Andy Kelk

Digital Technology Leader


As featured in DataManager magazine in Italy

This week, DataManager magazine in Italy published an interview with me about iProperty, online business and IT in general. You can see the article here: http://www.datamanager.it/rivista/cio/iproperty-il-mercato-immobiliare-va-online

As you’d expect, it’s in Italian, so I’ve put a translation (automated, from Google Translate) here:

 

“The non-technical people are much more aware than before on the technology and how to use it, and technicians in order to survive they must understand how to create business value through technology”

 

The real estate market has always been one of the main markets in the world. Recent analysis showed that the decision of purchasing a home mainly thanks to the new technologies is moving online. In particular, according to the survey, the search of the dream would go more often on behalf of external social networks. Ability to compare prices and technical characteristics, speed in acquiring quotes and information and price transparency are just some of the many benefits that customers can now get from an online purchase. The iProperty.com Group is a leader in the Asian market online, with Web sites owned by leaders in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, India and the Philippines. In 2009, the Group has won the prestigious CNBC Arabiya Asia Pacific Property Awards in the category “Best real estate portal.”We analyzed with Andy Kelk, iProperties IOC to the news in this sector.

 

Data Manager: Can you describe the activity of iProperties? 

Andy Kelk : iProperties is an online media company that operates in real estate in Asia. We offer solutions for real estate agents, builders and other customers who need to reach an audience of property hunters. We have sites with the iProperty.com brand in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines and India as well as in Hong Kong and GoHome.com.hk rumah123.com in Indonesia. 

What is the role of IT?

As with any online organization, the IT sector is strategic for our business and it is very important to me that IT contributes to business growth, in addition to being a service provider. Our scope is very broad – the design, development, hosting and maintenance of websites we build for our customers, we also also tools that allow real estate agents to manage their ads, we offer services such as email, CRM and management of human resources, develop and support the desktop environment for our employees and our 250 staff in 4 countries.

What are your numbers?

The whole group has more than 2.7 million unique visitors each month, with 46 million page views.  
The IT team of about 50 people representing 20% of the total staff group.  
This year the budget for ‘ IT including salaries, hosting costs, licensing costs, and so on is about 850 thousand dollars. 

Your success is tied to having understood the potential of technology as an enabler for business, what are the steps to success? 

Too often there is a gulf between what is happening in the IT industry compared to what happens in the business.There is often a mentality of “us and them”, which insinuates itself without anyone noticing. I think it’s important that IT teams consider themselves part of the business and not as a separate group. 

Internally, we promote cross-collaboration between the IT team and the rest of the business in different ways. Day after day, we develop software using Agile techniques which place great emphasis on the development team and the product of working together to implement projects. Another important factor is good communication about what each department is doing, using tools like Yammer. We also had great success in creating an event of innovation that has enabled the IT team to invest part of their time to think about what technologies could be used to build something that could benefit the company. The winning team has built an Android application for the search of property that has been launched in two of our markets. 

Your company is based in Malaysia, what is the state of the art development in the IT industry in Asia? 

Asia is rapidly developing in all types of industries. The increasing penetration of Internet and mobile Internet, in particular, are driving the growth. MSC Malaysia status is awarded to companies that promote the technology within the country, there are many investments in Singapore, IDA (InfoComm Development Association) to help technology start-ups and Indonesia is experiencing a real boom in the development of Web giants like Yahoo and Google are opening their development centers here.

Of course, all this leads to competition between companies looking to attract talent, but also guide the great technological communities that are settled in the South-East Asian groups dedicated to Web development, Agile development and technology emerging. 

His team works with Agile software development (Scrum in particular), what are your experiences?

The Agile methodology has been introduced over 2 years ago and I find it an excellent tool for developing software. I would not return to a traditional waterfall development model. 

The Agile is widespread, but not always understood, there is no set of practices that can take them and suddenly become “Agile.” Agile is really a philosophy and a set of principles, rather than something that you can simply read from a book and start applying. The collaboration between customer and development team is an aid in the creation of software, reducing feedback loops, and favoring the formation of self-organized groups who take responsibility, rather than relying on structures hierarchical command and control and practice continuous improvement. 

In the methodology we are following Scrum iProperties regarding the mechanisms of realization of a project team and organization. It is also extremely important in engineering practices are sound and able to support a rapid change. For example, Scrum does not say that you should write unit tests for the code, but if you do not, it will be very difficult to make changes in a predictable time, which makes the execution of the project more difficult. 

What are the projects you’re working? 

One of the major areas in which we are very focused on is mobile . With the massive adoption of mobile devices and the possibility of Internet access from phones and tablets, it is essential that we are ready to offer our services in a convenient way for these users. Mobile users are very busy and the United States at least, there are many more hours spent surfing the Internet on mobile devices than on traditional desktop PC and portable devices. 
We are also working on some changes in our hosting infrastructure. We’ve gone from a handful of physical servers to a set of virtual machines and we are starting to move some of our infrastructure in the Cloud with partners such as Amazon. 

From your point of view, what will happen in the IT industry in the near future? 

The biggest change for IT departments will be transformed into service providers. With the availability of new services for our customers (both internal and external), their expectations of what we offer continues to increase. Offering services such as email and CRM business and make them available on the move will increase the growing expectations of our customers. I also see a big change in the alignment between IT and business – the non-technical people are much more aware than before on the technology and how to use it, and technicians in order to survive they must understand how to create business value through technology.


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