Elegantly designed to be easily intuitive to use, Avollio describes itself as an online property asset management and collaboration platform. It provides tools to:
- share, manage and improve properties
- to manage tenants, rentals and leased assets and coordinate building projects, and
- to collaborate with clients, colleagues, suppliers and contractors.
In short, Avollio, created by a southwest London, UK team co-founded by architect Ian Thompson and developer Pascal Rieger and released in a Beta version in April 2014, promises to cover two or three areas that were previously managed through largely separate online solutions.
For example, UK professional users have long used cloud-based collaboration platforms to manage their projects, and there has been a gradual push to offer similar but simpler solutions at the SME end of the market (I wrote two weeks ago about UK providers such as Woobius – now seemingly discontinued – Collabor8online and CloudsUK). Equally, I have talked about solutions which are more asset-focused – Kykloud, for example, or iSite’s ‘Assetology’ hub.
While Kykloud has made a virtue of being predominantly a tablet-accessed system, most of the other systems have tended to be computer browser-based. But in the last year or so, I have started to watch several mobile-first and social media-savvy development efforts to create new platforms (for example, US firms such as FieldLens, FluidCM and PlanGrid, Copenhagens’ GenieBelt, and UK startups such as Basestone, HandS HQ and Cadbeam).
Ian says the Avollio platform interface has been developed so that users can seamlessly transfer between desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile, accessing visual and text information on any interface without limitation on functionality; it is currently a web-based platform, with no apps for offline access – Ian envisages it becoming part of an ecosystem of complementary “satellite” tools (SaaS, mobile, back office – he mentioned integrations with Xero and Free Agent cloud-based accounting services, for example), rather than trying to do everything in one platform. We also talked about eventual integration of BIM capabilities into the platform.
Ian’s 22-year architectural career, covering South African and the UK, includes includes design projects for Cafe Rouge, Bella Italia, Strada and Vivat Bacchus across the UK in airports, railway stations, shopping centres and high streets. Using feedback from customers who had used other applications he’d developed, Ian and Pascal are now developing Avollio as a configurable cross-platform cloud-based solution (“We’ve had restauranteurs and retail outlets tell us it’s the perfect platform to stay in touch with staff as well as manage inventory bought for fit-outs”). As well as the outlet owners, the platform clearly also has potential for the interior designers, architects and others involved in designing and delivering store and restaurant environments (this might pitch Avollio against established AEC intranet providers such as Union Square – post).
Incidentally, mention of retail asset management also reminds me of Leicestershire, UK-based, ICON (in early 2012, they were looking at mobile use of QR codes for asset-tracking; coincidentally, I met up with ICON’s Chris Lovelock again at a recent London reception hosted by Newforma).
Polished user interface
Avollio’s design polish and simplicity aspirations remind me of Woobius: “designed by architects for architects”. As well as architecture and retail, Avollio’s website includes user cases for property managers, holiday lets and home-owners – implying this may also be a great solution for the SME user. Users can navigate around their workspaces by Portfolios (the company’s name was chosen for its similarity to “folio”), Properties, Projects and People, and from each view, users can drill into increasingly detailed levels of information. The platform also delivers easily created reports across all the views.
Some capabilities – documents, notes, calendar and address book (and integration with Gmail and Outlook is coming soon), for example – are common to all views; others are specific to particular requirements (for instance, Property management includes tools to manage acquisition and leasing, while Projects includes tools to manage asset inventories and regulatory compliance). Avollio is also pleasing to look at – it uses familiar tools such as Google Maps and Street View in its navigation, while photographs of projects and users help accelerate navigation; Ian was keen to implement a Pinterest-like look and feel, reflecting the visual-first approach of many design professionals.
As you might expect of a Beta application, there are still areas to develop. Some functionality has been created to address particular customer needs and has now been ‘parked’, while there is also a development roadmap – one feature on this is provision of templates to simplify the creation of new customer portfolios, properties or projects.
To date, the company has been funded by its founders, and Ian is planning to find seed investors in 2015 to help it grow further. Currently, the product is free to use for up to five properties, five projects and 500Mb of storage – over these starting points, the Avollio website has an elegant slider-controlled pricing tool charging per property or project and storage space over this limit.