Big Data is a Big Deal

By on Aug 26, 2019 in People

Not long ago, most real estate companies made business decisions based on guesswork and backward-looking data aggregated into spreadsheets. Today, new technology automates data collection with advanced analytics to provide a complete picture of a portfolio’s opportunities and future risks. That’s big data.

Diana Norbury, Pillar Properties

When it comes to leveraging big data for big results, Diana Norbury knows her stuff. Norbury is senior vice president of multifamily operations for Seattle-based Pillar Properties. Her experience includes over a decade of managing mixed-retail multifamily communities throughout the U.S.

Pillar Properties is an award-winning developer, owner and manager of luxury apartment residences in the Puget Sound area and a developer of senior living communities through sister company Merrill Gardens.

Since joining Pillar, Norbury has focused on refining revenue management and business intelligence practices, talent management and education, operational systems implementation, and lease-up and marketing strategies for the company’s growing portfolio.

Yardi recently sat down with Norbury to learn more about the benefits of big data.

How do you use big data to drive performance?
Norbury: I use big data in a variety of ways. Big data is a huge resource when we’re having team calls. For example, I can go to the data when we’re talking about vacancies and pricing.

With Asset Intelligence, we finally have a tool that incorporates all our property and leasing data with historical traffic and pricing data. The system marries all that information together. I can find information fast without having to dig around. It also helps us format and present our data, which we can export into Excel or PDF — I think that’s really cool.

How do you use predictive analytics?

Norbury: I use Asset Intelligence and predictive analytics specifically for upcoming exposure and vacancies. In the past, we’d use a variety of reporting and a hodgepodge of different things. Now, with Yardi Elevate Suite, I can just go in there and see how many two-bedrooms are opening up in the next 90 days, what our traffic looks like it’s going to be and what our conversion has been historically. Then I can see what my team needs to do to get ahead of that.

We use prescriptive analytics to see how much we could potentially spend in marketing to generate the traffic needed to overcome upcoming vacancy or exposure. I haven’t seen another tool on the market that offers that kind of benefit. It’s been very interesting to learn that maybe we can change our marketing spend instead of, say, reducing pricing.

How do you turn benchmarks into better decisions?

Norbury: We use benchmarking to see how we stack up in comparison to rents, expenses and occupancy measures. Where should we be? Does it look like we budgeted appropriately? It helps challenge your team members to say, “This doesn’t look right; the data is saying something else.” Benchmarking turns us all into business managers.

We recently used benchmarking data to paint a picture for one of our investors of suggested rent drops to gain occupancy growth. We were still ahead of the market and Elevate enabled us to demonstrate trends over the last two years along with what was presently occurring.

What is one of your biggest takeaways?

Norbury: Your job of cleaning data is never done. When it comes to data, you have to separate the signal from the noise.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not looking at data?

Norbury: I’m an outdoor enthusiast, and I love snowboarding — I go every chance I get, which is typically about 30 days every winter. I’m also a certified hatha and vinyasa flow yoga teacher and reiki healer.

Ready to elevate your asset performance using big data? Join a webinar about the Yardi Elevate Suite.