As an integral developer, Blauwhoed focuses on (re)development, sales and realisation of housing and commercial real estate in several locations in the Netherlands. In close collaboration with clients and partners, Blauwhoed works on projects, transformations, proprietary concepts and initiatives, for the purpose of creating surprising habitats and work and leisure environments.
Unlike many of its competitors, Blauwhoed is not tied to a portfolio with land purchased in the past, which makes it possible to operate freely on the market. Projects are set up and implemented starting from the needs of future residents and users. They have an important role in what future living and working environments will look like. Due to this co-creation, housing and/or office space on offer will sell much faster. Available units are often sold-out within two months, after which construction/transformation can commence.
Effectively addressing the demand for living and working space calls for a modern approach. Through the crowdbuilding.nl website, Blauwhoed conducts an online search for people with similar wishes regarding housing or office space. As soon as a group of like-minded people is found that is big enough, it is taken offline, upon which Blauwhoed will engage in a dialogue, identifying the needs of individual participants. Subsequently, the search for a suitable location and/or premises is started.
Since 2007, Blauwhoed has a flat hierarchical structure. Projects are managed by a development manager. He/she is responsible for acquisition, realisation through co-creation, planning supervision and profit forecasts. Furthermore, he/she engages Studio Blauw for the creative and visual part (construction and environment drawings) and closely collaborates with sales managers and the legal department.
Blauwhoed focused its business model in 2010. Compared to its prior activities as a full-service agency with long development processes (two years of preparation prior to construction and an after-care period up to five years), these days much more time is devoted to the preparatory phase (together with the contractor, architect and final purchasers). As a project developer, Blauwhoed delivers land or real estate to purchasers, the contractor takes care of construction. As soon as the latter is completed, Blauwhoed bids farewell.
We spoke with Joke Oosterbaan-van Dis, who has been active as a financial controller within Blauwhoed since 1989.
With a project portfolio as sizable as Blauwhoed’s, having a good overview is of vital importance. How does Blauwhoed ensure this?
Joke: “Documents are collected in SharePoint in a project’s preparatory phase. Subsequently, they are classified based upon their necessity. Having a good overview is crucial, which is why all acquisition and project documents are accessible to all employees. To ensure continuity and history, all documents must be filed in the system. Each quarter the forecast management of a given project is discussed separately.”
What about the financial part? How is it processed?
Joke: “For that purpose, we use Dynamics NAV, in which all financial administration records are kept. Each quarter, all development managers enter their planning and forecasts, for example when objects will be sold, when construction commences and the date of final delivery. Each project forecast is regularly updated, thus ensuring up-to-date insight in costs and profits. These figures are the basis for management reports and cashflow forecasts, which are discussed each quarter with the management and shareholders of Blauwhoed.”
“We use Dynamics NAV for this. This is where all financial administration is kept. All development managers enter their own quarterly planning and forecasts here, for example, when objects go on sale, construction starts and when the final delivery takes place. The prognosis of each project is regularly updated, so that we always have up-to-date insight into costs and profits. These figures are the basis for management reports and cash flow forecasts, they are discussed every quarter with Blauwhoed’s management and shareholders.”
Which other software do you use?
Joke: “We experienced some limitations in our daily use of NAV, because we want to store more information than NAV permits us. Which is why we, in addition to NAV, also work with Eyemove and ABS, a CRM database. HB Software has built Exsion models around this, starting from our wishes in terms of reporting functionalities. I am responsible for maintaining and updating the Exsion models.”
How do you like working with Exsion?
Joke: “It is fine as is, although Excel shuts down sometimes, for reasons I cannot explain. Furthermore, the performance is low occasionally, but I do not know whether Exsion is to blame for that. I also pay attention to how to better represent our data, to make them visually appealing. It goes without saying, that I work within a company perspective – I submit declarations and create formal reports, in which I use a great deal of data that can also be used for analysis. This can partially be done in Excel, but doing so has its limitations where dynamic analysis is concerned. (editor’s note: meanwhile, Blauwhoed has started with a Power BI pilot).
How long has it been since Blauwhoed started to use Exsion?
Joke: “Quite a long time, actually. We started with the first Exsion reports nearly 10 years ago. Within Blauwhoed, we use many different limited companies for real estate project development, each of them with its own current account relationship. We have used Exsion to identify them. At the time, it was one of the first reports made. But we also have to submit VAT and corporate tax declarations for these several hundreds of limited companies, as well as a report to the supervisory board, for example, the profit and loss account. For this purpose, as well as consolidation, we also use Exsion Corporate.”
That is quite a lot of reports. How many Exsion models do you use in total?
Joke: “Approximately 30.”
Which Exsion models are used most frequently?
Joke: “The forecast model, which contains 15 sheets that use Exsion to retrieve data from NAV. This is the basis used to, amongst others, create the profit and loss account, in the form of forecasts and targets. Where necessary, it is marginally supplemented by manual input. Because Blauwhoed deals with approximately 140 companies, a concentrated-level profit and loss formula is not reliable enough, adding manual input is a workable solution.
Based on planning and forecasts, I draw up a cashflow forecast for each project for the next three years, which are read into the system. A system dump is the basis for a liquidity forecast, combined with several costs unrelated to projects, such as organisational costs, financial burden and repayment on loans. The forecast model is vital to Blauwhoed, it allowed us to already calculate our current situation a year and a half ago.”
What can be expected in the near future?
Joke: “We plan to hire a data analyst soon, who will be tasked with examining how to retrieve more information from available internal and external data, thus gaining clearer insight in purchasers and their needs and desires.
We aim to use data analysis to inform potential purchasers about their needs and desires, in Facebook style. Think of people who have registered themselves on project websites and submitted personal data, for example their family composition, budget and suchlike.
You could use all available data to create a predictive capacity. However, this approach is entirely new and time will tell whether this will help to achieve the desired outcome.”
What about co-creation? Will it be done digitally in the future?
Joke: “Absolutely. We are currently exploring how to use data analysis for this purpose. Blauwhoed will continue to innovate co-creation.
We are working hard on its digitalisation. At the moment, co-creation primarily is physical in nature, for example, you host three nights with Q&A sessions, which can also be done online.”
This case is taken from the book ‘Reporting Refreshed – Financial Experts Speak’