With a stock of over 70,000 apartments in Berlin, Gewobag is one of the largest housing companies in Germany. In cooperation with the Munich-based PropTech Wohnungshelden, the 100-year-old Berlin-based company with a long tradition has now digitalised its rental process. We talked to project manager Norman Schönemann about their joint success story.
Mr. Schönemann, at what point in your company did you decide to tackle the issue of digitalization?
The impulse did not come from outside, but directly from within: We noticed that our processes are becoming increasingly multi-faceted and that the political demands on us as a state-owned housing construction company are also growing. Our existing processes were not always able to meet these demands efficiently enough. So it was clear: We need different solutions and digital support!
Could you give us an example of how your processes looked like before and what has changed due to the software from Wohnungshelden?
Yes, gladly! It can happen, for example, that existing tenants are moved to other apartments in the meantime due to renovation measures. This process was previously associated with many open coordinates and questions – not least a lot of paper. Today, we can digitally record conversion requirements including all parameters such as living space size and furnishings with just a few clicks. The requests are then assigned to specific priorities. If there is then a vacant apartment, we can immediately identify tenants with special needs and offer them the apartment.
Is the interface to the Wohnungshelden system visible to your customers?
Interested parties can view current rental offers online on our website. If they contact us and express their interest, we will ask them for the first necessary information about the Wohnungshelden system. The interface here runs smoothly.
Why did you decide to get external support from a startup regarding digitalisation?
The focus of our work as a state-owned housing association is primarily the creation of affordable housing for the growing city of Berlin. The development of software products like this one cannot be done in-house. After a public tendering process with various applicants, we decided in favour of Wohnungshelden because their product is very modern and intuitive to use. The team spirit of the Wohnungshelden also convinced us in the cooperation. They have developed the system in accordance with our individual company requirements – and they have done so quickly and reliably. In our opinion, the fact that this is a start-up was neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, especially since the Wohnungshelden had other well-known customers in the German housing market in their portfolio before.
How can we imagine the process of your cooperation more precisely?
The Wohnungshelden have created a product for us according to our individual needs: The basic functionality of the software was modified for our purposes with various extensions and adjustments. This adaptation process of the product was an iterative, agile procedure. We organized several joint workshops, in which the Wohnungshelden worked with us to implement some ideas and discarded some. That takes courage! At the end of this process, exactly the product that we wanted was created.
That sounds as if, from today’s perspective, you definitely consider the cooperation a success story.
Definitely! We felt right from the start that we had the right project partner for the development of this product at our side in the form of the Wohnungshelden. The product adapts its framework to our needs and not the other way around. This is not always the case. In addition, I was personally impressed how the team saw the cooperation as a win-win situation. The housing heroes are a fair project partner for us, and a sustainable approach to us as customers is important to them.
Are there points where a 100-year-old company can learn from a young start-up?
The Wohnungshelden are very dynamic and open for new challenges. They simply go along when the world changes and ideas are added or rejected. As a large company, it helps to look there in order to stay agile.
What are your plans for the future together?
We will further develop the functions of the system from the experience of live operation and use the current status as a basis to enable new functions, e.g. we are planning to call up creditworthiness information via the system Wohnungshelden in real time and offer additional services for interested parties and customers.