Technology’s role in commercial real estate continues to evolve. This changing environment places new pressures on innovation and IT leaders. With a growing number of technology options available, how do you select the tools that are appropriate for your organization? How can you win over internal and external stakeholders?
Navigating the modern CRE tech stack is complex. Juniper Square invited three technology innovation leaders from well-known real estate investment and management consulting firms to share the lessons they’ve learned on their technology adoption journey. Takeaways from the conversation with Ilene Goldfine, Chief Digital Strategy Officer, Hines; Jim Carr, Chief Innovation Officer, BentallGreenOak; and Naseem Wenzel, Head of Real Assets North America, Lionpoint Group are outlined below.
The technology officer’s changing role
Organizations today need systematized access to data to be more responsive and enable better, faster decision-making. As a result, the role of a technology leader is evolving to be more strategic. As a technology leader, think about creating the ecosystem that will bring data, technology, and operational processes together to react to investor demands and market changes.
While finding commonalities and systems across the organization is ideal, markets, funds, and asset classes have specific needs that may make that unfeasible. For example, the energy monitoring system you’re using in Chicago may not be appropriate for use in Singapore; however, because accounts payable processes across the globe are the same, multiple systems in this case are unwarranted.
Establish guardrails around system implementation, risk mitigation, and data governance. In doing so, you can take a strategic approach to rationalizing systems, controlling the cost of ownership, and ensuring system overlap is justified.
Effectively manage change and prevent fatigue
Monumental changes are happening simultaneously in the industry. A solid change management process is necessary to manage this rate of transition and keep the organization functioning without change fatigue.
Create prioritization. When evaluating technology, look to whether it will solve the pain points and who will benefit. If the solution is only going to meet executive needs, but not the people who do the work, then it shouldn’t be the highest priority. Too often the people who are actually working with the technology to deliver the results that executives expect are forgotten—and without their buy-in, the change you’re trying to implement will not yield the results you need.
Lead with thoughtful change. That means spacing things out and thinking about the right time to introduce change. Ask how often change needs to happen. Look for ways to show success. Wins—even small ones—create an energy that keeps things moving forward at a sustainable level.
Build versus buy—weighing perfection against progress
It’s the age-old debate: Build technology or buy it. The answer comes down to the problem you’re looking to solve. Does a proven solution exist? Can it perform a single function or multiple functions? Will the vendor act as a partner to make the product better and help improve your processes?
There is no single solution that will solve for the entire real estate cycle across all asset classes. Through a combination of build and buy, you can quickly solve for problems that could impede growth, while spending valuable resources on the areas that will differentiate your organization in the marketplace.
Balance organizational culture with the change you’re making and the systems you’re introducing. Be nimble, mindful of the problem you’re solving, and demonstrate you’re making life better or easier.
Businesses won’t—and quite frankly, can’t—wait three years to solve a problem. The key to success is showing incremental wins that demonstrate forward momentum. That means not letting perfection get in the way of progress.
The critical nature of data governance
Greater emphasis is being placed on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) data. People, including fund investors, want to know everything that’s happening at the building operations level. As a result, many in the industry expect stringent regulations for data governance will be put in place. Having a structured plan and the tools to manage it is more important than ever.
Data governance is foundational, and it should be led by the business. To make a data initiative successful, it must be objective and prioritized by leadership. Executives need to push the initiative forward, but they often need to first see that they can get value from it.
A clear, consistent understanding of what the data represents eliminates confusion and fosters trust. Before making any data available, collaborate across the organization to determine what the business needs, what people are looking for, and what governance must be established. Engaging stakeholders in these discussions makes them invested in the outcome of the data and instills confidence that the information provided is relevant, timely, and accurate.
Creating a better investor experience
Reducing friction for stakeholders—investors, clients, tenant, and employees—moves the needle forward. It starts with improving experiences. For example, streamlining investor portals. Instead of offering a variety of portals that require maintenance and management, one central system should give investors access to the information they need and streamlines operations for internal stakeholders.
Providing better experiences in a more transparent, seamless way answers the mission that technology leaders are on today: Push the organization to do things better.
To address growing internal and external expectations for visibility and access to data, Juniper Square offers solutions that are shared, scalable, seamlessly connected to the business, and supported by expert service and robust security. Watch the on-demand webinar here to learn from technology innovation leaders at Hines, BentallGreenOak, and Lionpoint Group