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Five Tips To Ensure CRE Technology Works For Non-Millennials

Property technology is not meant to disrupt commercial real estate, but enrich it.

For professionals who came up tracking their deals with a pen and paper, the transition to cloud-based platforms, digital dashboards and mobile apps can be daunting.

Hartz Mountain Industries executive vice president and managing director Larry Garb knows this situation well. The majority of the company's employees grew up without email and social media. At one point, the team had a stenographer record weekly building reports by hand.

When Hartz expanded its portfolio into new territory, it needed a faster way to access and record asset information, and get greater visibility into its portfolio. Garb led the charge toward a tech-enabled approach, but migrating the company’s 38M SF portfolio to cloud-based leasing and asset management platform VTS required a shift in thinking for some of his colleagues.

“The biggest challenge for adopting new technology has been uncertainty among people in our organization about learning a new software or system,” Garb said.

To make the move smoother, Garb offers five tips to making CRE technology work for non-Millennials.

1. Identify Your Supporters

An example stacking plan for building leases using the VTS platform

There are always going to be naysayers when it comes to learning new software. Management needs to find the early adopters who are going to take on the challenge of learning a new skill and changing their organizational methods. Those staff members will become advocates and resources for non-adopters when it comes time to shift the entire team over to the software.

2. Look For Ease Of Use

Burying information under multiple tabs and pages can frustrate new users. Finding building information in a platform should not take longer than shuffling through stacks of paper reports.

“If there are more than a couple of clicks, you're going to lose people,” Garb said.

Online platforms should provide access to important leasing, asset-level and portfolio-wide information with the tap of a few buttons. VTS provides executives with an easily navigable dashboard that consolidates deal pipelines, tenant relationships and building stacking plans.

Information should be robust, but not complicated. VTS organizes data into easy-to-read graphs and visual breakdowns of lease status and asset information.

3. Aim For Mobility

The VTS platform on a desktop and a mobile device

Real estate deals happen outside of the office. Keeping a portfolio portable offers a way to stay informed on-the-go. A smartphone or tablet can be a more intuitive tool than a desktop computer.

“Even more senior executives who have been non-adopters in the past are much more comfortable sitting at their desk on their iPad than hitting a keyboard,” Garb said.

Having access to real-time data on any device improves the efficiency of the entire organization.

“Before, we used to have to wait until a weekly leasing meeting or until some financial report was distributed. Now everybody is on the same page at the same time. We can make better decisions, faster.”

4. Foster Top-Down Leadership

The willingness to adopt new technology has to come from the top.

When Hartz Mountain Industries, which is based in New York, expanded into Charlotte and Atlanta, communication between third-party property managers and leasing agents became muddled. Management needed a way to see information like right of first refusal, lease expirations and floor plans quickly and consistently across all markets.

When technology became the solution, the commitment of the leadership team to incorporating the software into daily practices made the transition swifter. Backed by the authority of a top-down buy-in, more people are likely to use a platform. 

5. Hire An In-House Tech Resource

No matter how sophisticated the platform, third-party software can never account for all company quirks and requirements. Hiring an in-house programmer offers a way to take advantage of a property technology platform while still personalizing the user experience to match the company's needs.

"You can have custom reports written and some developers are willing to make customizations for you, but even with that there are things that are company-specific,” Garb said.

Hartz Mountain Industries had used several different platforms before discovering VTS. The software offers a sophisticated solution to dealing with a large CRE portfolio, while still being intuitive enough for everyone. This blend of accessibility and functionality is what Garb believes will revolutionize the industry.

“I think the lack of technology adoption in the real estate industry is twofold: I think it’s because you have an older demographic in the industry, and because there have been unsatisfactory solutions until recently,” Garb said.

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