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Overcoming Barriers to Property Management Technology Adoption

Managing a commercial property gets more complicated each year. With increasing demands from tenants as well as owners, and a wider range of tools to choose from than ever before, today’s managers find themselves questioning the most efficient way to perform their duties.

“Property managers are asked to do more with less on a regular basis,” said Robert Vail, Head of Sales at tenant billing and engagement software company Genea, at a recent presentation at Propmodo Live. In front of a panel of industry leaders, Robert discussed the changing nature of property management challenges, the role of technology in addressing – and creating – time sinks, and the best ways to evaluate a potential technology partner in the property management space.

Management professionals today face a range of challenges. Expanding property portfolios stretch resources thin even while owners demand more comprehensive reporting. Tenants, often used to the “push button” convenience of smart thermostats and smartphone-enabled security systems at home, come to expect these same features at the office without any understanding of the way commercial properties operate. Finally, property managers are forced to respond to the dizzying assortment of tech and non-tech vendors bending their ears. These problems can be exacerbated by the introduction of technological solutions for problems they weren’t meant to solve.

“Property management teams end up trying to shoehorn multiple things into a tech that is not meant to handle everything,” Vail said. Utilized this way, the technology often falls short and leads property managers back to the tried and true Excel spreadsheet. While easy to use, spreadsheets are highly susceptible to human error – especially when passed from employee to employee over a long period.

With the downsides of errant tech implementation in mind, Robert provided a blueprint to successfully screen a given technology provider for the signs of success or any red flags. First, property managers should do their research on the history of the provider. How long has the company been around? What buildings has their product been used in? Next, managers should consult their networks, asking peers and coworkers whether they have any experience with the provider. Finally, before signing any contract, property managers should carefully consider the implementation process from start to finish. Will the service be responsive to changes in use, such as the addition of other buildings to the portfolio?

“Tech isn’t magic. If the adoption isn’t high, it’s worthless,” Robert said pragmatically. One of the great disconnects between technologists and those in the trenches in the real estate industry is perceived versus potential value. Many innovators get wrapped up in what would work best in a perfect scenario. But property managers have been around tenants long enough to know that their actions are not always rational. Understanding how and why technology will be adopted by those using it can be the difference between seeing greater efficiency through technology or having another dead initiative that will end up on the receiving end of the snarky jokes at the next office party.

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

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