How Commercial Property Owners Can Cut Through The Hype Of CRE Tech

Tim Curran is the CEO of Building Engines, the modern building operations platform for commercial real estate.

As the pandemic continues, CRE owners and operators are searching for ways to ensure the well-being of tenants and workers alike while also sustaining business continuity amid disruption. Conveniently, the CRE industry currently stands at the pinnacle of a tech revolution, with digital innovations flooding the market that promise to address such concerns and more. While previously a luxury, CRE technologies have become so prevalent that investing in them to support business demands has become a table stake for modern property survival and rightly so.

From streamlining operations to enhancing the tenant experience to stabilizing revenue, the competitive edge of adopting digital solutions cannot be understated, especially during vulnerable business periods like those produced by the Covid-19 pandemic. When deployed in those areas of business CRE success is built upon (e.g. finance, leasing and building operations), CRE technologies have the power to safeguard buildings against the pressures of the pandemic and equip them to better weather any future market changes.

However, as CRE tech becomes commonplace and the choice of solutions grows overwhelming, owners and operators need to be able to discern which technologies are designed to drive lasting value and which are only smoke and mirrors. When considering which technologies will best assist in responding to pressing tenant needs and propel their CRE offerings forward, the following are the business capabilities winning solutions should achieve.

Free up property teams to focus on pressing needs.

With the pandemic persisting, many tenants’ safety expectations are incredibly high. Tenants want to lease from property groups they trust to protect their well-being and are proactive in addressing their needs. Unfortunately, owners and operators often find themselves bogged down with time-consuming back-office processes that hinder their responsiveness. With the appropriate technology to streamline these responsibilities, property teams can rise to tenant standards.

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When deciding which tech solution is right for them, owners and operators should first identify those menial, time-intensive areas of business that would be more productive if executed with software. For example, if the property team doesn’t have visibility into the volume, priority and location of work, they’re left working uncoordinated and inefficiently, thereby sacrificing their profit margins. Instead, a digital platform could provide visibility into priorities, allowing teams to tackle problem areas in groups ensuring a persistent level of service delivery, in addition to allowing leaders to manage by exception. 

Useful CRE innovations should integrate with existing operations instead of being added on top of them, thereby helping employees tackle the responsibilities already before them so they have time to focus on more personable work. Likewise, CRE technology should have an open architecture so that it seamlessly integrates with additional programs a property team may be using. This way, operators choosing to employ multiple systems don’t have to work between siloed programs, which can be time-consuming and risk misplacing information — effectively discrediting any value those programs would otherwise offer. An open-architecture design also fosters scalability, as owners and operators can easily add more capabilities to address future business demands.

Similarly, CRE technology must have a simple onboarding process. Deploying CRE technology shouldn’t be a laborious undertaking, but rather a user-friendly experience that enables property teams to swiftly make better business decisions. Unfortunately, many are often dissuaded from digital solutions on account of how complicated the setup process is. If property teams are experiencing difficulties from the onset, then most likely, their chosen solution won’t be worthwhile in the long run.

Help property teams maintain critical insights into tenant and building well-being.

To operate strategically, owners and operators need to maintain insights into how their properties are performing, which they can secure via CRE tech. Whether property teams use technology to procure performance reports or to manage risk and security across their buildings, having detailed insights empowers property teams to identify opportunities to increase efficiencies and decrease operating costs. Data collection and managing solutions are also particularly helpful to have during a situation as fluid as the ongoing pandemic, as the ability to monitor variables like workers’ schedules and activity helps operators accommodate social distancing guidelines.

Though deploying tech to help with any area of business can yield returns, for a solution to drive maximum value, it ought to be comprehensive. While technology should be specialized so that it can optimize the performance of its core business areas, it should not be so niche that its value is limited to a select few users or functions. The more roles a single investment can support, the greater an organization’s level of efficiency, and therefore the greater its NOI.

Support a more thoughtful tenant experience.

CRE technology needs to offer a progressive experience for all user personas of a property team — tenants included, now more than ever. From spatial visualization platforms for prospects to assess spaces without being on-site (or even current tenants who may be reevaluating their spatial requirements) to a leasing tool for housing occupancy terms and building information to accelerate the leasing process, CRE tech enables property teams to communicate more timely, in greater detail and more thoughtfully, thereby winning tenant favor and reducing the risk of vacancies. Especially as safety and sanitation remain top of mind for many tenants during this time, tools that empower property teams to deliver transparent updates on service levels and maintenance are particularly well received.

Accelerated by the pandemic, technology has arrived at the forefront of the CRE industry, and property teams need to embrace it if they want to remain competitive in the modern world. Aggressive tech adoption has the power to make operations more thoughtful and productive, which enables property teams to become more profitable. Though with such great promise, owners and operators must be able to identify technologies that empower business growth and bolster their offerings within immediate circumstances and beyond. 


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