To supercharge your commercial property, choose the right tech stack
Whether you’re a property owner or a manager, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the tech platforms out there now are a little overwhelming. It seems like there’s a solution for every problem or opportunity you could possibly conceive of, and a few for ones you couldn’t. This is a good thing! The more the merrier: either a) more unique solutions for you to take advantage of, or b) more competition within each niche, thus ensuring, in theory at least, that services continue to improve with time.
But for all the good that these tech options are doing, they can be hard to make sense of. As an owner or manager of buildings, whether singular or a portfolio, you may be wondering what’s the best way to take advantage of the tech opportunities available to you. Here’s a suggestion: borrow some inspiration from the development world. That’s software, not real estate development. In developing an application, teams will utilize a “tech stack,” or a variety of tools and programs, to fulfill each development task. Within a tech stack lies the programs used to program, manage data, gather information, communicate with team members...on and on. While this term comes from the tech world, it’s applicable to building management, as well. Running a building requires a variety of specific tasks to be fulfilled, from collecting rent to unclogging toilets.
"If you’re managing class C properties and barely have the resources to lease up effectively, you may need to pause on your goals with technology."
So how do you apply this framework to buildings? Before even starting the tech identification process, the first step is to set some realistic goals. Critically reflect on your particular situation. What is your budget like? What is your staffing situation like? You may want to achieve an automated system to completely manage your HVAC and tenant experience, but is that really possible based on your scenario? If you’re managing class C properties and barely have the resources to lease up effectively, you may need to pause on your goals with to add a complete VR experience to your space.
Once you’ve set some expectations for the process, it’ll be time to get to work identifying what technology platforms to engage. And here’s where it gets tricky. The many hundreds of building-related tech companies and platforms that are out there mean that even breaking down this list into a handful of categories is tough. Broadly speaking, though, for owners and managers, there are four main categories worth exploring. Note that this isn’t meant to represent a list or review of the different platforms operating in each niche. Rather, the goal here is to help contextualize your own tech search.
First, explore a property management tool if you do not have one already. These tools will help you receive payments, schedule maintenance, perform property accounting functions, and pull various types of reports. Next, consider your options for leasing technology. While your brokers may handle much of the leasing process for you, it’s still your responsibility to track their activity or, in their absence, to do it yourself. Leasing tools can help manage your pipeline, track leads and availabilities, and analyze leases and prospects, amongst a wide range of related functions.
One area where you can make a particularly significant impact is in the realm of IoT. This is a big category, and it encompasses functionality that ranges from controlling thermostats and security systems all the way to sensors that can help tenants reserve space at vacant desks or reduce energy usage in empty areas. Such is the power of IoT technology. Finally, your relationship with your tenants, and in particular your ability to satisfy their needs, is a critical factor going towards leasing and re-leasing success. Tenant experience platforms provide a very useful way to centralize much of your tenant communication plan as well as allowing your tenants to network with one another. Strong tenant experience platforms also help tenants build connections to local services and events, and integrate smart building features, like access system and sensors.
So there you have a rough guide for how to set up your own office building technology stack. Of course, no two buildings are the same, and even between two similar buildings, your particular market, focus, and goals will determine how much of this you have a chance to explore and perhaps use. The important thing to keep in mind is that awareness of the options available to you is the only thing you need to have. Perhaps your situation warrants no tech platforms; perhaps it justifies one; maybe it means you can benefit from four. Regardless, it’s the knowledge of these tools that will keep you capable of responding to changing technologies rapidly and accurately.