The resounding message to technology companies in the PropTech sector at CREtech’s event in Chicago last week was to create data-driven transparent solutions that can unify disparate systems to meet challenges faced by developers, portfolio managers, and property owners.
The first-ever Chicago event hosted by CREtech, which took place at JLL’s global headquarters located at the Aon Center downtown, attracted 250 attendees.
Leaders from prominent companies in the commercial real estate sector, Bob Six, chief operating officer of Zeller Realty Group; Brad Beile, chief operating officer of Sterling Bay; Ryan Salvas, vice president of Real Estate Tech and Innovation at EQ Office, and Michael Ellch, vice president of development at Related Midwest, participated in a panel discussion.
Together they candidly shared views about missed technology opportunities with Bob Ageloff, international director at JLL.
The big miss: Identifying opportunities in PropTech
Among the missed technology opportunities in the sector is finding ways for landlords and developers to coordinate disparate business units, panelists said.
“No one’s cracked the code with a unified platform yet,” said Beile, of Sterling Bay, a leading Chicago-based developer that converted an aging warehouse into Google’s Chicago headquarters.
“The challenge we have as we work to scale our business is that our legal, asset management and property management departments need to talk to one another,” Beile said.
Six, the chief operating officer of Zeller Realty Group, echoed Beile’s sentiment and emphasized the need for more unified open platforms and transparency, which has become a significant factor in meeting construction deadlines and project goals for his firm.
“During the daily operations of an office building, a team uses 15 to 20 different software products. If you can find a way to aggregate these products in one place and create transparency of that information can be a big opportunity.”
On the building management side, closed systems make it difficult to create a seamless user or resident experience, said Ellch, vice president of development at Related Midwest.
For Salvas, vice president Real Estate Tech and Innovation at EQ Office owned by The Blackstone Group, opportunities exist in solutions that use data analytics to support portfolio management decisions and understanding their customers’ leasing journey.
“For us, it’s about mapping the highs and lows of our customer’s journey. We found customers were inundated with leasing options and their journey could be made frictionless by asking the most relevant questions and automating the leasing process through artificial intelligence.”
Evaluating technology products in the marketplace
While the initial evaluation of new technology products and tools is often vetted through internal IT departments, the industry as a whole is adopting a more “user-centric” selection process, the panelists said.
“We meet and decide what problems need to be solved and put together an internal task force of end-users who test solutions. We are more about relevance to the users, and the task force recommends whether to move forward with something,” said Six.
“At the end of the day, we look to a handful of trusted IT consultants and groups that we have worked with in the past to shortlist three to four companies. After the first stage of vetting, for bigger projects, we tell them here’s an asset put it into your systems and show us how it works for us” Beile added.