Digitalising real estate management

02 May 2022
How technology is helping facilities management teams address important real estate trends

Real estate conjures images of modern buildings, creatively landscaped premises and trendy cafes. Facilities management (FM) is hardly the first thing that comes to mind.

Yet, FM teams that manage maintenance, daily operations, security and occupant safety form the backbone of every successful real estate experience.

Like most functions, FM was undergoing a steady digital transformation that the pandemic accelerated. The unique demands that Covid-related measures placed on real estate operations also accelerated nascent trends that have affected real estate operations.

Here's how technology is helping FM adapt to these new trends and deliver outstanding tenant experiences.

Greater operational efficiency

Legacy systems currently hinder FM operational efficiency. Typically, enterprises patch site-level legacy systems and cobble together a portfolio-level platform. This process hinders visibility and makes incorporating modern datasets impossible.

This picture is quickly changing as operators recognise the true costs of legacy tech and modernise their operations.

While IoT retrofits increase operational efficiency, adopting a digital-first approach to real estate projects is best. Connected buildings simplify multiple FM tasks from contractor relationship management to timely service responses by bringing every operations and maintenance (O&M) stakeholder onto a single pane of glass platform, enabling greater cross-functional visibility and alignment.

Large FM teams can now engage with transparency while automating clerical tasks such as approvals, report generation and inspections. With an intelligent digital-first approach to O&M, workforces can redirect their energies from non-business value tasks and focus on productive activities that build revenue.

Changing tenant expectations

As tenants demand more from their spaces, the outcomes of urban real estate projects have changed. Fast-growing tech companies require open spaces that scale with growth, necessitating flexible lease terms. Trends such as remote working and coworking have also increased hot desk demands, with greater occupant numbers but leaving lease ticket sizes the same.

The result is FM has effectively become a recruitment tool. The more creative an office space is and the more flexibility it offers, the more likely a company is to attract top talent.

The demand for flexibility and customisation extends to residential real estate too. Tenants, long accustomed to apps that anticipate their needs, expect building management teams to provide seamless digital experiences.

Digitally transforming FM has proved a boon to building operators. Processes such as rent collection, maintenance and lease extension requests can be automated. Furthermore, thanks to data visibility from tenant usage data and payment statuses, any flexibility within lease terms can be easily incorporated.

Modern computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS) also give tenants greater control of their spaces. Solutions can provide employees with control of workspace reservation and environment settings, and gather invaluable feedback that serves FM teams. FM teams can also monitor and automate security and safety levels by defining hazard thresholds that reduce occupant risk. 

The result is a customised experience, greater tenant loyalty and stable occupancy rates. Thus, while tenants might be driving the ultimate need to digitise real estate operations, every FM stakeholder must be involved in the shift for it to be successful.

Greater environmental sustainability through FM

Sustainability is increasingly driving consumer decisions and government regulations. Climate resilience is at the top of real estate industry discussions, as reflected by the UAE's top spot in risk and preparedness rankings. FM teams need data to improve building operations and prove their commitment to regulatory standards.

For instance, tracking energy efficiency and minimising costs is impossible without data analytics. Such analyses are a critical part of FM workflows, given the current state of energy prices. IoT-enabled buildings provide a real-time view of a building's operations to FM teams, empowering them with data-driven insight for quick decision making.

FM teams can automate asset control workflows via IoT-enabled sensors. These sensors detect occupant absence and switch lights and HVAC systems off when not in use, reducing energy usage.

Tech innovation has extended to back-end systems too. AI-powered O&M systems monitor trends in asset usage and increase their lifespan. These systems are increasingly underpinning real estate projects, with old buildings undergoing IoT retrofits and new buildings built with a digital-first approach.

The result of these innovations is a reduced carbon footprint and continued environmental compliance.

About the author

Prabhu Ramachandran is the founder and CEO of Facilio

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