AVR Realty Co. Cuts Reporting Times in Half with Spreadsheet Server
- AVR Realty spent 20 days per month on reporting with manual processes.
- After implementing Spreadsheet Server, monthly reporting for the organization’s in-house portfolio was reduced by 10 days.
- The tool has helped AVR Realty’s accountants achieve greater self service without the need for advanced knowledge of MRI.
AVR Realty Company is a leading private real estate development, investment, and management firm. Headquartered in New York, the company spans 20 states and over 70 cities. AVR Realty’s properties include hotels, multifamily apartments, retail centers, office buildings, and ground-up development. Over the firm’s 70-year history, AVR has built its reputation for vision, innovation, and quality.
Challenged by Inefficient Processes
As a business that operates in multiple jurisdictions and asset classes, AVR Realty contends with a variety of moving parts. Prior to 2019, the business ran its reporting through MRI, which was a tricky process that required detailed knowledge of the ERP.
Jennifer Carman, Director of Operations, oversaw the reporting process. Having been an MRI user for 16 years, 8 of which at AVR Realty she had gained an expertise in MRI. However, she was the only person on staff with a detailed knowledge of the ERP system, which required her to work closely with accounting to create reports. With this lack of self service, monthly reporting was a time-consuming process.
“We had come a long way in cleaning up reports and creating financial statements, but it was very basic,” Jennifer said. “MRI has their reports in what’s called financial formats, where you need to create the structure to go with the report. It’s very cumbersome. If you don’t have prior experience with it, it can be really difficult.”
On top of complicated MRI reporting, AVR Realty couldn’t use the ERP to create custom reports. Instead, ad hoc reporting required manipulation in Excel. This was particularly important since AVR Realty’s cross-asset platform aggregates both in-house and externally managed data from third party management companies, necessitating the need for customization.
As a result, reporting was so time consuming that the team wasn’t finished with the process until the 20th of each month. Jennifer and the accounting management team knew MRI alone wasn’t enough to meet AVR Realty’s needs. This is why they set out to find the right tool to give accounting the power to report more independently while streamlining time-consuming processes.
Finding Help in the Nick of Time
When Jennifer and the accounting management team set out to find a reporting solution, the key criteria were flexibility, ease-of-use, and an Excel-based interface. While at an MRI conference, they discovered Spreadsheet Server. Spreadsheet Server offered AVR Realty:
- Greater self-service
- Significant time savings
- Seamless integration with MRI
The discovery came at just the right time–the firm began implementing the solution at the tail end of 2019, just before the pandemic hit. “It was perfect timing when we implemented it and had our training,” Jennifer said. “We were able to create a lot of reports that helped management with monitoring and making decisions during a crucial time. They were concerned with the rent collections every day, so we were able to create a report that showed what was collected by property and by tenant.”
AVR Realty worked closely with its insightsoftware account manager for a smooth implementation. “For me, implementation was easy because I already had a background with MRI,” Jennifer explained. Afterward, AVR Realty hosted staff training so that accountants could quickly get comfortable with the solution.
The company also uses Spreadsheet Server’s Query Designer, which allows users to build their own custom queries. “The training was great; it was very thorough,” said Jennifer. “Then, we got hooked up with our account manager, and we connect whenever we can. We’re constantly thinking of new reports we want to create.”
“Our Accounting Manager, who didn’t have as much experience in MRI, was able to get quickly up and running,” Jennifer continued. “After training, she was able to easily adapt to Spreadsheet Server and Query Designer.”
During a time when digitizing business was crucial, AVR Realty used Spreadsheet Server to save time, create mission-critical reports, and achieve better visibility on its properties. Spreadsheet Server allowed the business to:
- Slash reporting times in half
- Eliminate the need for backup reports
- Give accountants the ability to report without assistance or IT intervention
A Drastic Reduction in Reporting Times
Prior to implementing Spreadsheet Server, AVR Realty spent most of the month finalizing month-end close. But once the business got up and running with Spreadsheet Server, the tool cut AVR Realty’s reporting times clean in half.
“We were lucky to finish reporting by the 20th of each month,” Jennifer explained. “Back then, we didn’t have a complete-looking package. A month ago, we finalized our monthly package for retail. With that and the additions to our work papers for our financials monthly, they’re able to get their financials done by the 10th and then they’re able to report within the next day or two.”
Individual reports also take less time to complete, saving the accounting staff significant amounts of time. “Using Spreadsheet Server, it takes me 30 seconds to update a file whereas it used to take me 5 minutes,” Jennifer added. “If I’m able to reduce even one process from taking 2 minutes to 1 minute, it’ll add up.”
Additionally, AVR Realty has started to roll out Spreadsheet Server to other departments, to assist them in real-time decision making.
Self-Service and Flexibility
Jennifer was the only person on staff with significant expertise on MRI, so she was thoroughly involved in checking the reports the accounting team generated. Additionally, she’s responsible for the operations and lease administration for the AVR Realty retail portfolio. Now, with Spreadsheet Server’s self-service reporting, accountants at AVR Realty can generate more accurate reports on their own.
“My background is heavily involved in operations and lease administration. When reviewing the CAM/Tax recoveries, I used to have to open up the accountants’ work papers, then open up additional MRI reports to compare,” Jennifer said. “We’re human. You can easily type in the wrong number. Your eyes can mess with you and you can put in the wrong line. Spreadsheet Server has made the process so much quicker for our accountants, and it’s made the review process easier for me because I don’t have to double check their numbers. Now, I only have to make sure they’re accruing it correctly, deferring it correctly, and the percentages are correct. It’s helped on both sides.”
“Being able to pull from MRI and update the data quickly is huge from an administrative perspective,” Jennifer continued. “It aids in the day-to-day functions of most people.”
Making Sense of a Chaotic Time
AVR Realty implemented Spreadsheet Server in late 2019 and trained teams on how to use the solution in January of 2020. That year would turn out to be tumultuous, one that demanded companies to scramble to adopt rapid digitization. But because the company had already adopted a solution that helped them report more quickly, smoothly, and independently, AVR Realty was prepared.
“We had a great implementation person who walked us through everything,” Jennifer said. Implementation happened just before COVID hit, then the process continued smoothly. This was critical for the business while it navigated the drastic changes the pandemic presented.
Looking Forward to the Future
Spreadsheet Server has allowed AVR Realty to save a significant amount of time on reporting, freeing up days every month to look ahead. In the future, Jennifer is looking for new ways to leverage Spreadsheet Server and Query Designer.
Her next project is adding new pages and new fields so that they have more details in MRI to pull and create reports from by using Spreadsheet Server. Tax season is still stressful–the business does tax returns annually that incorporate multiple entities. Currently, the organization does its taxes manually, but Jennifer is looking to take the time she’s saved on reporting to streamline this process for an easier, cleaner, and more accurate tax process.
With the time the firm has freed up with Spreadsheet Server, AVR Realty has become more proactive. When it used to be bogged down by manual processes that required thorough double checking and heavy supervision, the accounting team now has a tool at their disposal to report more quickly, accurately, and independently.
Because we’ve added Spreadsheet Server, we’ve reduced the number of actual reports we run in MRI. We’ve cut out probably five to six reports that we used to run as additional backup because it’s all pulling from Spreadsheet Server. We no longer need the backup.