Every real estate team around the world is unique. They all have their different specializations, structures, processes, and skills. But one thing that unifies them is that they are all very, very busy. Property firms are all competing for a finite number of deals so there is a lot of external pressure to do things faster, smarter and just generally better. They are all interested in growing their operations and increasing productivity. This means that the professionals that make up these teams are constantly working underneath a long list of critical tasks, many of which other team members are waiting on to do their contribution to the process. It also means that the busy people working hard every day to make our property industry run don’t have a lot of spare time to think about data architecture.
This is what The Altus Group learned recently when they conducted extensive research to understand what would help their 4,000 worldwide users of their ARGUS software convert over to their new cloud-based system. In order to find out more about how they think the property industry will incorporate cloud-based data into their current workflows, I got two of the people creating their cloud solutions on the phone for one of our recent Propmodo conference calls, Dhinaker Dhandi and James Hutton.
They told me that they learned, unsurprisingly, that property professionals were more interested in what the cloud could do for them than how it worked. “When we ask our users to think about our cloud differently, from MRI or Yardi, for example, we lose them. Instead, we like to get users to think about the jobs that they do and group data into each workflow functionality. When you position it that way and tell them that everything that they need will be in one place they start to understand the possibilities of integration.”
They also found that every type of team had different priorities. Voyanta, for example, was designed specifically for asset managers in a way that allowed each building management team to have their own way to input their buildings’ data. While Acquire, a tool for acquisition teams, needed the ability to change the assumptions of the valuation models in the middle of the reviewing process. Even still, every different vertical wants access to unsiloed data, even if they all use it in very different ways.
Integration with other systems was also a priority. The Altus Group has already built custom integrations with Yardi and MRI and is developing an open API with Yardi and VTS t. They see data entry as one of the processes that should take up a lot less of the property industry’s valuable time as more seamless cloud solutions become available.
Disruption to current workflow was another one of the main concerns of the teams that they talked to. Dhandi explained, “Excel will not go away. We learned that by restricting people from doing what they have always done you create a feeling that we are not building something with them in mind.” One way to limit the disruption of the switch to the cloud is it to offer a hybrid solution, that keeps files in the cloud and on computer hard drives. This isn’t specific to the property industry, of course, large tech companies like Microsoft and Adobe have also implemented hybrid solutions.
During our conversation, the two gave a lot of good advice on how to best implement a cloud-based workflow such as appointing a designated data steward. They were candid about the limitations of software if it is not correctly used by a team. “There is only so much that software can do,” Dhandi said, “at the end of the day the processes need to be enforced by the organization.”
If you or your team has been thinking about why you might want to move some of your processes over to the cloud or want information as to the best ways to do it, this podcast will surely give a lot of specific information. All property teams are different, yes, but they all value information and when it comes to understanding how the real estate industry can best utilize cloud functionality, this conversation has a lot to offer.