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Customer Story

A conversation with Prokil

Alex Marsango, Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Prokil (a company that specializes in damp treatment, timber preservation and basement waterproofing based in England and Wales)Prokil specializes in damp treatment, timber preservation and basement waterproofing. Established over 50 years ago, the company serves residential and commercial customers throughout England and Wales. I recently spoke with Alex Marsango, Chief Operations Officer (COO) at Prokil, to learn why and how his company uses magicplan.

Alex, I see you have a business management degree. But you also qualify as a timber waterproofing expert. So, which came first? 

I went straight through a mainstream education, from school to college. I got my degree in business management. And then, after graduating from university, I pretty much went into working with properties. So that's where this all sort of started really.

Will you please tell me a little bit about your company and your role there?

Prokil is a damp and timber specialist company. So, we get contacted by various clients in the commercial and private sectors. Each client has us investigate issues which they may have in a property that they own or look after. If they have a damp problem or a timber-related issue, or if they have a basement that needs to be waterproofed, we go in and diagnose any problem they have, to find out why it happens and how to remediate it. And then we actually go in and implement that remediation work.

I am responsible for the overall running of the business and all of our franchises as well. So, I get involved in the day-to-day running, as well as strategic planning for the organization.

And how long have you been with the company?

I've been here for six years.

It's interesting that you mentioned franchises. How many employees do you have in total?

Well, at our head office, the number of employees has sort of fluctuated. And it still does fluctuate depending on how busy we are. But we have between 15 and 20 employees working here.

Then we have eight franchise offices in different areas throughout England and Wales. Each one of those offices will have anywhere between three employees and 10-plus employees working for them. So, as a network, I would say about 100 staff members work within the Prokil brand.

And how many of them actually use magicplan?

The main people who use magicplan on a day-to-day basis are our surveyors. They go out and diagnose the issues and use magicplan for identifying where problematic areas are located. Then our technicians will use those plans to tally up where they're going to be actually carrying out the remedial work. So, I'd say probably half the company is involved with using magicplan on a day-to-day basis in some way, shape or form. Even our administrators, who are responsible for booking jobs, will look at plans to see the scope of work involved so they can determine how long jobs should be scheduled in our diaries.

What is the most basic kind of inspection that you do with magicplan?

It's where we go out and just diagnose a small area within a property. We just draw out one room, which is a box room, and identify one small area where work needs to be carried out. That would be the simplest kind of floor plan we would create.

And how exactly do you use magicplan to create drawings?

The surveyors use different ways to do it. Some people will sketch a drawing with pen and paper first, and then come back to the office and put it into magicplan together with the notes that they have created, to produce a plan as required. And some people will use their mobile phone. I personally use an iPad for magicplan, and I've got an iPad pencil that helps me out.

So, for you, it doesn't actually matter that each drawing is 100% accurate in terms of measurements, right? Does that mean you don't connect a Bluetooth laser measure?

Yes, the drawing doesn't always have to be 100% accurate if we're doing the full length of a wall. However, if we're doing just sections of a wall, then yes, we will put measurements on the drawing. We will take measurements using a laser measure, and then we will just annotate the drawing to ensure that the dimensions are shown on there. Then, when the technicians get that drawing, they know the exact point on the wall where they must start the work and the exact point where they must finish the work.

I would assume that the surveyor uses specific objects, annotations and photos to show where exactly the damage is located.

Yes, that’s correct. We also highlight specific sections of walls in different colors. Then we create a key that explains those colors. So, for example, if we draw a room and we only want a certain type of remedial work done to one wall, we will highlight that wall in, say, the color red. And then the key will explain what needs to be done to that wall. And if we want the adjoining wall to have some other, different type of treatment, we may highlight that in blue and then have the key represent what that blue color denotes.

Do your surveyors have to complete each inspection within a certain amount of time?

Yes, a majority of our surveys have a one-hour window – unless it's a slightly larger property, in which case they will be assigned a slightly longer period of time. But still, they have to be on site, have their survey carried out from start to finish, and then go on to their next appointment. They have to do those appointments in the order that they're booked with the clients, to ensure that our appointments are kept on schedule.

Why did you originally decide to use magicplan?

There are a few reasons why we went with magicplan. When I first worked for the company, all of our plans were hand drawn on grid paper. And yeah, it looks okay. But in order to have our plans look more professional, I knew we needed a software program that could produce the plans.

And I knew the program would need to produce exactly what we needed it to show. There are plenty of programs and apps out there that allow you to draw floor plans. But then we also need to be able to annotate each drawing, and to mark it in a way that fits with how we do our work. That's where magicplan excels.

We have reviewed it a few times over the years, but it still seems to be a firm favorite because it works. And I have to think about usability for not just myself, but also for my staff, for my franchisees, for their employees. I know magicplan is something that they can all use and is a relatively straightforward system to use. That creates consistency as well, because everyone is then doing things in the same manner. It's not open to interpretation.

So, it wasn't time savings that we wanted. Choosing magicplan was a case of making our plans look more professional, with an app that is easy to use and is uniform across all different branches. And then, ultimately, it came down to pricing as well. We had to choose an app within the right pricing bracket. If magicplan was priced at a point where we didn’t think it was going to be an economically viable option, then we probably wouldn't have gone with it.

But I think all these advantages sort of fit together nicely. What you get with magicplan is exactly what we're after, really.

Is there any other reason why you decided to choose magicplan?

Yes, another thing is the risk of using a paper format. If a paper gets lost, it's lost. And a paper plan is not easy to share. If you want to share it with someone else, you have to scan it and then you have to email it – whereas a magicplan drawing is always there, in the cloud. You can access it from multiple locations. You can edit it easily. You can share your plans between work groups. So, it's those things that matter as well, by improving the usability.

Do you share plans with clients?

Yes. The magicplan drawings are contained within our reports, which get sent to the clients. When a client looks at one of our reports, which is quite comprehensive, and then sees that we have a nice, detailed plan that looks professional, I think it helps give more credibility to our company. It builds up the client’s confidence in using us as a supplier – one that is going to be delivering the best possible service to them.

How was magicplan initially perceived within the company, among the surveyors and technicians? It's quite a change from paper drawings.

They agree that magicplan drawings look good. They really can't argue that it does look much better having a computer-drawn floor plan versus a hand-drawn one.

I think it's always good to look toward innovation, new ideas and new concepts, and to move with the times and be progressive. That helps us stand out as a company that is ahead of competitors. In our area, we are probably still one of only a few companies that use software to put our plans together. It might be only within the last year or so that some of the competitors in our area have started doing it as well.

I have one final question. If you had to describe magicplan with just one word, what word would that be?

I'd say versatile.

Thank you so much, Alex at Prokil!


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