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Important Lessons from Realcomm’s Investment Management Panel Discussion on Trends and Challenges in Commercial Real Estate

On Thursday, June 20, at Realcomm, I was privileged to join leaders from Yardi, RealPage and Altus to discuss trends and challenges facing the real estate industry as well as explore ideas to better leverage real estate’s investments in technology.

Responding to the first question about changes since the pandemic, I reflected that the move to working from home was a seismic shift in terms of technology adoption.

Microsoft 365 had been around for quite a while, but all of a sudden everyone became adept at Teams (and Zoom). It took a little more time to realize that beyond online meetings, information needed to be accessible outside the four walls of the office. Not just data, but documents needed to be accessible as well.

Companies found that while they owned the Rolls Royce of technology platforms for back-office automation, they were leveraging this investment very poorly. The pandemic created a discontinuity for how people started working in 2020 and beyond.  Many companies used this discontinuity to enhance their leverage of the power of the tech stack they already owned.

The conversation moved to a discussion about siloed platforms (i.e., Yardi and Microsoft 365) and whether vendors and consultants were bridging the gap to leverage the power of integrated systems. The answer here is very encouraging. Yardi already has published APIs for data sharing and has done a nice job leveraging the best of both worlds with their Yardi Document Management for SharePoint (YDMS) solution that surfaces Voyager attachments in the SharePoint environment.

REALTY|share takes this a major step further by integrating with YDMS allowing us to provide our real estate customers with an all-encompassing, full featured SharePoint document management and portal solution.

But there are two bigger, almost philosophical questions here: First, how do you use the power of the tools you already own? Many companies barely scratch the surface when it comes to the capabilities of their core system — be it Yardi or MRI or RealPage etc. And, don’t get me started when it comes to the pervasive underuse of the power of the Microsoft 365 stack.

The second question: what is the right tool for what business function? For example, don’t use Excel to track your entities, that’s what Yardi is for. Our Yardi consulting partner helps our customers make sure that Yardi is the source of truth for all entity data. When it comes to processes and workflows and integrating entity data with other business functions, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of the Microsoft 365 platform – SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, and more.

The panel moderator picked up on this question of adoption and probed further. I reflected on how a company’s all-important documents are among real estate owners most under-appreciated assets — and treated as such.

This panel discussion really emphasized for me the fact that when it comes to document management, it’s as if the clock stopped in 1985 and 40 years later the majority of companies are still using folders to classify their critical documents. A fact that was reinforced when a recent prospect shared the details of a deal where the incorrect version of a lease cost them almost two hundred thousand dollars in a single transaction.

We who sell technology know that the pace of innovation far exceeds the pace of adoption. It might sound Darwinian, but those companies that remain stuck in the ‘80s stone age technology are going to suffer the fate of the dinosaurs.

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