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Show us the value

Imagine what US entrepreneur Warren Buffett could have done with Quotable Value at his disposal. “Hey!” he might have called out to an associate. He is not yet personally keyboard-enabled: “Pull up the last three months of sales in Buffalo – looks like a textile factory is sitting on property worth three times its share value.” Back now to Earth and the personal mission statement of QV’s general manager, Bryce Johnson: QV is the overwhelmingly pre-eminent scorekeeper in the business of collection, repository and dissemination of property and its value. “I look forward,” Johnson notes.

Imagine what US entrepreneur Warren Buffett could have done with Quotable Value at his disposal. “Hey!” he might have called out to an associate. He is not yet personally keyboard-enabled: “Pull up the last three months of sales in Buffalo – looks like a textile factory is sitting on property worth three times its share value.”

Back now to Earth and the personal mission statement of QV’s general manager, Bryce Johnson: QV is the overwhelmingly pre-eminent scorekeeper in the business of collection, repository and dissemination of property and its value. “I look forward,” Johnson notes.

Quotable Value is the old Valuation NZ, which before that was the Department of Valuation, a hybrid organisation designed to give ratable values for the purpose of local taxation.

Only subsequently was its payload seen in matters such as government valuation, and thus the New Zealand syndrome of borrowing against the officially benchmarked value of a residence.

Quotable Value now competes fair and square with an 80% market share in New Zealand’s valuation marketplace. Beyond our shores, it has used its enterprise freedom to enter Australia. Which is just as well as the State Valuation Office of New South Wales is now active here.

“I recall that we went in there first,” recalls Johnson. “We most definitely do not have a captive market here,” he adds, noting that Beca Valuations, an offshoot of the engineering consultancy, is after business here, as is Valuation & Marketing Services of Australia, another mobile competitor.

Johnson presides over the engineroom of an organisation that -- even while it was a full fledged government department – knew where its future lay. That future is in the application of advanced and automated technological storage and dissemination of information on property.

Valuation New Zealand established an early online database called Provides and had a run in the mid-1980s with videotex. Early lessons were learned and applied. One was the advantage of establishing technology partnerships in place of the old tendering method.

QV is technology-dependent in that most of its product reaches its market via its internet channels. Anything outside the “IP” realm, as Johnson puts it, is outsourced -- although the outsourcers work from within QV. Datacom does the hosting and Telecom does the networks in both Australia and New Zealand. Working Knowledge does all the testing.

Johnson has imposed some stiff operating criteria on his outsourcers, notably 99% website uptime. An operation such as this one never closes – it must be online over weekends and on holidays when property rubberneckers are on the prowl and real estate open day events are in full swing. The QV website is not free. It is available on subscription only.

Johnson says the “insourcing” arrangement was part of the original negotiation with the various partners. The argument against insourcing went something like this: “We are paying these people for their time. Why should we pay for their office space, lighting, heating, etc, too? They are here to give us their learning, expertise, and general wisdom, which we trust has been gained somewhere else, so that they can apply it afresh here. If they hang around on site, they will merely re-gurgitate what they have learned from our people in the first place.” The winning argument went like this: “We are paying for them. Let’s have them where we can see them. Let’s eliminate dead chargeable time as they go to and from their place and our place, and in doing so waste time. They are supposed to be part of the business – so let’s have them physically part of the business, in the place where we do our business.”

The IT insourcing is not the only variation from the norm at QV. The organisation also deemed finance was not to be part of its core business and led the way in outsourcing its entire finance operation.

As an enterprise organisation, none of QV’s data comes free. It must buy it from the collecting organisations, notably local government. But QV does physical title and property valuations “just like any other valuer”, notes Johnson. “Nothing is too small – we are happy to do residential valuations in the $150 - $300 fee category.”

QV is essentially a packager and re-seller, not unlike many IT companies. “We aggregate data, and we add to it, especially in demographics,” says Johnson. “We are very technically focused. Technology is the source of our difference.”

Johnson says QV is looking for new services to offer -- satellite imaging, for example. “We are looking at obtaining a satellite image showing as little as one metre of ground… Let’s face it, we like to work with the latest stuff and one of the reasons is that it gives us staff retention.”

Another more earth-bound scheme, an existing one, is a joint venture with Nuclear Sciences over hazards information.”

Johnson has ridden the property tiger for many years. Prior to QV he was at the Rural Bank. Today he tends a Microsoft shop, right down to the SQL servers.

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