Where are we on the road to office digital transformation?
The real estate business is in the middle of an unprecedented transformative period. First, in the 2010s, PropTech really took off, bringing with it new approaches to everything from data analysis to property management. Then, while the industry was still grappling with how to adopt and implement these new workflows and strategies, the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The coronavirus put immense pressure on every part of the business, contributing to apartment renters missing rent payments, retail stores losing sales, and demands on logistic centers surging higher than ever.
"Offices are now forced to contend with a world that treats them much differently than ever before."
One place where these changes are exceptionally obvious is in the world of office real estate. With thousands of workplaces still operating at diminished capacity, office buildings are now forced to contend with a world that treats them much differently than ever before.
Luckily, some things were fortuitous for office buildings. While the pandemic has been devastating, the fact that the world of office real estate was already in the middle of a digital transformation gives the managers and owners active within this segment a step up in their response. But where exactly in that digital transformation are we?
As many readers probably know, we’ve witnessed incredible advancement in areas of the office business that directly contribute to the bottom line. Tools for energy efficiency, ticketing, tenant experience platforms that provide the opportunity to add value or cross-sell other services, visitor management, and related tools have grown and spread profoundly over the last five or ten years.
But despite the growth of these tools, their penetration of the market may be limited primarily to institutional-grade properties, in particular larger, newer buildings with a volume of occupants that makes things like visitor control and predictive maintenance tools worthwhile.
More relevant to major real estate companies, we may be reaching a turning point between the adoption of one-off technologies and the introduction of new analytic tools and connectivity systems that help these different platforms “talk” to each other. Your occupancy data is one thing, but when you can combine it with your energy use data, you really start to open up new horizons in efficiency. Coincidentally, this is exactly what Spaceflow’s FLOW tool does.
"As is the case in many scenarios of tech adoption, the early adopters will retain a distinct advantage while laggards find themselves competing for whatever is left."
This means that we may well be at an inflection point right now. Not everyone has adopted digital solutions like PropTech applications yet. It is still possible for properties to compete and succeed sans tech. In fact, many individual employees may still be surprised when they first come to an office with advanced technology, like a tenant experience app or visibility into the building’s ESG data. To answer the question in the title, we are now at the point where we are transitioning from digital office technology being implemented here and there sporadically within portfolios, to tech implementations that are implemented consistently across portfolios.
Soon, PropTech solutions on both the management and tenant side will be all but necessary across portfolios to attract high-quality tenants, particularly as it becomes easier and easier to successfully work remotely. As is the case in many scenarios of tech adoption, the early adopters will retain a distinct advantage while laggards find themselves competing for whatever is left.
Owners and managers of office properties shouldn’t be dissuaded by this, they should be motivated to explore what solutions out there can help them today to set them up more effectively for tomorrow. If anything, COVID-19 has shown that it is far from too early to jump into technologies that help manage spaces remotely.