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CIO100 2017 #31-100: Jason Wills, Harcourts International

  • Name Jason Wills
  • Title Chief information officer
  • Company Harcourts International
  • Commenced Role January 2001 to December 2016
  • Reporting Line Chief strategic officer
  • Technology Function 26 IT staff in New Zealand and 14 in Brisbane, Australia
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    Jason Wills says the deployment of a mobile suite of apps for real property firm Harcourts provided their teams with a “distinct competitive advantage”.

    Through the use of these apps, Harcourts team members now enjoy unprecedented interaction with customers, says Wills.

    They can access greater levels of information wherever they are, including real-time access to critical third-party industry-wide data from organisations such as CoreLogic.

    “This information available within fingertip control is a powerful step forward for the industry, even more so in the hands of Harcourts’ real estate professionals,” he says.

    “Using the suite of apps, Harcourts’ team members now have a distinct competitive advantage, whether it be presenting for listings, speed and efficiency of communication with buyer or seller, holding and following up after open inspections or instantly accessing market intelligence, in real time, at levels previously unimagined,” says Wills whose technology staff worked with the eBusiness team in developing the apps.

    “When it comes to appraisals, the ability to present comparative data in real-time, possibly in the comfort of the vendor’s own home, enables unmatched levels of transparency and collaboration,” he states.

    “For the agent, the apps deliver a seamless experience, whether they be using the apps on the iPhone, iPad or back in the office on their desktop using HarcourtsOne,” says Wills. “All information is synced.”

    Besides the genius of the technology itself, the professional, pioneering development philosophy of the Harcourts eBusiness department also played a key role in gaining the Apple recognition.

    Upon the release of every update to Apple’s operating system, Harcourts’ developers investigate how improvements to the apps can be made which will fully utilise the new capabilities of the software, hardware and networks that are available.

    For example, with the upgrade to the 4G network and subsequent quicker download speeds, Harcourts’ developers upgraded the way eOne presented images of properties, replacing thumbnails with bigger images.

    The eBusiness team continually tests the software, and monitors and responds to user feedback, in a quest to ensure optimum efficiency and reliability is maintained, releasing 26 enhancements in one year alone, he states.

    He says in recognition of Harcourts’ innovation and use of iPad and Iphone to drive greater efficiency and productivity, Apple had recognised their work by including their mobile suite of apps as a case study.

    Such an accolade is reserved only for companies developing the most cutting edge business solutions using Apple technology, he says.

    “Harcourts is the first and only international real estate company in the world to have their mobile business solutions featured on Apple’s website, selected because the apps are game-changing for the industry.”

    He says Apple has also asked them to work on an app for the Apple watch. Harcourts release for their staff the “Harcourts Health and Wellbeing” app for use with the Watch.

    Harcourts mobile apps are revolutionising the way Harcourts team members operate, and will continue to do so in the future, he says.

    Wills says the eBusiness team spends half of their time supporting the core system and the rest on enhancements and new innovations like their work on the mobile apps.

    He schedules weekly meetings to discuss both tactical actions and strategic issues.

    “Each year we have a two day retreat to work on our one- to three-year road map and possible innovative ideas.

    We meet quarterly to review our business plan and road map. “Decisions are made as a team but the key driver of the direction we take is made by myself and our head of eBusiness,” he states.

    We speak at conferences around the world and the head of eBusiness and myself go on road shows promoting the products to our team members in 10 countries around the world.

    Harcourts, which started in 1888 as a single shop in Wellington, now has more than 790 offices and over 5200 sales consultants across the globe including including Australia, Indonesia, Fiji, China, Hong Kong, South Africa, United States and the United Arab Emirates.

    “Success is measured by the usage of our products and is measured monthly for all countries,” says Wills. “We are well over target predictions for 2016.”

    In December 2016, Wills wrapped up his 16 years as CIO at Harcourts and is now CEO of Kadima Solutions. He also delivers presentations internationally on futuristic trends and how organisations can use these to disrupt their respective industries.

    Divina Paredes

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