5 ways to stay one step ahead of your competitors...
It’s a great question. In today’s business environment, with the commercial property industry so busy with companies offering varying tech solutions to ‘everyday problems’, how do professionals know which of them is best going to help differentiate them from the crowd?
Although it’s not always appropriate to copy what the bigger kids are doing, something I think we all learnt at some point in our teenage years, I think it might be useful in this case to take a look at what the commercial property heavyweights are doing, as some of those practices could well be adopted by smaller companies looking to better thrive in the digital future.
So, from developers to investors, and managers to agents, here’s what I’m seeing commercial property’s biggest players do in order to try and stay one-up on their competition.
Investors and developers are bathing themselves in data
The excitement around data is nothing new – it was identified early-on as one of the most promising arms of PropTech. In the last year, our ability to gather, store, analyse, and report on data has has improved immeasurably.
For commercial investors and developers, these innovations are proving invaluable, well on their way to becoming vital. They’re using it for everything: identifying potential build-sites, analysing comparables data, understanding the value and investment potential of individual properties, and, equally importantly, managing and growing a profitable portfolio.
The biggest hitters in commercial development and investment no longer make decisions based on gut-instinct or guesswork. I know a lot of traditional players pride themselves on their ability to read the market and recognise and golden goose from a dead duck, and many have built successful careers doing just that.
But today, the technology is available to allow professionals to make decisions based of concrete knowledge and analysis. And, while an element of skill still applies in investment, declining the opportunity of true insight saves too much time and far too much money to any longer be acceptable.
They’re also increasingly crazy for crypto
This one’s a little more of an unknown, but early signs show that investors are exponentially interested in the ins-and-outs of cryptocurrency. Developers, too, are looking at the FinTech innovation as a more efficient and secure way of funding projects.
Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) are becoming an increasingly popular way of funding projects and developments across the commercial industry and Blockchain, coming hand-in-hand with crypto, is also providing some much needed transparency to the industry.
As Professor Andrew Baum says in his PropTech 3.0 report for Oxford University, “…companies are now setting up blockchain practices and advising clients to do their own due diligence and to get ready for the transition”.
Blockchain technology is transforming core commercial property operations such as, sales, contracts, financing, leasing, and management transactions. The industry’s heavyweights are are paying close attention to how they can approach this opportunity and, although many of them are yet to make any real move, you can be sure some exciting announcements are on their way.
Agents are streamlining the lot
My god, the processes behind commercial property is so complex it makes residential look like a ten-piece jigsaw puzzle.
As such, workflow streamlining platforms and solutions have arrived much later for commercial agents than they did for residential but, like London busses, they’re all arriving at once. And if agents don’t manage to jump on board, they’re in for some seriously tough times ahead. That’s why all of the major industry heavyweights are adapting to these new platforms with abandon.
It’s long been said that agents are being slow to react to the presence of technology, but today that is truly changing. Last year’s MIPIM New York was the final proof of that, and this year’s inaugural MIPIM PropTech Europe is further proof still.
There are now dozens of workflow platforms for commercial agents and they’re enabling faster processing, less admin, stronger leads, more sales, more leases, and more profit. Those who continue to refute the potential of efficiency technology are going to find themselves slower, less reactive and less knowledgeable than their forward-looking peers.
Managers are automating
In a similar vein, leaders in commercial property management are realising the benefits of effortlessly increased efficiency via automation.
Automation is an innovation leaning heavily on the ever-fascinating worlds of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning and, in its essence, has one core purpose – to remove the crazy amount of time spent carrying out repetitive admin tasks.
It sounds really simple and it is a bit of a no-brainer, but the value of automation goes beyond basic time-saving. Automation removes the risk of human error, it saves money by being faster and more efficient than any human can ever be, it offers piece of mind that, for example, invoices are paid, rent reminders are sent, and health & safety regulations are complied with.
It’s an incredible gift, to be able to do everything without even having to remember it needs doing.
Landlords are offering Space As A Service
The great Antony Slumbers once said something which is fast becoming an idiom between property heavyweights;
“The Real Estate Business is no longer about Real Estate.”
He goes on to explain that “increasingly, we are moving to an almost post-consumer world...less bothered about accumulating more stuff and much more interested in being provided with services, experiences and ephemeral pleasures”.
The rise of the of Space As A Service philosophy means that landlords are moving away from being rent collectors, towards becoming service providers. Along the way, the idea of empty space has become somewhat laughable by those in the know because they ways in which people interact with your space has now become the way people interact with your brand.
As Antony explains, this will also affect property managers because it is they who will “become the curators of the user experience”.
A practical example of what Space As A Service means? Co-working; WeWork and the like.
It is expected that, by 2020, “about 65 million Americans will be freelancers, independent contractors and solopreneurs, and will constitute about 40% of the total workforce.” These people aren’t going to be looking for an office in the way companies have done historically. Instead, they will be demanding a space in which they can work, but which also provides conference rooms, food, access to advanced tech solutions, the opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded people, somewhere to unwind, somewhere to rest, somewhere to play. That is what Space As A Service is, and it’s takeover is inevitable. Landlords who fail to provide such experiences will soon become more outdated than a prawn cocktail wedding starter.
Literally everybody is operating from The Cloud
This one is easy. If you’re not on the cloud, you’re not in the game.