It’s a common misconception that all Real Estate technology and associated projects are expensive. Nobody will argue that a large-scale MRI, Yardi or JD Edwards ERP implementation or upgrade will end up costing a sizable amount of money and span many months, if not years. While there are many case studies of just such projects, there are relatively few that focus on the rather large sector of smaller and medium sized real estate companies that have now realized tremendous value in spending a relatively small amount of time and money on technology.
This has perpetuated the idea that these smaller real estate companies view technology as out of reach. They end up missing out on the efficiencies created by the effective use of technology to streamline their operations, and continue to rely on manual or paper processes. This often ends up costing them more in the long run through missed opportunities and these lost efficiencies.
From a real estate technology perspective, these are the “Forgotten Companies”.
Over the last several years there has been a somewhat of a metamorphosis in real estate software. Years ago, pretty much everything you could do was part of your ERP system. Yes, there were a few outlying products – for budgeting or construction, and integrating them with your ERP was a challenge.
That’s all changed.
There has been a significant amount of investment in real estate tech products in recent years. Which has given the industry a wide selection of niche applications for pretty much anything you want to do, from AP and AR automation, all levels and flavors of leasing CRM and revenue maximization (like the airlines use), to tenant portals for enhanced communication and issue tracking and even very specialized applications such as helping you change your address when you move (it’s called Updater and it’s a personal favorite of mine). Pretty much everything will work on a smartphone or tablet. The industry has figured out that integration between products is critical to their success, and in taking this seriously has worked towards fully automating these integrations through APIs (Google APIs if you don’t know what they are).
So what does this mean for the “Forgotten Companies”?
It means that embracing and benefiting from technology is no longer out of reach. Both from a cost and time perspective.
It means that they can focus on a smaller issue (or issues) that may be causing their organization significant pain, without breaking the bank or turning their organization inside out. Progress can be evident in days and weeks, instead of months and years. Something else is very important however - Organizations need to realize that “change is good”, and “we’ve always done it that way” often isn’t. And this embracing of change needs to run vertically and horizontally though the organization. Without this, projects won’t deliver everything they are capable of. Leadership needs to open their eyes and minds to take advantage to the efficiencies that these products can solve for. This often means “losing the paper”, which for reasons unbeknownst to me continues to be a significant challenge for so many companies.
If you believe you are one of these Forgotten Companies, it’s time to take a fresh look at technology and automation. Start small. Find some area or process that is causing organizational pain. Chances are there is a niche solution that won’t break the bank. Remember to involve all the relevant business users when implementing it, and not just the technology staff. And once it’s up and running, you’ll likely be asking yourself how you lived without it for so long…
About the author:
Larry Schachter has spent three decades in the real estate industry. For the last fifteen years, he’s held senior technology roles at Tishman Speyer, Acadia Realty Trust, and CompassRock Real Estate LLC (the former manager of Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village in NY). Larry recently took on the role of Principal in the New York Office of Open Box Software. Open Box has a 15 year history of providing custom software and technology services exclusively to the Real Estate industry. The company is based in Cape Town, South Africa. Larry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org , or you can find out more at www.openboxsoftware.com.