It’s not that I expect to learn something new at every real estate or technology conference I attend, but the conversations that took place at CRE.Tech’s event on “Next Gen Property Management” in New York last month helped to shine a light on what I believe are several key trends affecting in the Commercial Real Estate industry right now.

While there weren’t necessarily any “oh wow” revelations, what I did see and hear was confirmation of where I think the CRE Tech market is moving, what CRE firms are looking for, and where organizations are in terms of their adoption and utilization of CRE technology.

I’d like to thank Travis Barrington from CRE.Tech along with their co-sponsors MetaProp NYC, for a terrific event. One that brought together a mix of industry professionals, new CRE tech firms, and some more mature technology providers. 

This leads to my first takeaway –

1. To Survive in CRE Tech is to Collaborate  

More mature tech firms in this space need to engage with new firms and seek to understand their products.  In turn, younger firms must recognize that more established firms own key client relationships and key sets of data that could help them accelerate growth.

This is not a space for the most part, where the story is always about displacement. It is about working together to create the most value and drive the best results for mutual clients.  

Additionally, CRE firms are engaging earlier (before they intend to buy something,) at events like these to make sure that their voices are heard. This is a positive trend, one that ensures these organizations may end up with solutions that meet their needs. Both mature players and new entrants alike need to take advantage of these events to stop, collaborate, and listen to these future customers.

2.   Operational Visibility Remains a Major Challenge

From where I sit at Building Engines, having better visibility into property-wide operations is paramount to our customers’ success. Data-driven decisions are generally far more sound and accurate in the world of property management but have never been more difficult to gain access to.

This was loud and clear from the presentation of Ryan Freedman at Corigin Real Estate (and Corigin Ventures), who shared their experience building a dashboard system in-house to consolidate operational data from the many disparate systems they use in a single location and view.
While I give them a lot of credit for “MacGyvering” together a solution, the fact that they needed to head down the “build it ourselves” route is an indication of a larger industry issue. They felt they couldn’t find another product out there to do this. Shouldn’t we all be working hard to give our customers easy-to-consume, actionable insights from the technology we are providing? It’s a major priority at Building Engines, and I raise the challenge to the rest of the industry to keep pace with customer requirements.

3. Cyber Security is Primarily a People Problem  

Mike Mullin, President of IBSE delivered a terrific presentation that highlighted the difficulty in managing the human element of keeping networks and systems safe from intrusion. He described the “last inch” problem- the distance between your finger and your mouse.

By his recommendations, companies should consider deploying “fish tests” on their own employees to see if they can avoid the temptation of opening clever malware scams.

4. Virtual & Augmented Reality is an Exciting Potential

When you see a product like Matterport in action, you’ll start to understand what the possibilities are in Virtual Reality, and why it’s generating so much buzz commercial real estate. The technology is infinitely better than it was just a few years ago (goodbye dizziness) and the 3D space tours are incredibly realistic. It will be interesting to see what the velocity is in widespread commercial use and what its other areas of application in CRE operations might be next.

5.  Building Community Matters, But It’s Not Easy

I had a terrific reaction to my session on the importance of building community within our CRE properties. I argued that CRE firms may actually benefit more from connecting all the people in their buildings, as opposed to spending millions of dollars on amenities that may actually be at odds with what a core constituency of their customer-base (yes I’m talking about millennials) actually wants. – Greater access to community areas, spaces for collaboration, and ways to network within their own buildings, for example.

The difficulty is in accommodating all the exceptions that might exist. – For example, competing firms in the same building might not necessarily want their employees connected to or aware of each other in any way. I’d love to continue to debate that point, but the real point is that there is work to do if CRE organizations are going to keep pace with the changing workforce. WeWork is the model for how this can work well, but there is still a fairly large hump of resistance and historical operating models to get over as we all work to stay relevant in the fast-changing world of work.

Questions or Comments for Scott?