have taken root, they greatly appreciate the benefits of controlled digital processes – because they can get through the work more quickly.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work?

We are making even greater efforts to manage customer contacts digitally.

Which particular challenges will Nybro Bostads and the industry as whole need to address in the future?

Our biggest challenge is that the number of systems is growing with the increasing digitalisation of services. Providers must ensure that their systems are more heavily geared towards integration and make an effort to keep abreast of new APIs and solutions. Another challenge is customer acceptance of digital communication – many still feel the need for personal interaction. However, we are confident that we can quickly convince our customers of the associated benefits.

United Kingdom


owns and manages 45,000 homes and offers additional accommodation for students and key workers in the south-east of the UK, the Midlands and London.

Our questions were answered by Robert Stewart, Head of Design & Development in Optivo’s Technology Department.

What is your digital strategy?

It is aligned with our corporate strategy of “Co-Creating the Future”. Our aim is to work with residents and other service providers to develop the services we really need. We also want to integrate and streamline processes and to automate more operations so our employees and service providers can devote their time and know-how to really important matters. Other strategically important topics include the Internet of Things and big data applications.

Which digital solutions from Aareon UK do you use?

We have been using the mobile platform 1st Touch Mobile by Aareon since 2013, and acquired a corporate licence in 2014. This solution gives us great flexibility in managing our processes. Aareon employees also provided us with valuable expertise when we developed our first two apps. Now, having undergone training, we are able to develop almost everything ourselves.

Can you summarise the added value offered by these solutions?

1st Touch Mobile is a high-performance platform for mobile work. It allows us to integrate central systems, such as our Housing & CRM systems, in full with a view to providing a faster, more efficient and better service. For example, a search function enables field staff who find themselves with a little free time to search for open tasks on the go. Since all the information is collated in the system, they don’t have to return to the office, but can get on with the relevant processes immediately.

What was the reaction of your employees to the new solutions?

Very good! These solutions have become established tools, as they have significantly enhanced our workflows and are a good cultural fit for the company.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your work?

It hasn’t really made too much difference. The Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns have given us the chance to show that we are capable of offering outstanding service via digital channels, too. Of course, Aareon’s solutions can also be used when working from home, so we have been able to develop new versions of the existing portfolio and new apps on an ongoing basis. It’s striking that many employees prefer to use 1st Touch Mobile when working from home, although all the central systems are available via our remote desktop. That’s probably because our colleagues are familiar with the processes, the integrated steps and the benefits they bring to their work.

Which particular challenges will Optivo and the industry as a whole need to address in the future?

I could mention any number of topics here. At Optivo, we will doubtless be looking to expand the self-service area and focus more on IoT and predictive analyses with a view to optimising our service. Automation is another topic on our agenda: we are actively implementing robotic process automation to relieve our employees of recurring routine tasks. And, in 2021 we will start deploying chatbots to provide information to customers, help them fill out forms and the like.