The challenge

Ninety five percent of Australian retailers operate from leased premises.

Commercial lease management involves coordinating multiple documents and large quantities of data on the accounting, administrative and legal requirements associated with the rental and maintenance of properties. The introduction of the new global accounting standard IFRS16 in January 2019 requires reporting of all leases, affecting $US3 trillion of assets. Legal and accounting firms worldwide are challenged by the requirement to change their accountancy practices to lease abstraction, a time-consuming, error-prone task that manually extracts key information from a lease contract for reporting.

Our response

Smarter analysis of commercial leases

Research demonstrating Accurait

Accurait: A world-first solution for automating the extraction of information from commercial leases.

Through a CSIRO Kick-Start project, Lease Information Services Pty Ltd (LeaseInfo™), Australia’s largest provider of retail leasing data, gained access to Data61’s experience and capability in natural language processing and machine learning. The technical difficulty in deploying machine learning methods in the document-driven leasing industry was in the development of processes that quickly and efficiently acquire annotated data from a company’s databases in a way that computer systems can reliably learn the patterns in the data. Additionally, the language technology had to contend with lease documents that come in a variety of complex structures that vary from state to state and company to company.

The researchers used natural language processing approaches based on machine learning to enable their software to learn from large datasets of leases, find the patterns in the contextualised text data, and code the data for use downstream. The partnership resulted in the development of Accurait®, launched August 2018, a world-first automated solution for accurately extracting, storing and classifying information from commercial leases and exporting it to other management systems, including account books.

The results

Working with the public and private sectors

Accurait® has been trialed and demonstrated on more than two million documents. Accurait®’s beta testing phase provided live data from customers, including several high-profile retailers. The tests showed that Accurait® increases productivity through higher rates of error detection, faster turnaround times and lower labour costs. Beta clients estimated that they will save over 2,000 hours of manual search and review activity over the life of each lease term. Accurait® also provides a full audit trail, which enhances governance and may therefore drive further efficiencies. Our ongoing work includes improving the scalability and impact, e.g., by developing the methods to expand to related accounting tasks, include other types of leases, and process leases in languages other than English.

In Australia, over one million commercial leases are transacted annually, including for equipment and vehicles. For businesses and companies managing large portfolios, the productivity gains and time savings delivered by Accurait® can therefore potentially be significant.

The opportunities for growth and jobs provided to the business community by the Accurait® system have been recognised by the NSW Government through its support via a $25,000 Minimum Viable Product Grant from the Jobs for NSW program, and a $15,000 Tech Voucher through the Boosting Business Innovation Program.

Currently, an estimated 50% of all major Australian retail companies use LeaseInfo™ systems. LeaseInfo™ is licensing Accurait® nationally to its clients and is launching the technology internationally this year, starting with clients in Fiji and New Zealand. Furthermore, the UNSW Faculty of Accounting have signed a student licence to use Accurait® as a training tool for their undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

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