It’s easy to be fairly dazzled by some of the recent technology-related success stories emerging in commercial real estate.
Or how Compstak leverages crowdsourcing to revolutionize the process of amassing comp data—formerly an arduous, labor-intensive, hit-or-miss undertaking.
Look at the WeWork phenomenon, whose leadership attributes all of its success to data management.
Or Floored, which enables tenants and prospects to take virtual 3-D walking tours of office space.
And here at Honest Buildings, where our data-driven project management and procurement platform replaces cumbersome spreadsheets with one centralized system for bid management and cost tracking.
But just how far along is the industry in using technology to drive their businesses forward?
According to leading owners, third-party managers and prominent tech investors, commercial real estate is still in the process of realizing the full potential that new tech platforms hold.
“We’re in the first or second inning of a nine-inning game,” said Josh Guttman, a partner with venture firm SoftBank, at the Honest Buildings Real Estate Innovations Summit held this summer. “The biggest investing opportunities are around data,” whether you’re leveraging technology to generate visibility into an existing “opaque system” or enabling new, more efficient workflows.
Many forward-thinking real estate firms, especially owners, are moving quickly to aggregate their data as a tool for faster and more reliable decision making.
Boston Properties, for example, is recognized as an early adopter in the real estate technology space. The REIT’s Chief Information Officer, Jim Whalen, describes their approach:
“[At Boston Properties], we leverage data and the network as an enabler for our business’ foundational lenses and as a tool for competitive advantage.”
Integrating different technology platforms is also important for a company of Boston Properties’ size. Whalen’s buildings manage 1.2 million visitor check-ins every year. That requires the support of “three or four systems,” each with its own targeted function. Also, just over the past 18 months, Boston Properties has successfully “rationalized” all of its energy data and meters onto a single platform, he said.
But Whalen remains ever on the lookout for new technology-driven solutions. “We want to see anything that enhances visibility and transparency from an operating perspective.”
Melissa Burch, Executive General Manager for the Americas Development business at Lendlease, echoed Whalen’s desire for new tools that facilitate integration.
“We are still in the early days of integrating components and making them accessible to people at the front lines,” she said at the Summit, noting that Lendlease views its development sites as staging grounds to test out new software.
“Our job sites are living laboratories to explore the use of a certain technology,” she continued. "We’re out there every day, experimenting and testing.”
The firm also looks hard for innovative answers in the knowledge management sphere.
“A big challenge for a company like Lendlease is to find ways to share best practices in a big global firm that’s running experiments worldwide. That’s why knowledge management within the company is a huge area for us.”
Even in the early innings of the CRE technology revolution, thoughtful real estate organizations understand the 21st century prerequisite for success: Create or leverage systems that assemble and aggregate data, manage and transfer knowledge, and make operations more transparent.