This roundtable, the last in the UKPA’s series on productivity, focused on how technology is changing the role of the property manager and explored which areas of property management can benefit from technology implementation. The roundtable was chaired by Yardi and attended by UKPA PropTech Gold Members and representatives from CBRE and British Land.
Advanced technologies such as automation and machine learning can help reduce the time and effort put into simple tasks, even eliminating some tasks altogether. For example, Re-Leased‘s property management software claims to be able to cut the time spent on administrative tasks by over 75%. Moreover, the time spent reading, manipulating and extracting key data can be very dull, and is prone to inaccuracies which can lead to errors and security breaches. However, for the adoption and productive usage of the technology to happen, there needs to be standardisation of data collection, data storage and data sharing across the industry, as well as a solid foundation of networks, broadband, systems and collaboration across the property lifecycle.
Productivity, thy name is plumbing
Within any property, proper plumbing is crucial, and can prevent issues from occurring, saving countless man hours. The same can be said of property management, but the plumbing for a technological revolution in the field currently lacks specialisation and guidance, despite the willingness of companies to continue the process. For example, automation and machine learning are technologies that significantly improve productivity in property management, create new jobs and save on costs, but without the initial ‘clean’ data to feed into the system, the technologies are unable to be used accurately and proactively.
It was noted that the industry still heavily relies on methods of data collection that are old fashioned and time consuming, making them open to inaccuracies. Across the industry, there needs to be a collaborative effort to collect data in a methodical, standardised way, to store that data in an accessible and secure Cloud system, and to then disseminate that data efficiently to improve revenue, client experience and sustainability goals. This process must involve agents, stakeholders, occupiers, government agencies and technology companies.
Property management in a pandemic
During the pandemic, technology adoption has been crucial for properties to be maintained and adhere to compliance. It has created opportunities for more types of technology to be used in property management. For example, InventoryBase’s inspection and inventory software is a streamlined system in which multiple property reports can be facilitated at once, saving time and reducing the amount of in person visits to properties usually necessary for producing reports. This has helped to ensure occupants and company staff remain safe.
Whether technology solutions will continue to be used post-pandemic is yet to be seen. The trajectory of technology investment has changed, and continuous engagement and collaboration between the PropTech and Property industry has never been more important. The pandemic has forced businesses to scrutinise expenditure, including technology investments. It is likely that some technology solutions will be cut post pandemic, particularly on-site technology that may be difficult to use and expensive to maintain. However, budgets for technology don’t have to be enormous; reasonable rates on property management software such as Yardi’s Breeze are currently available on the market, savings costs in the long run. It is crucial that the industry keeps momentum going and investment open to adopt and harness technology that solves short and long term problems and needs, particularly as people return to offices and restrictions ease.
The growing popularity of flexible space has also proved a challenge for property managers. Technologies that are able to facilitate more flexible processes are beginning to grow in popularity due to the pandemic. For example, software such as Storey, British Land’s operational system for its flexible office space, can make managing disparate properties simpler and more efficient, enhancing tenant experience and improving management productivity. Equally, RealPage’s P2 Tech Stack offers users the flexibility to integrate their system with an existing one, meaning that a complete, time-consuming overhaul isn’t necessary to yield results.
More than just a fad
Broadband strength and WiFi have also become, if possible, even more important than before due to the pandemic. Modern society’s reliance on the internet means that strong connectivity infrastructure has never been more important. Landlord Broadband, a company that provides internet to residential buildings, has seen a surge in the demand for strong, stable internet connections throughout its buildings. It was noted that successful connectivity can begin with the initial design of a building, as the consistency of bandwidth strength can be affected by a variety of factors in a building’s structure.
In order for property managers to benefit from productivity gains, there first needs to be a focus on improving current systems and continued education on how technologies such as AI and Blockchain work within the wider industry, and how they can aid the property management process. There is the feeling that the building blocks for change currently aren’t stable enough to continue a strong trajectory of technology growth in property management, but that the process of changing this, although slow and time consuming, is a worthy investment for clients, property managers and the planet.
Mark Evans, Head of Property Management at British Land
Laurence Levy, Innovation Lead, Property Management UK at CBRE
Alex Hill, Added Value Services, PM Specialist Advisory at CBRE
Michael Foreman, Managing Director at Dont Waste Group
Andrew Simpson, Managing Director at Landlord Broadband
David Oates, Chief Revenue Officer at PRODA
Warrick Swift, Commercial Director at Property Insepct
Siȃn Hemming Metcalfe, Head of Training & Development at InventoryBase
Neal Gemassmer, Vice President, International at Yardi
Sam Caulton, Chief Financial Officer at Re-Leased
Richard Kennedy, Global Head of Partnerships at Re-Leased
Benjamin Mcgee, VP of Sales at RealPage
Laura Woollard, Marketing Strategist at RealPage
Pinkesh Shroff, Vice President at Retransform
Sammy Pahal, Managing Director at UK PropTech Association
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