Mapping the Future

By on Apr 22, 2019 in People

With the excitement of spring and summer holidays ahead, most of us have in mind that the key to a great vacation is careful planning, research and a clear idea of where you want to go.

photo of Bernie Devine

Bernie Devine

Lifting a real estate company out of individual spreadsheets and into collaborative systems is a very different kind of adventure, but mapping out the steps in the process and knowing what results you need are no less critical to having a successful experience.

Going Digital Without Hiring Engineers

Many real estate companies in Asia Pacific, and elsewhere globally, are starting their journey toward mining the data from their team activities and customer experience with systems that look much the same as what they had been using in the 1990s. This can put property firms at a disadvantage as they expand into new markets or try to ramp up growth.

With online analytics now common in finance, ecommerce and other firms, more real estate companies are looking for ways to get accurate, real time data on their businesses, but get put off by the challenge of adopting new systems, Bernie Devine, regional director for Asia at Yardi, explains. “Our message for them is that the benefits are worth the pain, and there really isn’t that much pain anymore.”

Devine indicates that that while systems like Yardi’s, which allow real estate firms to manage their leasing, track building maintenance and link their financial reporting directly to the front end of their businesses, are built by teams of programmers, implementing them does not require technical knowledge.

“The key to getting your business online is having a clear understanding of how each step of each process works and being able to map those steps out,” Devine said. After having helped scores of Asian real estate companies go online, the 25-year property industry veteran sees more adoption of online systems as companies increasingly compete in a region where investment yields are compressing and capital values are rising.

And for companies managing growing portfolios of real estate assets and empowering teams accustomed to getting instant updates on their smartphones, there are benefits to be gained in transparent information sharing, efficiency and automated reporting that come from documented processes and cloud-based systems.

Know Where You Are to See Where You Can Go

For those companies that have already put aside the batteries of spreadsheets on shared drives, and emailing attachments around the network, the biggest benefit can be getting a clearer picture of their financial performance, and getting that information faster.

“The big plus for most of our users is getting reports without making the finance team work overtime for a week pulling information in from the different departments,” Devine notes. “While the initial deployment of any new system takes time, you get that time back through a painless reporting process, and the reports are better too.”

For office landlords that can mean a clearer picture of the time from initial client inquiry to a lease signing and easy access to information on lease maturities to ensure that tenants renew.

Managers of retail assets where tenants may conduct thousands of transactions a day can get a clear floor plan based picture of customer traffic in different parts of the facility without spending weeks gathering data and crunching numbers.

The Journey From Excel to AI

While tech giants are pushing the envelope of artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, companies don’t have to become giants of big data to improve their efficiency through online systems. A 2017 survey of real estate companies in Asia by Mingtiandi and Yardi found that 42 percent of respondents were still managing their sales, leasing and property management in Excel.

“You can manage your business on a spreadsheet if you want to,” Devine commented, “But it’s prone to more risk than through a single connected solution, as you have multiple points where the same data is being entered – rather than information sharing being streamlined. It also means things are slower, and your people are spending more time doing the back end process, than looking at how to make meaningful decisions based on accurate, timely information.

Devine does, however, see the growing attention to big data and analytics as bringing online systems more deeply into the conversation for senior managers of real estate firms. “Ultimately, the biggest benefits from connected systems go to top management, who get instant reporting more accurately. This lets them solve problems more quickly and maybe boost that profit margin closer to where those Internet firms are.”

Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Mingtiandi. Reprinted here with permission.