In an ever evolving and increasingly complex built environment sector, Planning experts Ratio rely on Landchecker’s integrated property information and research platform to stay at the forefront of their industry.
When Ratio was established in Richmond over 30 years ago, there was no commercial internet. All property information was microfiche or paper-based. Ratio traversed the inefficiencies of these early platforms and evolved over a period of vast growth in technology, to where it is in today’s advanced business environment. Today, Ratio relies on a single-source online platform for its vital property data and insights. That platform, is Landchecker.
Managing Director Peter McKelvie joined Ratio in 2015, when Ratio entered a current period of considerable growth. “When I started, there were only 26 employees. Now, there are 72,” says McKelvie, who emphasises one resounding constant: the company’s commitment to staff engagement and wellbeing that continues to make Ratio an employer of choice.
During this time, Ratio expanded its services to include urban design and waste management, all the while retaining its fundamental focus on providing planning and traffic engineering expertise to its clients across urban and now regional areas of the state.
Company Director Simon Martin brings a strong customer focus as a result of his years in planning advisory. “Our clients are developers first and foremost. We also do a lot of work with architects who might be engaging our services through development ideas,” Martin says. Despite an increase in state-run projects in the current climate, Martin maintains that Ratio’s core client base is still predominantly from the private sector.
It was from this customer-focussed lens, and with a view for business growth, that Ratio sought opportunities to advance its property research and analysis processes. Casting back to an all-too-recent past, recalls the frustration of navigating the minefield of multiple resources: “It wouldn’t have been uncommon for me previously to have close to a dozen different tabs open at any one time. I’d be flicking between here there and everywhere to get the information I ultimately needed”. He refers to “clunky” state government portals and various council databases that had for too long provided access to information without adequate means of integrating this information seamlessly into one platform. Sure, there was one software product they had been using, McKelvie concedes, but it “fell short” of satisfying his consultants’ needs, he reflects in hindsight.
It was perhaps inevitable, certainly fortuitous, that Landchecker came into being in 2015 just as Ratio sought to upscale its business. As Martin reflects, “Our universes aligned at the right time.” Founders of the new property platform company struck up conversations with Ratio’s current directors, and from there, a mutually beneficial relationship developed.
Landchecker’s Chief Commercial Officer, James Leaf, speaks highly of Ratio, their first paying customer: “Initially, they [Ratio] were on a base version of our app. We’d have regular conversations around what would be good for them in the app. And ever since then, they’ve provided valuable input into the design of features and functions. We’d develop tools for Ratio that we’d then develop further for all our customers.”
For Ratio, the Landchecker application became that “one-stop-shop; a tool that we could use to provide advice we could then give to our clients in a timely fashion,” Martin says. “Clients expect the advice to come immediately so they can make informed decisions on whatever it is they’re doing, whether it is an acquisition or development applications or VCAT,” he explains.
In pulling all the relevant and up-to-date data sets together, Landchecker’s integrated platform of property information filled the void for a consulting company looking to streamline its processes with assured quality. From a planning perspective, Martin says, the app “helps to give us really accurate advice, because it captures the planning schemes, it captures the zones, the land specifics.”
For Martin, a planning consultant invested in project work, the Landchecker app has become his “go-to tool” for completing thorough due diligence. The ability to purchase property titles has been a recent development within the application that Martin has both adapted and utilised. And as far as property reports go, one that can be generated in PDF form for clients – complete with one’s own company logo – is considered “extremely valuable” according to the company director.
As Ratio has extended its operations into regional areas, Landchecker’s software has become invaluable, particularly in a time of travel restrictions and lockdowns. Martin says the on-map, property information platform became their “saving grace” when working on the Moda project last year. From home base, Martin and his team were able to advise remotely on planning and development at the site in Cowes, Phillip Island- an area Martin wasn’t, admittedly, au fait with, from a planning perspective. “We were contracted in that first lockdown so we didn’t have the ability to go down there to site,” Martin says, acknowledging that “If we didn’t have the [Landchecker] tool readily available, the project would have certainly stalled from a planning perspective.”
The Central Geelong growth region has been a special focus for Ratio. It’s been a strategic decision to invest in growing the region and implementing the statutory framework to support that growth over the next 30 years. This has taken shape in Ratio recently establishing a second company office in Geelong. From pre-planning stages to working with developers, Ratio’s role is crucial in facilitating project across both private and public sectors in this region. It’s a particularly exciting project from an urban design perspective, says Martin, who likens the Central Geelong Framework Plan to Melbourne’s own initiative many years ago.
Now that Ratio has set up offices across the broader Geelong area, the nature of consultancy work will be less remote, more on-site. This doesn’t mean the Landchecker tool loses its utility. In fact, Martin suggests, “With what Landchecker are doing with PSP, and our work in the Geelong region, there might be something there we can pull together.” Given Ratio’s hand in Landchecker’s functionality development, there is little doubt in further collaboration between the software and consultancy companies.
As Martin sees it, uncertainty creates challenges, but it also provides opportunity. “As governments change, the landscape always changes as well.” For Ratio, the current global and economic climate has meant an increase in state infrastructure projects, “and I suspect that will be a good area of growth for the next twelve months until the next election.” Landchecker looks forward to supporting this growth.
Ratio is a team of planning, urban design, growth area, traffic engineering and waste management planning specialists located in Melbourne and Geelong.
Landchecker is an innovative, highly scalable technology business servicing Australia’s largest industry, property. Landchecker’s web application and digital products provide customers property intelligence and data driven insights, for informed and efficient decision making.
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