Dawn of a New Day

Big Data and the property data “expert”

Like every industry on the planet, the property sector is shifting into the digital age, as technology is undergoing its fourth revolution and becoming an integral part of the business landscape. Property has always been a competitive industry, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the property managers who are catching the digital wave are benefitting from its superior capacity for making operations more efficient, more sustainable and ultimately more cost-effective. 

What this unprecedented shift to digital is also creating is a wealth of data, generated by the software and applications that underpin and track property industry operations. These data sets, if leveraged effectively, have the potential to provide many ongoing benefits for property managers, and positively shape the future of this industry.

Two decades into the 21st century, there has been a marked shift in thought towards big data within the property industry, indicated by investments in PropTech increasing by 36% per year, including sizeable investments from major players Colliers International and JLL.

Add to that the recent findings from a KPMG survey of property industry professionals that revealed 97 percent surveyed believe that “technological innovation will have an impact on their business moving forward.” It’s clear that change is coming for the industry, especially to the role of property managers. 

With the arrival of big data signaling a clear shift in the mindset of today’s property sector, industry participants are naturally demonstrating an eagerness to understand how they can leverage its tools for optimizing their business. However, when you consider the estimates suggesting that by 2020 every person on earth will generate 1.7MB of data every second, the size of the challenge in harnessing and making sense of big data becomes apparent. 

Still, when aligned with data sets created from proptech solutions, it’s obvious that the potential insights available to property professionals will be significant. 

Add to this the advancements being made in artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation and analytics. Their capabilities for interacting to provide valuable insights and the impact of big data on the future of the property industry is undeniable. 

What’s driving these developments? Unquestionably, there are some key problems that exist within today’s property industry that big data software solutions could address. Compliance is one area that is low hanging fruit for automated processes. Manual health and safety procedures in the property industry have proven time and again to be time-inefficient, inaccurate and provide minimal visibility of who is on-site. Employee productivity is another. Traditional property management methods have meant it has been hard to get accurate data on the operations of employees and contractors, which in turn has made it difficult to analyze how many are needed to oversee a property portfolio. 

Energy usage is another powerful way that big data techniques can be harnessed. As the calls for urgent solutions to climate change grow louder around the world, optimizing properties for energy efficiency while still prioritizing tenant satisfaction remains an ongoing challenge for the sector. Solutions are even more imperative in a time where more and more tenants and investors are looking for greener buildings.

Learning to navigate this new digital landscape will be crucial for property managers wanting to leverage technology and require them to upskill to become property data experts. So, what should any prospective property manager focus on to become the data expert required of the age of big data and AI? The first thing that should be in any modern property manager’s automation wheelhouse is automation. Historically, the role of a property manager has been to deal reactively with the many, small yet urgent tasks that arise as tenants raise complaints with their leases. Automation tools already available in the market are fast becoming strategic partners for property managers, relieving them of many of the menial administrative tasks currently required by the job, so they can focus proactively on improving their tenants’ experience. 

At Forsite we built our contractor induction and management app to do exactly that, streamline processes for overseeing the whereabouts of contractors and providing complex data on their time on-site. Re-Leased accounting software is another good example of automation in action by creating an automated process for the invoicing and reconciliation processes that can consume a property manager’s valuable time. 

Of course, the amount of automation you are able to implement is directly dependent on how much data you have to draw on, but the growing reality is that those who leverage tech solutions will be rewarded with more automation options.

Once property managers have access to large data sets, they then need the tools to analyse them to derive their potential benefits for decision making and long-term planning. Being able to interpret data intelligently will enable property managers to make efficiency, quality or compliance-based decisions confidently, supported by the wealth of data behind them. 

Data analytics show real promise to be a key tool for cost optimisation for property managers in the future. Operating and maintenance costs stand to reach a new level of efficiency as they were previously an ambiguous area of a property budget. The introduction of data analytics and contractor management software to a property managers role gives them the ability to accurately identify inefficient areas of operational costs and make educated changes to optimize these costs.

Machine learning, powered by AI, will undoubtedly be the most beneficial tool moving into the future for property managers. AI’s ability to integrate new data streams into its analysis in real-time would certainly be a godsend for property managers as it would allow them to stay fully current with market trends to ensure a sound market strategy, client satisfaction and efficient operation of their properties. These tools will be key for property managers to embrace moving forward not only to make their job easier but to stay competitive in the market. 

For years, advanced technological capabilities like those described above existed primarily in the area of science fiction, and were predicted to arrive “one day.” It’s exciting to realise that that day is now here. The question is, will property managers wake up and be ready to greet that new day? 

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Propmodo is a global multimedia effort to explore how emerging technologies affect our built environment.

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