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PAYAPPS USER GROUP 2021

Payapps
User Group
Sessions

PUG 2021

Payapps User Group 2021.
Speakers: Tony Simonsen, Kylie Archer, John Hodgkinson, Tom Littlehales, Mark Ballinger, Scott Lockwood.

Timings:
Mark Ballinger: 0:02:43 to 0:31:37
John Hodgkinson: 0:31:45 to 0:50:40
Tom Littlehales: 0:51:34 to 0:56:25
Kylie Archer: 0:56:35 to 1:12:07
Q&A 1:12:32 onwards

Tony:

Payapps user group meeting, which as you'll hear throughout the conversations is the first one we've done in a few years. So we're excited to be here, to talk to you all and share a number of the things we're doing in our business and allow you to also hear some really important information from our customers and partners.

Tony:

First, let me start with an acknowledgement of country though. And in the spirit of reconciliation, Payapps acknowledges the traditional custodians of the country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community.

Tony:

We pay our respects to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres State Islanders and peoples today. Can you believe it's four years since we first had our last Payapps user group meeting? And whilst to be fair to say, we've never lost our focus on providing a great experience for our customers. We did lose a bit of a focus on this environment and we wanted to make sure that we got back to that intense focus on you today.

Tony:

With the sessions today, we're reigniting that focus on you all and your ability to connect with us in a more intimate manner. In that ensuing four years, our business has expanded geographically to the United Kingdom and New Zealand and has brought to market many new features and many of which you have driven with your feedback to us over that period of time.

Tony:

We've got a great lineup of people speaking today, starting with Mark Ballinger, our head of product, who will take us through a journey through the past and into the future.

Tony:

Next up you'll hear from John Hodkinson from Kreisson's lawyers who will give us some perspective around digitizing the electronic signature process and the claims process from a legal perspective, following John will be Tom Littlehouse. Who'll be providing a view from the field as a user of our platform.

Tony:

And finally, following Tom will be Kylie Archer from Roberts & company who be giving us a view of our industry. And in particular, the challenges and opportunities we're all facing today.

Tony:

Lastly, there will be an opportunity for you to participate in a panel Q&A with all of the speakers today. So I look forward to hearing from you all, and hopefully those questions will fly thick and fast and allow us to get some great communication back to you. So let me hand over to Mark now. So as our first speaker, who will take us through past, present and future for the Payapps platform.

Mark Ballinger:

Originally, we did intend to have this as an in-person event and a bit longer format. So unfortunately it's going to be crammed little bit into a faster overview. So what I will encourage you to do is if there's anything in here that you wanted more information on, that we don't cover, please do reach out through your account management team or through our support team.

Mark Ballinger:

And certainly we'll get you more information. So we are squeezing a lot in. So what I thought I'd do is try and give you some insights as to what we're doing as an organization to try and make sure that we continue to drive benefit for you as our customers, and a little bit of a focus on some of the initiatives we've got on that front with a bit of a mix of what have we done in the last 12 months or so, and what's coming.

Mark Ballinger:

A couple of things I'll do in terms of initiatives, we've got to scale. As we grow, we want to make sure that we can maintain the business benefit you're getting from the system. We want to make sure that we're still fast to market living up to our high levels of service that we want to provide.

Mark Ballinger:

It starts off with the product management team. Just want to touch briefly on that. We have scaled up the number of people in that team to add capacity. We've got product managers now by region. One in the UK, one here in Australia.

Mark Ballinger:

The customer success team, likewise, we have increased both number of account managers and also the support team. Our engineering team, we've also beefed up including getting some of our founding members back, which has been awesome. We've certainly got some mojo back in that area.

Mark Ballinger:

We've got a dedicated UI and design team. So a couple of people that really focus on the look and feel of Payapps that has historically been one of our strong suits and one that we are certainly keen to make sure that we stay at the forefront of being a very easy to use system.

Mark Ballinger:

And obviously that is really important as we get rolled out on project after project new subcontractors that haven't necessarily used us before. The system has to be really easy to pick up and use. And it also makes it really easy for our enterprise customers as you're rolling out, there's very limited training involved or needed to get your team up to speed and firing.

Mark Ballinger:

Likewise, we're also increasing our focus on subcontractors. We even have a dedicated sales team now focused on subcontractors because when we built the product, we also built it in a way that a subcontractor can use this independently of a builder mandating it.

Mark Ballinger:

We've got a number of subcontractors that are using it for managing all of their contracts, regardless of whether their builders are Payapps customers or not. And another one that comes in into play here is on partnership front. We do integrate with a number of different systems. We've always had that partnership mentality. We're a niche product. We want to be the best at what we do, but as part of that, we do partner with a number of different organizations. Historically, that's fallen on the likes of myself, Scott, Tony, we're actually bringing in somebody to head up that role because we do see it as strategically very important to us. And it requires a dedicated focus.

Mark Ballinger:

So couple of business metrics, and there's probably a lot of things I could drag up here, but I've just chosen to give a couple of really quick ones. So I don't bore you to tears with data, but system performance, I'll talk to first. We do see performance as a feature. So what we do is we monitor on an ongoing basis, the number of requests that are coming in by the system we manage, we monitor the response time that we have for those.

Mark Ballinger:

We aim to keep the average response time to less than a hundred milliseconds or a 10th of a second. So that concept of a request, there might be a few of those on a single page load as you're navigating throughout the application, but we want it to be a snappy experience. No-one wants a kind of system where they click a button, look at the ceiling count to five and then come back to it.

Mark Ballinger:

So it's an internal KPI we have. We report monthly, even up to board level on that. So it is really important to us. And as we see trends appearing in those metrics, we will dive down into which are the particular areas that are starting to slow down. If that's the situation and we'll take action accordingly.

Mark Ballinger:

In terms of customer growth, again, there's probably all sorts of charts I could have thrown on this. I thought what I'd just put out there very briefly is we've roughly doubled the number of contracts under management and value of those. We've grown by over 50% in terms of users and claim volumes being processed through the system in the past two years, that's been displayed up there.

Mark Ballinger:

And then if you look on the right here in the blue, this represents how many support conversations we're getting through that in-app chat. Which is basically that mechanism we use for customers to engage with us. And you'll see, that's also increased albeit nowhere near the same degree.

Mark Ballinger:

So the customer success team, what I will say is when we first launched Payapps, we were really keen to shake up the traditional model of how software is supported. We wanted that intimate, real time, quick feedback, as opposed to send an email and hope you get a response.

Mark Ballinger:

So our support function is something we're incredibly proud of the metrics I've got up here, show you the quarter to the end of September. Our first response, our median time for that, just over a minute, we do aim to try and be at around about the minute mark, so that if you've got an issue at the software or how to use it, you're not waiting forever. You can get quick response, the median time to close as the average time it takes to get that thing sorted to so that everyone's good and back to work.

Mark Ballinger:

And on the right hand side here, you can see the satisfaction. Many of you've probably been through this process with yourself. If you've contacted our support team, we'll send out little things saying how do we do? And whilst that's an optional thing to respond to that is live data in terms of the sort of satisfaction rate we get from that. And if I compare that to the full 12 months to that end of September date, you'll see that the timing here is pretty consistent and that level of satisfaction, likewise, and the tool that we use for managing that in-app chat and all that sort of stuff. I can only get metrics for the last two years. So there it is there. And again, you're seeing that very consistent level of support. We're actually really proud of that. Our team pride themselves on their responsiveness and doing a good job for our customers. And we're very keen to keep up that level of service as well.

Mark Ballinger:

Process and initiatives, I thought I'd dwell on a couple of bits here to give you some insights as to how we work, just so that you've got an understanding of that. It's a pretty busy diagram, so I won't go into it in great detail, but suffice to say that there's all sorts of sources of product initiatives that come in, obviously you guys, importantly, at the top, there is our customers giving us feedback on what it's like to use the system. "We need more of this." "This part here is a bit frustrating," whatever it might be, or "it'd be great if you could do this," our sales team also get that from prospects. Our support team will cover that a little bit more as well. We also need to keep up with what competitors are doing, all that sort of stuff.

Mark Ballinger:

And regulatory requirements obviously is a big one. So when we get all of that, there's no shortage of things that we could do, but what should we do? It really comes into, first of all, we've got to understand what it is that we're being asked for.

Mark Ballinger:

Well, that regulatory requirements are saying that we have to do, challenging that. So asking questions, making sure we understand it, making sure we understand the value proposition of it to make sure that it's something we should be focused on. Does it fit properly with what pays does as a product, or is it potentially the domain of a well established product? And, you know, we don't want to reinvent wheels. As part of that, once we have that proper understanding, assessing the opportunity. So how many customers are actually going to benefit from this, right? Because the overarching principle that we try and live up to here is "the greatest positive impact for the greatest number of customers."

Mark Ballinger:

And we also need to assess how hard is it going to be to deliver that. Once we've got that understanding, it really comes down to comparing the value of that potential feature or initiative compared to the effort required.

Mark Ballinger:

If it's high value and low effort, then absolutely get it done, get it done quickly where we can likewise sticking to high value. So if it's high value, even though it's a high effort, we'll get that into the hopper next, if it's low value, but easy to do, we'll probably do it. And if it's low value and it's high effort, then it's probably not worth our while or yours.

Mark Ballinger:

That tends to be the process that we follow. And as we go through that process, once we do have that understanding and we've identified what we are going to focus on, it really comes into to letting you, our customers, and the market at large know what's happening.

Mark Ballinger:

And that's through a mix of marketing, you'd probably be familiar with the release notes, those little pop up messages,

Mark Ballinger:

"Hey, we've just introduced this recently," that sort of thing.

Mark Ballinger:

We'll have knowledge articles so that people can get self help if they need to and planning out the roadmap, which I'm going to. I'll say that we haven't done a great job in recent times of publishing a roadmap, but this initiative is part of trying to give you more visibility of what's coming.

Mark Ballinger:

A couple other things that we are doing at the moment, how do we collaborate with you, the customer, and how do we get your feedback to make sure that we're delivering the right stuff into the product to maximize the business benefits from it? Right. Historically account management has been the way we get that from our enterprise customers.

Mark Ballinger:

There's few enough customers that we can have that personal conversation to get that sort of feedback on a periodic basis. But that is more heavily weighted towards our builders. From a subcontractor's perspective, there's a heat more sub users than there are builders.

Mark Ballinger:

Getting that feedback, it's pretty hard to do one-on-one sort of conversations. One of the things we do there is as we get any support interaction we have from subcontractors, we actually tag each of those conversations.

Mark Ballinger:

As we close them out to say this one related to somebody needed to know about how to release a renewal request, a retention release, or how to raise a variation or whatever the case might be. We tag those things so that we can analyze the patterns that we're getting through there. And that is one of those things that feeds back into the identifying opportunities within the product.

Mark Ballinger:

That on the left is more of the sort of historical and well-established methods, couple of new things. We are trying NPS or net promoter score surveys. This is a new initiative.

Mark Ballinger:

Previously we've done a couple of exercises where we've done a, I'll call it a broad brush, sort of in-app message where we've said, "Hey, what do you think about using Payapps" and everything from love heart eyes down to angry faces and emotive response we've then consolidated that feedback. We've analyzed it. We've tried to survey customers at different ends of whether they were happy or whether they weren't happy, that sort of stuff.

Mark Ballinger:

And we've tried to do that on a six monthly basis. The problem with that is it's a heap of work when it's lumped up like that. It tends to be every six months and it's problematic trying to get back to everyone who has responded to you to make sure that you're actually following up on that feedback in a meaningful way.

Mark Ballinger:

Whilst it worked okay, we're looking for better ways to do it. We've in introduced a new tool now where it enables us to segment our customer base. And we'll say subcontractors within Australia, New Zealand, subcontractors within the UK, those that have been with us for X period of time, et cetera.

Mark Ballinger:

And it'll send out a random selection of people within those segments and say, "Hey, would you recommend using Payapps to a friend or a colleague?" "how likely are you to recommend" anything from a zero to a 10 out of 10. And based on that, it will potentially follow up a couple of extra questions.

Mark Ballinger:

And it gives us a chance to get feedback from our customer base, but on a more what I'll call a systemized consistent trickle feed, something that's manageable for us to do that we can then consistently try and make improvements to this product rather than a bulk splash, and then try and assess all that information all at once.

Mark Ballinger:

So a bit more manageable. The last one I'll touch on here is surveys. And in that prompts. Some of you on this call, I'm hoping would've received a survey recently in regard to our payment schedules and some changes we're proposing to make to that.

Mark Ballinger:

We've identified certainly within our enterprise customers, what we call a product champion, which is somebody that is knowledgeable in Payapps and basically has authority within their organization to give feedback on what that organization to wants from Payapps. Rather than having 300 different contract administrators, project managers, all sort of throwing their ideas into the mix and potentially not necessarily aligned with the powers that be within each organization, we've tried to filter that down so that we've got a small number of go-to people within each organization that we can say, "what's most important to you guys."

Mark Ballinger:

As we identify initiatives where we're trying to get customer feedback, we're going to reach out to these people to say, look, "here's what we're intending to do. Give us your feedback. What are your thoughts on this?"

Mark Ballinger:

Whether it be a selection of questions or we've got some mockups of some prototypes of what we're thinking of implementing this feature, we're keen to get feedback. We're trying to set up that sort of point people within each of the organizations to be able to get rapid feedback and to make sure that as we have more and more customers, we're still getting a decent cross section of feedback from across our customer base.

Mark Ballinger:

In our early days, it was really easy. We only had a handful people or a handful of builders that we were working with because there weren't many conversations to have. Now that there's over a hundred builders on the platform, it's harder to do that in just conversations. So we're trying to find those ways where we can get a good volume of data and basically bring that back into a manageable format to make sure we're giving a representative view of the world. What have we been doing in 2021?

Mark Ballinger:

There's a reasonable number of items on there. And I won't talk to every single one of them. What I will do is say that we do have a bit of regional flavor in some of the work that we've done this year.

Mark Ballinger:

You see Australia, New Zealand up here and the UK down here, the bulk of what we want to do as a product and as a provider is to have all the functionality in the middle. So basically universally desirable features that is not region specific. basically where it just makes the whole process more efficient and there's a benefit to everybody. However, there are some regional specifics that we've got to cater for. So for example, down here that reverse charge was a thing in the UK where essentially the builder has to pay GST equivalent to the tax office, as opposed to paying it out as part of the invoice to the subcontractor bits and pieces like that.

Mark Ballinger:

A couple of things I'll just focus on certainly maturity of the product in the UK market was a focus for this year. There was a few market nuances that we needed to get done. Some of those will have benefits to the Australian and New Zealand market as well. Likewise, you'll see a bit of a flavor through there on security and performance.

Mark Ballinger:

So multifactor authentication coming through here, we've done this white box penetration test. So again, getting an external body to come in and see if they can break our system. And for those who don't know white box based means you hand them a copy of the source code, which is a bit like getting schematics to the safe and saying "see if you can break in" essentially.

Mark Ballinger:

It's part of an ongoing focus to make sure that the system is robust, that you can rely on it and that we can keep moving forward.

Mark Ballinger:

Some of these features you may not have heard of before. In some instances we have done what we call a soft launch of a feature where we might give that out to one or two builders and say, "Yep, turn that on, see how that goes." Or we might limit it to a certain country. For example, tier of retention, we launched in Q1, in New Zealand only.

Mark Ballinger:

So anything calculation wise there's a lot of transactions and a lot of value goes through Payapps each and every month we want to make sure we've got that a hundred percent right. That was a case of, "have we got this process right?" Tested that in New Zealand, it worked really well. And now it's been rolled into general availability.

Mark Ballinger:

What else can I say, public APIs? I do want to touch on that. This is really focused on enabling our customers to pull data out of Payapps. So we've got a handful of customers already using those to pull data out into their own business intelligence and reporting capabilities.

Mark Ballinger:

It will also enable additional integrations, which is important. So where somebody's using a backend system, that is not one of our strategic partners, there's the potential to build integrations using our public APIs in that regard. And most recently I'll cover progress pay on the next slide, but we've gone through a legal review. And John from Kreisson who will speak later was certainly part of that.

Mark Ballinger:

We've gone through that. That also leads into some of the work that we're doing on the payment schedules. Just a bit of a refresh on that.

Mark Ballinger:

The workflow reassignment is something that we've had customers ask for, for quite some time. Where you've got a two, three, four, however many stage review process for claims coming through this now gives you the ability, so you will approve number three out of four, and you identify something not being right. Maybe you don't like the modification or reason that the contract administrator has put through. Saying "I want you to tighten that up a bit," whatever the case might be, you can say, "right. Send that back to somebody on the level before me," It'll send it back, give them an email and have a message in there for them. It gives you that greater flexibility, basically, just to manage that workflow and also educate people earlier in that review process.

Mark Ballinger:

I'll touch briefly on overlapping AFPs for those who don't know, that's the UK vernacular for a claim application for payment, the regulations over there basically allow a builder to more time to approve than the regular claim cycle.

Mark Ballinger:

Okay. So you can potentially have 25 business days to issue a payment notice or payment schedule, but yet they've got to provide a claim every 20 days. So they need the ability for subcontractors to submit a claim before the last one's been assessed. That is controlled via a feature flag on the organization.

Mark Ballinger:

It has to be enabled in order for the subcontractor to be able to submit that next claim where it will have a benefit for all customers, not just the UK is very shortly, we'll be turning that on so that subcontractors can be drafting the next claim, even while they're waiting for a builder to assess. So mid-month a subcontractor can be going in saying, "well, I've done that bit of work. I've done that bit of work," and they're at least tallying up, enabling them to do their claim incrementally if they choose to, rather than having to wait for the builder to approve, then jump in, update all the information and submit the next month. So hopefully smooth that process make life easier for our subcontractors.

Mark Ballinger:

So that's a quick fire pass of the last nine to 12 months. What's the focus as we move towards 2022? Progress pay, I'll touch on that. That is a partnership initiative for subbie finance. Basically it helps subcontractors with cash flow management. It is integrated with Payapps from a builder perspective, it's maintaining a healthy supply chain.

Mark Ballinger:

Making sure people have cash when they need it from a subbie's perspective, it's completely optional. It's done at the claim level. So there's no minimum commitments, gives them maximum flexibility. In that regard, it is competitively priced and it still requires an approval by the builder. So it still has that level of control in it and is in keeping with that whole collaboration focus that we've got. Public APIs, the beta program. I mentioned public API.

PART 1 OF 4 ENDS [00:23:04]
Mark Ballinger:

Public APIs, the beta program. I mentioned public APIs on the previous slide, that was to pull information out of Payapps, and that's readily available. Contact your account manager again, if you're interested in that. The beta program refers to pushing data into Payapps. So having an external system over here, that can then say, okay, create this project or create this contract in Payapps. So we're working with a couple of partners on that at the moment, with a view to making that generally available in 2022. It also opens the door for additional third party integrations. So we see that as part of expanding the ecosystem of systems, that we can play with, which is really quite exciting.

Mark Ballinger:

I'll touch briefly on self-managed contracts. It's going to be an increased focus in 2022 as well. Like I said, that's the feature that allows subcontractors to use Payapps a standalone system. They also use their... Collaboratively, with builders that are our customers. But where a builder is not one of our customers, they can still use Payapps for managing those claims. And we're definitely experiencing some growth in demand for that product or that feature, which is great. Bank guarantees, another partnership initiative. This one, via Assuro. Assuro basically have their own platform that allows somebody to apply for a bank guarantee completely online, and in minutes. Okay? So it's roughly half the cost of the four major banks and there is an additional discount offered for Payapps customers. So that's part of our initiative to offer additional value to our subcontractors, and builders for that matter.

Mark Ballinger:

So we see that as a genuinely, everybody wins type solution, backed by a major bank. Payment schedule amendments. Sorry, I'm aware I'm going through this at pace, but we can follow up with more information in subsequent meetings. Again, reach out to your account management team for that. But the payment schedule amendments. So we've basically done a periodic review just to make sure that we're still up to date with all the latest regulations, that we've got our terminology right. We're going to give it a little bit of a visual refresh as well, try and some of the things a bit easier to read, make it easier to identify where something has been assessed at a different value to what's been claimed, things like that. Okay? So that's incorporating some customer feedback, a legal review that we've done, and generally, it's time we looked at this again. Okay?

Mark Ballinger:

What else was I going to say in here? Procore financials. Starting to see a significant uptake of Procore in Australia and New Zealand, particularly New Zealand, so that's another strategic initiative that we're looking to introduce. Okay? So into 2022 Q1, so I'll be relatively specific on the first quarter because obviously it's closer and easier to see, and we've done more work on what we're going to be doing there. Out beyond that, it's a little bit vaguer, but certainly part of our intent. So I'll go through a couple of these in particular. The sub declarations, this is something that we've reached out to our subcontractor base and basically put one of those little in out messages in the system on the compliance page and said, "If we could auto-generate these things and give you a digital signature, would that be a value to you?" And it's the most overwhelming response we've ever had on one of those. We've very much a 10 to one in favor, so we're keen to do that. We also think that is going to be a benefit to builders, that review and collect those declarations.

Mark Ballinger:

It does have some implications for us in the design side of things, so we're probably going to need to... This is probably, with our compliance setup. So when you configure a standard compliance at an organizational level, that then flows through into each year contracts that get created. We'll need to introduce some sort of concept of a state level, or this thing specific to a certain state, for example, given that the declaration requirements between states are a bit different. In fact, I do have a question here and hopefully Vince, you're on standby for this. Well, I'll say when we implement digital signatures on these things, from a builder's perspective, those of you that are logged on, looking at this, if we can have a declaration auto generated so that all the words are stock standard, it's pre-filled with the relevant business information and everything of the user logged in, and that can be a digital signature, would you want those to be auto verified?

Mark Ballinger:

So those familiar with our compliance functionality, basically, would you want to still cite that? Or would you be able to say, "Well, I know it's auto generated, it's been digitally signed, so lock it in and move on." Okay. So you should have had something just appear in your screen, so if you could take a moment to do that. And I've mentioned that as state level specific. The other potential that we've got in there, or some of the requests we've had in the past, is could we set up that compliance requirements by legal entity? So curious or keen to know whether you, as our customers, would value that or not. So, if you could also fill that question in for us too. So if you've got multiple legal entities set up, potentially having different compliance requirements based on which legal entity the project relates to.

Mark Ballinger:

Okay, so if you could fill those in. I'm not sure how long that's going to stay up there for, but I'm going to get rid of mine, so I don't leave witness. Couple other ones on there, variation collaboration. It's a huge area. It's something that is incredibly important to us. We're very mindful that, at the moment, you can issue... Or as a builder, you can add variations onto a contract pretty much at any time, but the subcontractor won't see them until they're submitting their claim. Likewise, from a subcontractor's perspective, you can't... From a sub's perspective, you can't raise a variation unless you're submitting a claim, whereas we all know that variation can crop up at any time during a claim cycle. So if subcontractors submitted their claim, they're waiting on the assessment from the builder, the ability for a sub to say, "Okay, I've been instructed to do this, or I believe I need to do that." Whatever it might be.

Mark Ballinger:

So the mechanism to be able to raise those things, submit them to the builder, independent of a claim, have separate workflows around that. And there's a whole bag of sort of requirements that we're reviewing, and that is something that absolutely we'd be keen to get some customer feedback on. What I would encourage you, is if any of that sort of stuff on that page is of particular interest to you, can you please reach out to your account manager and tell them the specific things that you're keen to be involved in? Because we're keen to make sure that we are getting feedback as early as possible, from our customer base. So we're making this as the product, the best it can be and as relevent as it can be. Okay? And trying to do the right things in the right order.

Mark Ballinger:

So at a high level on the right, I just touched very briefly, integrations. It is core to what we do, okay? I think being a best in class product, we really want to be able to integrate well with different third party software. We have quite a lot of that at the moment, as a continuing focus. I mentioned the partnerships, not just from an integration perspective, but also the value ads, like the progress pay and the bank guarantee side of stuff. We'll look to expand on those. Reporting and business analytics is a huge one. Really keen to get some level of visualization in the system. There's a lot of data in there now. Particularly if you've been a Payapps customer for the last several years, there's a whole rich set of data that you can now start to get some value from and we're keen to expose that.

Mark Ballinger:

The upstream, or what we call roll ups, keen to explore that and see what people think. That's really the ability, if you're managing all your downstream contracts and you want to be able to roll up some of those values into your upstream claims to your clients. And ISO 27,001, that's partly why we've been doing so much work on the security and the performance and all that other sort of stuff, to make sure that we've got all our ducks in a row, so that as we go towards that certification, we've got that covered. And that's pretty much it for me. I've spoken at you for best part of 30 minutes. I think I stayed on time, but apologies for making it very shallow depth of information on each item. But more than happy to have follow-up sessions with people [inaudible 00:31:34] I'll hand over to, I believe John, next.

John:

My name's John Hodgkinson. Mark, will you give me a thumbs up if my voice is coming through loud and clear. Thank you. I am based in New South Wales, but I've worked onsite for clients in Northern territory, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and made quick running trips to global states to help clients with construction contract issues. So today, I'm going to talk about the rules for electronic documentation in every state. We're not identical. Security payments laws in each state is a little bit different in particular, and has its own particular nuances. So one of the first portions I have to give to everyone listening today, is to take some degree of care to ensure that you understand the local nuances of electronic signature, particularly in relation to security payments plans in your particular jurisdiction, where you live or where your business is located.

John:

So I'll be talking ahead for a little while. However, after this presentation, there'll be some papers that I'll be able to distribute, where you'll be able to keep all your results for future reference. They'll also be up on our website, the Kreisson website, where you can obtain them by demand. The principle focus of today's talk, is on electronic transactions. Electronic transactions are valid, how you sign them, how you exchange them. And we'll go on a couple of little journeys about the trips and traps involved in using electronic forms of contracting, other than the old fashioned paper kind. For some years, everyone's been familiar with buying things online, buying things off eBay or Amazon, signing [inaudible 00:33:53] it's day to day, familiar for most people. So practically, no one should be concerned that electronic contracting is not perfectly valid. There's lots of case law through Australian courts and overseas, verifying that the use of electronic communication in statutory or contractual context, is perfectly appropriate and valid.

John:

Most of the cases relate to the use of email communication, but other forms of electronic communication through platforms like Payapps, is quite appropriate. There's a famous New South Wales case where the judge said, literally, and this is a direct quote, "To my mind, it is nonetheless writing, if it appears on a computer screen." I can't think of a prettier statement to explain that electronic documentation is as good as paper. Conversely, an electronic signature is as good as a wedding signature, in most cases. There are a few trips and buts in relation to that, but we'll move onto that a little bit later in this presentation.

John:

About 20 years ago, the commission on international trade law passed a model law about electronic commerce, which was adopted in Australia in the electronic transactions legislation that was adopted in every state, and in the common law. It provides a framework for the electronic transaction of commerce in this country. It's got four main objectives. To recognize the importance of the information economy in modern times, to promote and facilitate the use of electronic transactions rather than paper documentation, to promote business confidence in the electronic forms of communication rather than the postal system or the fax or the telex or whatever was 20th century technology, and also to promote the more common usage of electronic platforms like Payapps, in the transaction of business. That legislation preserves legal rules. It doesn't change any laws. It doesn't change how you form a contract. Doesn't change the five essential elements of a good contract. Doesn't change any of the statutory rules about security of payments or payment claims or payment schedules. It simply allows electronic documentation, electronic systems to be substitute of paper systems.

John:

The term, electronic communications, in the legislation, is very broadly defined. It basically allows the communication of any form of information by quote, guided or unguided electromagnetic energy. There is no more broadly defined term that I can think of, about how one considers electronic communication. That seems wide enough to cover radio telegraphy, any satellite communication, which all relies on different wavelengths. Broadband fiber communication. Telex. Does anyone remember a telex machine? Faxes, emails and all sorts of shared collaboration platforms. It is the broadest possible definition that's been adopted to use it. So it does have a really broad application in this country. At a fundamental level, the legislation indicates that all transactions may be documented by those forms of electronic communication at any stage of the contractual process, either making an offer, negotiating the terms of contract, executing a contract, exchanging contracts, making claims on the contracts, issuing payment schedules, even the extended serving applications for adjudication. Service of court documents, claims of extensions of time variations, all sorts of things.

John:

But as I said before, the requirements on the security of payment legislation varies from state to state. Once upon time, there was a very distinct chism between the East coast model that applied in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia, compared to what was in place in Western Australia and the Northern territory. That chism, depending on how you look at it, is dissolving. West Australia, for example, has recently adopted a much closer piece of legislation to that of the New South Wales. Or it's widening. The Queensland experience has been to escape the influence of the Southern states as much as they possibly can, particularly during this recent lockdown. But in every case, in every state, the use of electronic communication for the purposes of payment legislation, is fine. So long as the communication can be saved in a form that is, quote, readily excessive for subsequent reference. That's been the subject that a lot of case law, a lot of disputes between contractors, head contractors and principles.

John:

Generally, if a document can be saved electronically on your computer in a common readable format, such as PDF or HTML or RTLS, XLS, anything like that, anything that's commonly available and used, that requirement will be met. Where it will not be met though, is when people take a picture. JPEG, a PNG file of a paper document, and it becomes illegible. And they put it through a low quality scanner as a paper document, which converts it to some other format, but it's practically illegible when it's rendered on a computer screen. That does not make the requirements of legislation. It can't be signed until it's readily readable in the future. The simple reason, is that the visual image is not readily readable. It's a simple matter, but surprisingly common in practice. Lots of documents can't be read, they're simply illegible.

John:

The other issue that has arisen in Queensland and in New South Wales in particular, is where documents have been hyperlinked in an email or in some other platform. And then questions are risen that it hasn't been properly served, and when was it served? Judges, by and at large, are elderly people. There aren't many judges under 30 in this country, nor should there be. Many judges are in their seventies or eighties. Loads of experience, but not technologically educated. Many judges I know, demand and insist on paper documents and reading the paper rather than having a computer screen in front of them, so they're pretty reticent to accept electronic communications. So much so, that it's a little bit dangerous to attach a document by way of a link to a file served in the... Sorry, saved in the cloud.

John:

There's been a couple of cases where that's been held invalid or it's held not to have been served until it was actually opened and downloaded to the local device, operated by the reader, by the recipient. And that's caused some difficulties. There is an easy way around that problem though, a very easy way. And that is, in your contracts, just allow documents to be served in that fashion. If you've got a contract, write a clause in there saying that documents may be served by emails or by Apponex or by Payapps or by whatever system is appropriate. Preferably Payapps, because it's a very simple and easy system to use, allowing documents to be served by way of a hyperlink in an email or in a system message.

John:

The legislation for security of payments, differs from state to state. For example, the New South Wales and the West Australian legislation allows statutory notice, like payment claims and payment schedules, to be served by email. It says so in the app. It doesn't actually say how it's served by email, whether the email has to be the full document or whether it can be attached to an email as a seperate file, or whether it can be hyperlinked to an email. The legislation in each of those states is totally silent in that behalf. As I said before though, that can be overcome by contractual provision. However, in other states, notably in Victoria for example, or in Tasmania, the legislation specifically says that a payment claim or payment schedule has to be served by hand delivery, post or fax.

John:

Now, I couldn't imagine trying to put up a lengthy payment claim, or even worse, a payment schedule, through a fax machine. I personally did one recently where there were 32 hard back A4 folders, four inches thick of documentation and support. So it's simply practical to use those old fashioned methods. In those states, I'd strongly suggest that two methods be used. Either through Payapps to begin with, but if it's likely to become contentious or litigious, also serve in an old fashioned way. Put it in the post or hand deliver paper copies of it. In Queensland, likewise, the legislation specifically says payment claims and payment schedules must be hand delivered or sent by post, telex, or similar facility. And a court up there has already said that Payapps or document sharing platforms or email, is not, in all probability, a similar facility to those other physical methods of delivery. So in Queensland, again, my advice would be, send it through Payapps to begin with, but follow it up with the.

John:

Send it through perhaps to begin with, but follow it up with a paper copy within the time allowed by the legislation. Time is critically important under contract and under legislation, for the service of these things. The statutes make rules about when things must be delivered, either electronically or on paper. It's been the subject of a bit of debate about when something is served. Is it served when it leaves the computer device of the sender? When it's first delivered into information system operated by someone else? Or is it not served until it's received on in the physical device operated by the intended addressee or recipient? Or does it have to actually come to their direct attention, by being downloading and open on their device, and shown on the screen? That's still something that's a bit under debate. Again, simple solution, put something in the contracts to deal with that, saying that its served as soon as it's from your computer and you received a receipt, a received confirmation, or better still a read confirmation.

John:

The other key issue, which is commonly debated, is electronic signatures. The validity of electronic signatures. Electronic signatures, there are two sorts. One is I can take a photograph, a PNG file for example, of my wet ink signature and pin that to a contract. That's an electronic signature. That's fine, nothing wrong with that. It's common. Another way is using a system like DocuSign or Adobe Sign, to append a digital signature to the document. That not only puts a electronic [inaudible 00:48:21] of signature on the face of the document that's show on screen, but its also appends metadata to the file, which makes it much more secure. The metadata uses publicly cryptography to confirm the validity of the signature. The legislation in every state for electronic transactions requires the authentication, by some means, of the electronic signature. The use of DocuSign or any similar platform meets that requirement.

John:

If on the other hand, you prefer to simply add an image, of a wet ink signature to the electronic face of the document, that's fine, but you still need to authenticate the intention to send it. Now, it's quite possible for me to authorize my secretary to add my signature to the final copy of a document being sent out by email. The recipient doesn't know whether she's done that off her own back, or whether I've specifically told her to do so. In the former case, if she's done so without authority, I'm not bound by that document. so the simple way around that, the clear way to resolve that issue, is to make a phone call, ask for an email confirming that the signatory meant the document to be sent, with a whole signature attached. Simple step, takes a couple of seconds, shouldn't be embarrassed to do that, and that overcomes any possible that the signatures are unauthorized.

John:

So again, I hope no one's afraid to attach it in those fashions. I think I've reached the end of my time. Tony's nodding at me giving me the hurry up I think.

Tony:

That's all right. Thank you John, that's been fantastic. And I know you'll return at the very end for our panel Q and A, which will be great, because I've already got a number of questions coming in for you. Very, very interesting. Let me introduce Tom. Tom is our next speaker. What I'll get you to do there is just turn off your camera there, John. And if you're trying to share content, just drop your content. Thank you very much. As I said, Tom's going to be giving us a view from the field, which is critically important for us, with people at the front lines experiencing, but not just the use of our platforms, but the daily challenges that go with what we do. So Tom, welcome, and thank you very much. I'll hand it to you.

Tom:

So Kapitol Group, we're a mid tier contractor based in Victoria. We're a relatively new business, with a fairly diversified workbook, ranging in size from a million dollars up to 150 million. Servicing education, resi, commercial, industrial and institutional sectors. And will turn over approaching $300,000,000 for FY 21. That's from a standing start of zero in 2018. So where we've really been challenged is making sure that we've got the right systems to support what's been fairly rapid growth, and making sure that our people have got the right tools for their job. What I'm going to touch on is really just our, what we call our tech ecosystem.

Tom:

So we've got a number of different platforms that we're utilizing to service different parts of the business, and that really ranges from safety, to quality, through to our documentation control, communications, platforms. So the things that people would be familiar with, like Cannon Tech, Concur, Aconex, Procore. And then probably on the commercial side, we focus on utilizing Procore Pro JobPack and Payapps as our suite for that end to end management of the commercial functions and financial functions of the business.

Tom:

What we're trying to do with all these platforms is give our people the best tools they possibly can to do their job, and make sure that they're providing clarity of outcome for ourselves as a business and also for our supply chain and our subcontracted base. So that's really been our priority in the selection of these platforms. This then results in a better performance outcome for our business. We also look at the enjoyment of work for our people. That's really important. I think, certainly systems like Payapps, we look at that and think, why would someone want to be using something less than that? It's very much a user friendliness and being able to provide better value to their business and enjoy their work better.

Tom:

One of the strengths of Payapps, we see it as a collaboration tool first and foremost. Obviously it provides the management of the payment claim process, and Mark, we're looking forward to a bit of improvement in that space and seeing introduction of subcontract statements and variation handling. There's a real efficiency piece for us. We see it as providing fast feedback back to our supply chain and really high quality feedback, as well as now starting to leverage some of the analytic and reporting tools that are baked into the system. So that's probably where our biggest focus is, is where the improvement lies and really the accountability piece is really important for us also. So, we can see, I think we've talked about before, we're probably handling upwards of 200 claims a month now, so we can see every single one of those at any given time, who's responsible for it and where the action lies.

Tom:

So that's really the power in the system and the power of other tools that we're looking at. We encourage our teams to really provide feedback to all of our provider we want to make sure that in that ecosystem we've got interchangeability and innovation occurring. So it's good to hear from Mark today that these things are coming, things that we've been asking for. But probably the biggest challenge that we've see is the integration and the interaction between these different platforms. I think there's a real place for the different platforms that we're working with coming together and getting some uniform [inaudible 00:56:08] data and to reduce the duplication and replication of certain activities. So yeah, that's kind of all I had for today. It was really just a bit of insight from where we are. Sorry about the slideshow, so much for trying to be smart with Zoom. I think I'm due to handover Kylie next? Hello

Kylie :

Everyone. My name's Kylie Archer, I'm the CFO at Roberts Co. I'll take you through today just a brief introduction of who Roberts Co is. And then a bit of a look at the construction market, the challenges we're seeing, and then also share with you some of the key initiatives that we are working on in our business. So Roberts Co started its life back in 2016 with a blank shoot of paper and a vision of being a catalyst of positive change in the construction industry. Our purpose is to build a better way, and four years in we're making progress. This is a brief snapshot of key things in our business. We classify our as a boutique tier one builder. And by boutique, we mean that we only want to ever have on at any time six to eight projects. We think that that's the right number to make sure that we can have a small team with amazing people.

Kylie :

And also as much as possible be recession proof, as well as really allowing us to pick and choose the clients we work with. We currently have 140 staff with 35% women, our executive team is 60% female. And we have a raft of various initiatives that are quite important to us to really support gender equality across the business, including mentoring and sponsorship programs, career pathway programs, scholarships for women studying building, to really try and build up those women that are entering the industry from the ground up. I'm fairly new to the construction industry, I've only been in construction for close to two years. But Allison, our CEO, often talks about when she started on site, having no female amenities and having to walk up to the nearest shopping center to use the toilet. So she now personally inspects all amenities on our sites or female amenities. So we've come a long way. I think in this area since she started, but we have a long way to go. And gender equality is a key area of focus for us.

Kylie :

In terms of our current projects that we're working on. We're currently Sydney based. We've got two completed projects since we started, one being Zurich Tower in North Sydney, which we finished last year, and also North Shore Health Hub, which we finished earlier this year. We've got three key construction projects going on at the moment. We've got a K to 12 school at Meadowbank at 225 million. We're working on a hotel in Mascot and a commercial building in the Macquarie Exchange Precinct.

Kylie :

I mentioned before that we like to stay small and it really helps us pick and choose our clients. Our strategy is to work for government, institutional investors, clients where our values are aligned and they're our key sectors there. With institutional grade clients, we sat on record cash during COVID. We didn't have any projects that were stopped, except for aviation, which is understandable. We were working with Sydney Airport and their revenue dropped by 95% following COVID. So we had some projects that were delayed there, but other than that, we were quite fortunate that all of our projects continued.

Kylie :

Now just onto an overview of the construction market activity. So the graphs that you can see on these pages, and hopefully you can see them, show construction activity, both sort of actual back to FY 17 and then the forecast going forward. You can see the residential segment there is the blue bars in the top graph, non-residential segment is red, engineering is green. And the bottom graph there shows the year on year percent change in each of those segments.

Kylie :

So I guess what we can see here is that after several years of positive growth until FY 19, we've had two years of negative growth. So the total activity levels dropped 8% in FY 20 and a further 1% in FY 21. The decline in FY 20, as you can see from that blue bar at the bottom graph there in the middle, the one that drops below zero, FY 20 drop was largely felt in the residential sector, which was down 15%, but engineering also dropped down 6%. And in the following year in FY 21, we really see the impacts of COVID hitting with a substantial drop in non residential activity, which is at red bar down 13%. And within this sector, there were substantial decreases across retail and wholesale offices, health, education, entertainment, and accommodation. In terms of the forecast going forward, you can see, I guess, moderate growth starting to kick in across all segments from FY 23 and beyond, ranging from anywhere between 1% to 5%, depending on the sector. However, it's just nowhere near the large increases we're really seeing three or four years ago.

Kylie :

If I think about the challenges that we are seeing in the industry at the moment, I guess you can't go past and none of us can go past COVID 19 and the knock on effects I think that that has had both on our economy and our industry. Firstly, just drilling down on pipeline of work and thinking about those graphs that we just looked at which showed that drop in activity levels. In particular, the significant drop in non residential activity, which was down 13% last year. I've just broken down that sector into further subset of that data showing the year on year movement across the offices segment, entertainment and accommodation. As you can see, they're all showing significant negative growth over that period. You've got offices down 9% in FY 21 and forecast down 14% in FY 22. Accommodation segment dropped 33% in FY 21 and 18% in FY 22. So really substantial decreases in volume. And I guess what we have seen over the last year is those private sector led projects really suffered with the uncertain economic backdrop.

Kylie :

The government sectors have stayed strong. There's been quite a bit of government stimulus, which I'm sure you're all across, which have really been keeping the health, education and infrastructure segments going strong. The non non-government cycle, being at the front end of the cycle, still subject to tenant negotiations and lease execution, which can delay things, keep things a little bit uncertain. And I guess given these lower volumes, we really see this driving more competition and ultimately more pressure on margins across the industry.

Kylie :

In terms of other challenges, risk of insolvency. The Australian construction industry accounts for a disproportionately high number generally, normally of corporate insolvency. I know ASICS stats show that more than 20% of companies entering into some form of external administration come from the construction industry. We know the subcontractor market doesn't have much liquidity, and we know cash is king. And I think if we add to that, the additional challenges of the last year, we've had two weeks with no work at all, and then reduce capacity levels for several weeks following this. So if we combine that with lower volume and margin pressures, it's an area that we are watching closely.

Kylie :

Another challenge that I've got here is contractual challenges. So I guess it's interesting to note that the definition of force majure in most construction contracts did not include the words pandemic or biological before COVID. They definitely will now, but for many builders time and cost for the two week cause, it wasn't an automatic entitlement, particularly if the contract was over 18 months old. So that can be causing definitely problems for some people relating to some contracts. In terms of raw materials, several factors at play here, we've had the effect of the bush fires back in January 20 impacting timber supply. We've had the impact on steel supply due to reduced production during COVID. So I know in our business we've seen significant increases in more material prices in these two areas, which really displaced further pressure on margin and procurement timeframes. And the final challenge here I'm going to talk to is the labor market. We've had a candidate driven market for some time now, not just in construction, but in many industries. And I know in June the unemployment rate fell below 5% for the first time in a decade, it declined eight months in a row. We saw a further drop in September down to 4.6% with border closures, which have been obviously limiting immigration and limiting new labor force growth, it'll really continue to put pressure on wage costs in a lot of businesses.

Kylie :

So that's all the downsides, I think there has been some upsides in COVID as well if I touch on that quickly. The move, it's been the largest and fastest experiment on flexible working, it's really pushed that forward. Up until then I think there was a suspicion, if I can get that out, and hesitation in allowing people to work from home prior to that. But the last 18 months is showing this not to be true. It's had its challenges. We've had to adapt to new ways of doing things, we're sitting here having hopefully our last virtual conference before things kick off in person. But I know in my business with my team here, we've been just as effective over the last year as we were when we were in the office five days a week. So having that flexibility and really allowing people to spend more time at home with their loved ones has been positive.

Kylie :

And that I guess segways me nicely into one of the initiatives I wanted to talk about in our business, which is health and wellbeing. Something close to our hearts. I've talked about Roberts Co really wanting to be a catalyst for positive change in the construction industry, and health and wellbeing of our workers is a part of this. Our logic is, if you could become a better person outside of work you'll be become a better person at work. And we have a range of initiatives that support this. We have three health and wellbeing days a year for each employee. We give everyone a thousand dollars allowance for people to spend on health and wellbeing initiatives annually. And we have truly flexible working practices.

Kylie :

In addition, we have what project five, which is a five day week being one of our most important initiatives in this space. And if I step back just for a second, just to really set the scene on why this is important in our industry. So the construction industry is Australia's third largest industry. It covers more than 330,000 businesses and makes up 9% of Australia's total workforce. So I think what we have, there is a really big opportunity by making improvements in this industry to make a substantial change in a lot of people's lives. And unfortunately, the stats are that men in the construction industry are 53% more likely to die by suicide. And a construction worker takes their own life every second day.

Kylie :

So we think this is unsustainable. I get my [inaudible 01:08:22] right, and we really want to make a positive change, do what we can to make a positive change. So our solution to this is a five day week it's giving a weekend to every worker. And we started this journey on our Concord Hospital project. We said, so how can you allow someone to die from suicide caused by workplace stress when we are building a hospital to make people better. And that was the question we put to health infrastructure during the Concord Hospital tender process. When we did the tender, we submitted two timeframes, we submitted a five day program and a six day program. The five-

Kylie :

... a five-day program and a six-day program. The five-day program added 10 weeks of time, and 1.2% of cost. So you ask yourself, what is the cost of a life? We are incredibly pleased when health infrastructure accepted the five-day program, and we've been running it as a pilot over the last two and a half years to see if working less days has a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of construction workers, and to see if we can address the systematic mental health issues in the industry. The project's now 99% complete, we've basically handed it over. And despite all the additional challenges with COVID, et cetera, with the last year, we've handed over the hospital ahead of time, and we've proven that people can be more productive over less days. We also took the opportunity to formally study the project and we partnered with the University of New South Wales to monitor the impacts and the outcomes. And I'll just take you through the findings that are coming through from that already.

Kylie :

So the feedback from our workers is that there's less worker fatigue, they're more motivated, they've got better work-life balance, better family relationships. Some team members tell us that they're able to go and watch their children play Saturday sport for the first time. Grace, which is our construction worker in the bottom right there in that photo, bottom left, sorry, she plays football professionally for the Bulldogs, something she says she wouldn't be able to do if she was working six days a week. There were some initial concerns and I guess resistance around reduced pay. But what we're really finding is, and what the study is showing us, that these have been positively outweighed by quality of life improvements. And team members can also work up overtime Monday to Friday, for those that want to improve their pay. Nick there in the middle there, in that middle photo, he's on our crane crew. And he worked out for us recently and came back and said for every eight years he does on a five-day project, that's one year of extra time he gets back with his family. It's a lot, it's substantial.

Kylie :

We also included subcontractors and family members in our research. So subcontractors are saying that the five-day projects are better planned, safer, and more professional. And families are saying that they've noticing a significant change in behavior and well-being of their partners, and also greater flexibility in their own careers and increased well-being with family. We're also honored, just last month we've been recognized for our five-day work week initiative, taking out the third spot in the 2021 AFR BOSS Most Innovative Companies list. We feel we've really proven through COVID that we can work flexibly. We've also proven on Concord that we can build a project five-days a week, and that it has significant positive impacts on workers and their families. So this needs to be the new normal, and we're committed to continuing to drive this across the industry. That's it for me. Thank you.

Tony:

Thanks Kylie. As a lifelong Bulldog supporter, I am so happy to hear Grace is playing there and has the opportunity to go play footy. I think that's awesome.

Kylie :

Good to hear.

Tony:

Absolutely. So for the panel, I've actually got a bunch of questions if that's okay. And I'm just watching the Q&A that's coming up as well. So I wouldn't mind, Kylie, if I can direct the first one to you and it's related to gender, it's quite interesting. We need some recent work around our user base and we know that well over 40%, actually 45% of our user base is female, which was quite interesting for us. When you think about the construction industry, you may have a perception that's not completely reality. Is change occurring in the industry? Are we doing enough? Is it happening fast enough do you think?

Kylie :

In terms of gender?

Tony:

Yeah.

Kylie :

Yeah. Look, as I said, it's ongoing. As I said, I'm fairly new to the industry, but if I hear some of the examples from fellow colleagues in the industry, and as I said Allison not having female toilets. And I think you still hear some terrible stories of things that are going on in certain sites around those types of things. I think we definitely haven't come far enough, but I think it's improving, gender pay gaps and reporting we're doing around trying to draw these things out and bring attention to them is helping.

Kylie :

But I think there's still a long way to go and particularly I think in that admin space you're right, there probably is a higher female portion, but how do you bring them in outside of that really traditional office-based role? And that's why we're putting that focus back into studying and scholarships to try and bring people up. And we're actually going to pivot next year. And we're going to look at doing it more through tapes so that we can bring to the non-traditional type roles, whether it's [inaudible 01:14:07] or those roles that you wouldn't normally see females to try and grow that segment as well.

Tony:

Yeah. Well, that's fantastic. Thank you. I'm going to ask a question for everybody on the War for Talent a little bit later on if that's okay. So get ready for that one. So Tom, you mentioned that you went from zero to a 100 quite quickly as a startup, and became very successful quite quickly. I think the learnings of that would be interesting to hear a little bit more about actually, and if there were one or two things perhaps you may have done differently as you learn from the experience of building a business so quickly and being so successful so quickly.

Tom:

We've pivoted a couple of, well, certainly in one space with our ERP, we started with a competitive JobPack and we switched to JobPack not very long or probably about a year into that process. And that was not the only driver, but one of the key drivers was the ability to collaborate within the business. So that was probably important in that decision-making, also interact with other platforms such as Payapps. So I think our attitude's always been a little bit of don't be afraid to fail. We go through a process to determine what we think the best solution is at a point in time, we can't not do anything, so we do it. And then if it doesn't work, we change. And similarly, we've been pretty hands-on with another provider, developing a product to suit some of the challenges, particularly the COVID challenges that we've had to find new ways of working. Personally I think COVID's been great for the industry, because it's accelerated a lot of the development, a lot of these tools and really done away with a lot of the ridiculous processes that we used to have working in some older style businesses.

Tony:

Well, you're predicting my questions already for me because I do have the COVID question, but it's more of a positive one coming up in a second. Thank you for that mate. So John, you mentioned the judges who are in their 70s and 80s and how they want to consume their information, which is quite manual, printing things out, reading it, et cetera, et cetera. Our industry is a little bit like that. We do things the same way over and over again, and we are very happy doing that. And using technology is often seen maybe as a bit of a threat, but it actually should be looked at as an opportunity. Where do you see the opportunity for both education and change management to help people understand how technology and digitization actually is a positive for the industry rather than a negative? You're on mute John.

John:

My apologies.

Tony:

That's okay. No worries.

John:

It seems to me as a personal opinion, many people who have a deep association with their own profession, trade or calling, have an interest in the particular requirements of their tasks. So regard learning other disciplines has been a distraction rather than an assistance to their tasks. So I know plenty of lawyers, for example, who have no interest in learning financial management. I know plenty of doctors, for example, who have no interest in engineering. Many people in the construction industry have a thought sequence or a pattern, which is centers on concrete, tangible outcomes. They want to be able to see the product of their work, learning something which is abstract, largely, such as coding, is outside their comfort zone, so they're not happy to go down that path. I think we had a conversation once before, Tony, where we spoke about using technology. It simply worked. One didn't have to learn the background functions to make it work. Perhaps it's like that. Perhaps Simple Works is simple to use, operate and learn. So it is attractive to people are not inclined towards technology.

Tony:

Great. Well, thank you. Yeah, it's an interesting perspective, isn't it? And I think we all owe the industry and education opportunity for sure, to help people understand how things could be different and how we can utilize both technology in other ways of doing things that might improve their day in life. Thank you. If I go to the COVID question and the COVID question's a good one. We can't declare victory, we know that COVID's still around. It's still impacting our daily lives, but we're moving beyond it, which is a positive. Obviously New South Wales and Victoria went through a very difficult time in recent months, and I know we're coming out of that. With your businesses, I'm interested in how you dealt with it. Carly, you gave some indication around that. Tom, you did as well, but I'm interested in how you dealt with it. And are you leaving in place those programs that you put in place during COVID for what we'll call the new normal, or are you going to revert back to some other form of normal? We're quite interested to hear that.

Tom:

[crosstalk 01:20:42]. I think ours looks like a bit of a hybrid. I think in terms of how we work together, everyone will tell you they miss being around people, they miss the interaction in the office and the water cooler conversations. In Victoria, we've had to restrict people from being on-site. In the last lockdown, we said you cannot go, which certainly for our contract administrators and a lot of people who perform more administrative functions, that's problematic and it doesn't help the team. But at the same time, there are functions where people work better at home by their self, and have the flexibility in the workplace. So I really see it being a bit of a hybrid and whatever works best for the individual and the organization at any point in time.

Tony:

Thank you. Kylie.

Kylie :

Yeah. Look, I think definitely the hybrid going forward. I think in terms of how we dealt with it, the challenge this time around, I think was just the frequency in which the roles were changing. I think they changed 18 times in the last six months between LGA's and workforce capacity levels and things like that. So we dealt with that by just trying to be really forward with our communication. When it first started last year, we called it COVID for Dummies in the lunchroom. We draw up squares on the ground so that people could stand with their four square meters around them. So trying to keep it simple, trying to overly communicate so people were clear on the implications for them and how we were dealing with them. And then I think going forward that the hybrid approach, there's not many people that I think want to come back to the office five days a week.

Kylie :

People have really started to love the flexibility that comes with that, and we're supportive of that. So to taking that forward, and there's also things that will continue like we're using on-site. I don't know if anyone's heard of that, so software Contact Harald, and the cards that everyone carries around. So it really pings you if you are within the proximity of someone else with a card for more than two minutes. So things like that, which make it incredibly quick and useful if we do have a COVID scare on-site, we can really quarantine a small number of people easily without them taking out a wider group, if it's not necessary. So we'll take those types of programs forward because I think it continues to be a risk, as you said, it's not going away. So there's things that we need continue to manage it going forward safely.

Tony:

Thank you. And John, your business, you've mentioned a number of challenge already, be interested to see how you as a business dealt with it as well.

John:

I was doing three things. I advise, I transact and I litigate. Each of those segments have different styles of work. Advisor and transactional work is largely posted. I can sit in my office or in my study home and work equally well in either place [inaudible 01:23:51]. When it comes to dispute work, it's much more collaborative. And I also have to stand in front of a judge and persuade him to my particular point of view. That changed very suddenly when COVID came on. And there was a steep learning curve for both judges and lawyers to start staying in a virtual court and still be persuasive.

John:

So provision of paper documents to the judges became impossible at that point or virtual impossible. And so they had a challenge as well. So again, as Kylie suggests, a hybrid approach from lawyers to dealing with stuff. Personally, I like going out on-site. It's a quick way of learning the [inaudible 01:24:54] of a problem or a transaction that's happening. I've worked on-site in gas plants and mines in dollars for little while and on several occasions that's become impossible as well. I'm the first one off the list in the COVID environment. So that's made my work a little bit more difficult.

Tony:

Yeah.

John:
[crosstalk 01:25:29].
Tony:

Yeah. I know the feeling. It's been quite challenging. We've used technology as much as possible in our world to help collaborate. I've got Contact Harald written down there, Kylie, to see if we can utilize that. We've used other tools to help brainstorm and get teams together, either from a fun point of view or from a work point of view. We have learnt valuable lessons along the way, I think most people have. Some the hard way, some other ways. As you say, some of those practices will retain as we move forward. I only got two more questions, and I think then Scott Lockwood, our Head of Customer Success would like to ask one to John, but Kylie mentioned about the War for Talent.

Tony:

Kylie mentioned about the low unemployment rate. It's affected us too. It's hard to find great people who are willing to make a move through these uncertain times. What have you each done a little bit differently perhaps to attract people to your business? Is it a change to your value proposition? I love the work you're doing, Kylie, around health and wellbeing. I think that is what makes you very attractive as well, but is there one or two things that each of you have done to perhaps attract talent in a different way than what you might have done before?

Tom:

Look, we've also focused on the health and wellbeing space and we've probably got some similar, we've got a [inaudible 01:26:59], which is probably similar to the five-day work week. That's actually challenging, and I think the biggest challenge we find, is actually making people switch off, which has been increasingly difficult through the last period that we've had. We work pretty hard on a social media space as well. And that's something when it comes to talent acquisition, increasingly we're looking at a young demographic and I think they gravitate to those platforms, but also going back to the tools piece, they don't want to see these clunky, old tools that we might have grown up with, joke about you should have to do a job with the fax machine and a [inaudible 01:27:45]. They're not interested in that, so I think it's important for us to be leading for the front and giving them the best possible experience that they can have in their daily work.

Tony:

Excellent. Kylie.

Kylie :

Yeah. Definitely health and wellbeing, which I've talked to. I think innovation, as Tom just said, and making life simple as best you can and efficiency on-sites, always looking at being innovative and bringing new products into the market where that works. For us it's also too about a lot of reward and recognition career pathway programs so that people can see where they're heading, trying get people engaged and a big focus on training. So leadership training, we run a sponsorship program, mentoring, those things to really help people develop and feel more engaged.

Tony:

Excellent. Thank you. I'm going to reserve you for last John. I know Scott Lockwood our Head of Customer Success has a question for you. So I'll hand to Scott to ask that question if you could.

Scott:

Yeah. Cool. Good afternoon all. John, I was really interested to hear about your views in terms of electronic delivery earlier. Quite often, we get asked as a customer success function about the validity of hyperlinks in payment schedules. I was just really interested in your view, if you wouldn't mind sharing for all.

John:

As I mentioned earlier, hyperlinks are a little bit dangerous. The simple solution is to include an appropriate provision in every contract and every subcontract, allowing the delivery of documents, whether they're contractual documents, or statutory regulatory documents, by that method, by uploading them to a platform or to a cloud server or something similar that will overcome any issues that might arise. But in the past, more so than recently, there's been several cases decided in courts around the country where delivery documents in hyperlinks in emails have been frowned upon.

Tony:

Great. Well, thank you, John. And I just wanted say big thank you to the team in both preparation and delivery. Our presenters, thank you very much. And finally, to our customers, thank you very much for being there with us. I think the opportunity for us to do this on a regular basis is something we're going to embrace over the coming years. You'll see more from us with these user group environments, which allow you to interact with us, not just the speakers, but also the technical teams within the community. Hopefully it will be, and we'll do it all in person moving forward. I'm very, very jealous of the team in Brisbane who are getting to do that in a in person environment. Thank you all. Thank you for your attendance. This recording will be available to you all at the end of the session. And I'll look forward to seeing you all at the next session again. Thank you.