EAH Housing helps more people find affordable housing by increasing scalability and collaboration with Smartsheet
EAH Housing relies on Smartsheet to get an updated, real-time view of all development and property management projects, create project summary reports in minutes instead of hours, and break down communication silos between departments.
“We’re more proactive about project issues now because Smartsheet alerts supervisors when something is off schedule. As a result, our management teams can step in early enough to start working with risk management, human resources, or insurance companies to ensure all information is updated before a unit goes live.”
Director of Special Projects, EAH Housing
Today’s skyrocketing real estate costs mean buying or renting a home is unrealistic for many people. EAH Housing is working to change that. One of the largest nonprofit Housing development and management organizations in the western United States, EAH Housing helps people find affordable housing in some of the most expensive regions in the United States. The organization manages over 230 properties for low-income families, older adults, and persons with disabilities and special needs across California and Hawaii. EAH Housing also provides local, regional, and national housing advocacy leadership.
As demand for affordable housing has risen over the past several years, EAH Housing has experienced significant growth. “We plan to develop more units in the next five years than we have in the last 25 years,” says Clarice Veloso-Lugo, director of communications at EAH Housing. To support this strategic goal, the organization uses Smartsheet software to manage all development and management projects and help the real estate development and property management teams collaborate.
“We need to have the technology in place to support our operations as we add new properties and develop projects,” Veloso-Lugo says. “That’s why Smartsheet is so important to us. It helps us scale and achieve our goals.”
Scalability and collaboration weren’t easy before the organization began using Smartsheet. For example, the EAH Housing development department relied on a project management tool with limited capabilities. “With our previous software, we had multiple copies of important documents between different departments and no good way to update or manage them,” says Alla Suzdaltsev, director of special projects at EAH Housing. “All the data came from different spreadsheets, and nothing was standardized. We lacked visibility, and we couldn’t track things efficiently. That often made it difficult for us to meet project deadlines, which could sometimes mean losing funding or building permits. We needed a better way to keep projects moving and on schedule.”
Collaboration between the real estate development and property management teams was also challenging. “When the development team was finished with a project, there was a disconnect with the property management department because they didn’t have access to the latest data about a property,” Suzdaltsev says. “Even though we’re in the same company, it almost felt like two different companies sometimes.”
Seamlessly Tracking Projects and Budgets with Smartsheet
Although EAH Housing initially adopted Smartsheet to help managers track budgets, it didn’t take long for the real estate development team to see the value. “Within that first year, we realized it would be a great, flexible tool for our department,” says Suzdaltsev. The department quickly built a checklist using Smartsheet Control Center to display key project start dates, milestones, and reminders. When the department has completed the checklist, a notification goes to the property management team, human resources, accounting, and other departments for feedback.
EAH Housing uses Smartsheet Control Center to generate summary dashboards that provide snapshots of overall projects and individual project owner tasks. The organization also uses Smartsheet Control Center templates to create project checklists populated with timelines, budgets, and other data.
EAH Housing relies on the Smartsheet document builder to create customized documents with project data, and the organization uses Bridge by Smartsheet to bring project data into a drop-down list updated with the latest property names and contact information. EAH Housing also uses Smartsheet Data Shuttle to integrate different systems, including a property management information system containing reports. In addition, EAH Housing uses Smartsheet Dynamic View to share project data with specific project managers.
The organization uses workflow automation in Smartsheet to automate previously-manual incident reporting processes, helping EAH Housing avoid regulatory fines by reporting workplace incidents more quickly. “We must keep accurate, updated incident report records, and Smartsheet gives us a centralized place for everything,” Suzdaltsev says. “We don’t have to go to different places to find the data we need.” EAH Housing also uses workflow automation to send alerts to project managers about key deadlines.
“It’s essential that we provide information based on the latest project due dates,” says Suzdaltsev. “The automated reminders help us avoid missed deadlines, which is critical for reporting to the IRS, for example.”
In addition, the property management team uses the Smartsheet mobile app to upload property photos to Smartsheet during annual property inspections.
Full Transparency and Visibility
EAH Housing has increased its visibility into all development and property management projects by using Smartsheet. Instead of struggling to find updated project data across multiple project tools, the organization can get a real-time view of the status of all current and planned projects. “Smartsheet gives us full visibility and transparency around project management, which we lacked with our previous tools,” says Suzdaltsev. “Now, everyone can see where we are at any given time during a project, so there is no longer a lack of clarity. For example, our weekly meetings are simpler because project managers need to look at the dashboard to see if there’s any missing information. Because of Smartsheet, I don’t need 20 people in the development department. We only need two people to support the infrastructure for building new properties.”
With better project visibility, EAH Housing can keep projects moving quickly while anticipating potential roadblocks. “We’re more proactive about project issues now because Smartsheet alerts supervisors when something looks like it’s off schedule,” says Suzdaltsev. “Our management teams can step in early enough to start working with risk management, human resources, or insurance companies to ensure all information is updated before a unit goes live.”
Report Creation in Minutes Instead of Hours
Previously, the EAH Housing development department administrator had to rely on manual processes to build project summary reports. “Our administrator spent between 4-6 hours each week gathering project summary data from all the project managers,” says Suzdaltsev. “Now, with Smartsheet automated workflows, the administrator can get all that information immediately, at the click of a button.” Similarly, the property management team administrator used to spend up to three hours a day updating property contact information. Now, that employee can make updates or changes in under two minutes.
The organization also spends less time managing utilities paid by property associations.
“It used to take days to gather all the information in our property management tool, and there was also no accountability,” Suzdaltsev says. “We sometimes didn’t know whether we had collected money or not. Now, when we receive a payment from a property, we process it and upload it to Smartsheet immediately, which automatically updates the information in our property management software.”
The organization also uses its streamlined billing process for student housing properties. “We used to have an employee managing that process, but we reallocated that resource, which saves us $60,000 per year,” says Suzdaltsev.
Using Smartsheet, EAH Housing has increased collaboration between departments, so managers can clearly visualize the progression of projects from development to property management. “Smartsheet has helped us break down communication silos and unite different teams,” Suzdaltsev says. “This further supports our ability to scale so we can meet our goal of putting up more buildings and helping more people.”