In the past two blog posts – part one and part two, we’ve discussed many of the elements mid-sized companies should consider to transition from manual and in-house processes to CRE automation to manage their real estate holdings. The company leadership has identified the need for it, the time is right for it to be deployed in the near future, and they have consulted with others in the industry to discover various options and processes to make this transition happen.
Now it comes to the technology itself – what is the best “starter kit” of tools and applications for a company ready to manage its CRE like a strategic asset rather than a necessary expense? As mentioned, there is no consensus, and rightfully so, as there are just too many operational processes that are unique to individual companies. However, there is a basic process we use to identify areas of improvement and to serve as the foundation for advancement. We call it OCA (organize, control, analyze).
At the most basic of levels, there are five (5) primary things every CRE department needs to manage well: the people that touch the real estate (CRM/Contact management), the properties and lease data (property/Lease Administration), the documents and files (document management), the money (financial/accounting), and finally the processes that tie all these together (Project management). Most companies already have these systems in place, but unfortunately they are not connected or integrated and therefore offer little strategic value to their real estate specifically.
The first essential step to be taken is to get organized. This will help elevate your CRE holdings into the strategic fold where they belong and fundamentally where the value that technology offers begins. Every location and person should be identified and organized in a manner consistent with company structure. It is amazing how many companies do not have a simple, cohesive list of all their locations. Identify all leases and owned facilities, and collate functional use of each, property type if necessary, and any other key points. Additionally, start thinking about other mission-critical tools that might be needed such as mapping, financial modeling, or stacking plans. This last point is where spreadsheet functionality ends and the need for CRE technology begins.
Next step is to get control of your portfolio. If you have taken the time to contemplate and organize your portfolio thoroughly, identifying the best possible technology tools will be much easier. Let the organizing exercise lead the way to the right technology solution(s) that will enable reliable control of your real estate data and documentation. At the very least, every lease and owned property should be thoroughly abstracted and the data entered into a system with flexible reporting. Documentation should be stored and managed electronically, preferably in a system integrated with your lease/property platform.
The final step of this process is to analyze your work and findings. This is the imperative result of all the work done in organizing and controlling your data. Be sure to develop detailed criteria required for meaningful reporting. As the consultations with technology providers begin, check to make sure the software platform can support the reports and analytics needed by all teams throughout the company before making any selection.
Choosing the right CRE technology tools to promote better processes boils down to three main issues that must be addressed: 1) identify the areas of improvement; 2) source the best vendor partners and tools; and 3) justify the expense against an expected outcome, efficiency, or improvement.
This three-part blog series is by no means an exhaustive review, but more of a solid starting point of all of the elements that should be included in the transition to CRE technology. Remember, it’s not about the “best” solution or application as deemed by certain industry influencers, it’s about understanding your company’s unique needs well enough to identify the processes or problems that need fixing.
No company has time to waste in trying to adapt a solution to meet their needs and solve their problems. Know the problems first and find the technology partners with the tools to resolve them, not the reverse.
If you have any questions about evaluating or implementing CRE technologies to manage your company’s real estate holdings, please contact John Rice, Quarem founder and president, at firstname.lastname@example.org.