Vesteda is a property investor active mainly in the middle-market segment of the rental housing market in the major urban regions in the Netherlands, where the company invests the assets of institutional investors like pension funds and insurers. Vesteda wanted to see if there was a way to leverage the huge volumes of data that it obtained from its activities to improve its services. “The transition to TimeXtender made it possible for us to automate the manual work that we were still doing,” explains Jelle Vegter, BI & Data Science team lead at Vesteda.
At the end of 2020 Vesteda had invested a total of nearly €8.2 billion in Dutch residential properties, with a rental portfolio comprising over 27,400 homes. These homes are located mainly in economically strong areas and big-city regions. And when your portfolio is that big, you collect a lot of data. By combining the data from the financial systems with data from a variety of other sources, the property investor firm is now able to draw meaningful conclusions a lot easier than it did one year ago, when this was a manual process that was very time-consuming, error-sensitive and run across five different modules.
“My first impression was that TimeXtender would enable us to automate a number of processes that took us a lot of time and were very error-sensitive.”
Jelle Vegter - BI & Data Science team lead
TimeXtender as process accelerator and “orchestrator”
This was the reason why Jelle Vegter had already been trying for some time to develop a new data warehouse to replace the old one. A departing coworker gave Vegter a tip as he was leaving the company: he might want to try contacting E-mergo as a potential interesting party. “At that time I wasn’t exactly out looking for new software, but I did want to put out a feeler. My first impression was that TimeXtender would enable us to automate a number of manual processes that were taking us a lot of time and were very error-sensitive. To see if that was true, I asked my developers to analyze the product in more detail: Could TimeXtender help us to accelerate processes? Does it do what it’s supposed to do? In essence, TimeXtender sort of works as an “orchestrator”: we still have five modules, but instead of having to log in separately to all five we log into TimeXtender and control the modules from there.”
One of the E-mergo consultants initially involved in the discussions was Ruairidh Smith, someone who knows the program down to the tiniest details. “For many companies data is becoming a more and more important factor. Whenever multiple sources have to be connected, you can’t just keep getting the data from them manually, you have to automate. Here our assumption is that the customer has the most thorough knowledge about the value of their own data, and that we have the skills to manage the data and get the value out of it. TimeXtender is the best solution for doing this. TimeXtender gives a number of departments within the company more insight: the financial department gains transparency into the financial performance, and the management can evaluate where things are going right and where things are going wrong, so they know what needs attention.”
After the initial acquaintance session in June 2020, Vegter began the internal procurement process to get the switch to TimeXtender approved. E-mergo helped Vesteda on a number of aspects. Firstly, with the configuration, the consultations on the implementation of TimeXtender and providing the training to enable the Vesteda employees to work with the solution. With the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, the training had to happen on Teams. “The average turnaround time on an implementation like this is between 10-25 days, depending on what you run into,” says Smith. The goal is ultimately that the Vesteda employees themselves learn how to work effectively with TimeXtender, so over time they need to ask less and less from us. At this point we’re only getting questions about the nuts and bolts occasionally. That’s how you want this kind of process to go. Beyond this, we keep the customers on top of the new features so they can always be getting the most out of their data.”
Vesteda started the training sessions in September, just after the summer break, initially with five employees. They were followed by three others, who started a new round of training sessions in June of this year. “In February 2021, we had fully transitioned to TimeXtender,” says Vegter. In January there was a brief period in which we were using TimeXtender alongside our old system. In parallel, we were doing all the same work in TimeXtender to give us the confidence that it was going to work. In February the transition was completed. We took out a three-year license from E‑mergo, so they’re still available to help us with our questions.”
Complete transparency in the portfolio
Every day, TimeXtender collects data for Vesteda from the five systems and places it in the data warehouse in a way that allows Vesteda to work with it easily and run reports on it. Those five systems are currently an ERP system, a CRM system, a valuation management system, a scenario analysis system and the Master Data Management Files. “We use these MDM files to manually put things in the data warehouse,” Vegter explains. “In the future we will probably be connecting even more sources. Those might also be external online sources like the Dutch government’s statistics agency and the national land registry.”
The data warehouse gives Vesteda a lot of transparency that it never had before. “We get operational data from it: How many homes are rented? How many rentals have returned to the supply and can now be rented out again? And we also get financial data from it – what are our expenses running in comparison to the budgets? A lot of information about the homes we use for analytical purposes: nearly 28,000 homes, but what kinds of homes are they? How many square meters in total? How many square meters of living room, bedroom, kitchen do they have? What is the energy label? How have rents developed over recent years? What are the customer satisfaction figures for each type of home? How many system failures have there been? How many complaints, how many repair requests? For these things we only use data that cannot be traced back to the individual level, and we are of course in compliance with all the strict standards of data privacy and security.”
TimeXtender is a tool that uses “extract, transform and load” (ETL) to retrieve the data from the raw systems and then prepare it in ways that data analysts can readily use. “So that means TimeXtender itself is not a visualization tool,” Vegter says. “The data then goes to another system where the analyses and reporting happen. We make the dashboards primarily using Power BI, and analyses via Excel, Python and machine learning models.”
Cheaper, faster and better
How would Vegter rate the cooperation with E-mergo? “Great, we always got a response very fast, even to the little questions. There were no problems in communication, and you can tell that there’s a lot of expertise at E-mergo. And when they don’t know the answer themselves, they make sure that they find out through TimeXtender itself.” Smith also expressed his satisfaction with the partnership. “The training sessions went very well, in part because the Vesteda employees picked things up very fast, asked good questions and approached everything in a structured way. The process went well, and that’s a requirement for reaching a good result. In this process I was the ‘answer man’ for the complex questions, I delivered the training sessions and I gave advice about infrastructure issues.”
Vegter was equally happy with the result. “To sum it all up, for us this solution is cheaper, faster and better. It means we can develop faster; the turnaround time is shorter from the moment of request to going live.” And that development at Vesteda continues: “We are definitely going to be expanding the data warehouse further; we want to connect more sources and create more dashboards and reports. At Vesteda, we think and we expect that handling data right will be the edge we need. We get better insights and make better decisions when our work is data-driven. And with this tool we can go a lot further than just the financial systems. The real power of a data warehouse is exactly that you are able to combine different data sources. What’s the financial picture of products with a high or low customer satisfaction level? What are the returns on our homes in various different cities? The power of a data warehouse lies in skillfully combining the whole body of data from multiple systems in order to get deeper analyses than you did before.”
Company name Vesteda
Sector Real estate
- The old data warehouse was very time-consuming to use and was also extremely error-prone.
- It was filled manually from five different systems: ERP, CRM, a valuation management system, a scenario analysis system and the Master Data Management system.
- Vesteda had a need to set up a foundational body of data to facilitate data-driven work.
Solution & advantages
- With TimeXtender, E-mergo was able to automate a number of processes that Vesteda was still spending a lot of time doing manually.
- TimeXtender works as an “orchestrator” that controls Vesteda’s five existing modules.
- The turnaround time from request to going live has been shortened considerably.
- The data warehouse can now offer a lot of transparency and also meet the strict standards and legislative requirements of privacy and data security.
- Better insights and decisions from data-driven processes.
- Self-sufficiency, because trained employees can work with TimeXtender independently.
The name E-mergo comes from the Latin saying luctor et emergo, “I struggle and I arise.” This motto is used by the Dutch province of Zeeland to represent the victory in the battle against the water. Of course, we are not fighting against the water, but we are making sure that companies can keep their heads above water in the ever-rising flow of data. Our own motto is “Manage your data, innovate your business”: we help you get the most out of your data. And we do it with Qlik, Mendix, Microsoft and TimeXtender, for which we provide software, training, consultancy and management services. Together we give your business the tools to create new earning models and save money.