Taking Back Control – the New Mantra for Commercial Property Owners?
As a result of various changes underway in the commercial property market, taking back control is a phrase that may well become a new mantra for property owners.
The nature of work is changing
COVID-19 has accelerated changes to working practices that were already underway. The “workplace” definition is now extended to include an entire range of possibilities. Home offices, kitchen tables, garden sheds, suburban “satellite” offices, serviced offices, co-working spaces, even cafes, hotel rooms, trains, and airport lounges. While the “new normal” vary between companies, all of these are likely to be somewhere in the mix, with tech solutions keeping everyone and everything connected - even if we don’t end up as avatars in a virtual Facebook workspace!
ESG agendas have moved beyond box-ticking exercises
As Corporate Social Responsibility policies have evolved into Environmental, Social and Governance action plans, businesses are getting serious about employee health and well-being as well as their wider impact on the environment and communities around them. To understand and manage this, they need metrics and data. At a local level it may be HVAC efficiency, energy consumption, or vehicle movements, while at the macro level data can be gathered across portfolios and carbon footprints measured. Property owners have the additional burden of concerning themselves with their tenants’ ESG agendas as well as their own.
Owners as service providers and client managers
The above, together with market competition and ever-present pressures on costs, are driving fundamental changes in owner – tenant relationships. Leasing and managing business space are increasingly seen as services by more demanding tenants, who now expect greater transparency, accuracy, and reaction times. Astute owners recognise this and are now putting as much focus on tenant (client) management as well as becoming more proactive in property and facilities management.
We’re all tech savvy now
Long before the pandemic, we have all become increasingly accustomed to using tech in various forms. While I’m surely not the only one who remembers mailing a proposal and waiting one or two weeks for a reply, most of us have progressed from email to instant messaging apps and a plethora of business tools. For good or bad, smartphones are our third hand and the internet our oxygen, the here and the now.
There is a PropTech revolution going on
While the property industry may have been slow to embrace IT, various systems have been around for years, mostly aimed at specific, narrow user groups such as valuers or property managers. Development of cloud, data integration and near-field communication technologies have enabled a new range of solutions: stakeholders can now be connected in real time on single, multi-functional platforms, remotely accessible from laptops and smartphones. Ready-made systems are available, without the need to spend fortunes in time and money attempting to develop the bespoke solution that is more likely to sink without trace before implementation, taking all its investment dollars with it.
Big Data = Big Enabler
We now live in a world where practically everything (and everyone) can be measured. Entry and exit times at buildings and car parks, elevator waiting times, volume of fresh air changes per hour, system running times, maintenance and repair down times, repair and running costs, energy usage, even an individual cleaner’s progress through a building. Property owners equipped with PropTech solutions such as Singu no longer need to worry about the late Donald Rumsfeld’s “known unknowns”: Big Data means knowledge and knowledge, as we all know, means power!
If you own an international portfolio, imagine looking at a map of the world with all your property locations indicated, zooming in to a specific city and property, then on to a floorplan and room, right down to individual pieces of equipment, such as a thermostat control or a fan coil unit. With a few more clicks you can see the service and repair history, including who did what, when, how much it cost, and who approved it. Over time, the data collected from an individual asset can help predict its replacement date. Comparisons can be made with other properties, benchmarks and KPIs can be established.
A few more clicks and all that data can be filtered and presented as you like it – an annual or monthly overview of the entire portfolio or an individual property, by equipment type, by cost, by due date, as a list, on a graph, pie, or bar chart. Exported to Excel, Tableau Public – no problem. Everything to do with building operation and property management can be so treated, from rent, service charge and payment data to tenant liaison, access control, cleaning regimes, virtual data rooms and document archives. At logistics parks, truck movements can be monitored, and barriers remotely controlled.
While your property manager may imagine sitting in a control room, surrounded by monitors while stroking a white cat, reality is more likely to be working in the office or from home, sitting with a laptop or smartphone in one hand and a coffee in the other. It really is that simple.
Taking Back Control
Given the huge investments made in commercial property and the intense competition for deals and tenants, it is hardly surprising that owners are taking a more hands-on approach to managing their investments. Big Data combined with real estate software solutions such as Singu can give owners a much deeper insight into how well their portfolios operate and enable quicker, better-informed decision making to give a competitive edge. As well as improving accuracy and transparency, data can support the owners’ positions on service charge reconciliations, tenant handovers and dilapidations.
The efficiencies of Singu FM, facility and maintenance management software, and its ability to connect everyone on a single platform can enable property and asset management to be brought back in-house. Even when outsourced to third parties, owners should own or specify the PropTech solution to ensure consistency across the portfolio, retain ownership and control of their data, enable system set-up to meet their own requirements, control which individuals have access to which data, and retain maximum flexibility for changing service providers.
It has always struck me as a case of the tail wagging the dog when a property owner’s decision making is driven by the system that their service provider uses when it should logically be the other way around. Allow Singu to change that – take back control of your portfolio! For more information, please visit the website.
Advisor to the Management Board
Velis Real Estate Tech
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