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CRE Automation Will Overhaul Much More Than Just Repetitive Tasks


The IT team had a problem. The company’s user base was growing fast, and the tech team was getting inundated with so many routine customer service requests that they could not focus on anything else. So they called Waqqas Mahmood, director of innovation at Baker Tilly, to help them automate their password reset and retrieval process. But Mahmood’s solution wasn’t what they were expecting.

“The IT team was asking for help with password resets, but in consulting with them, we found that automating the company’s call center and market research was even more important to their business,” Mahmood said. “We ended up building out an entire automation strategy that fixed the password problem, but also went far beyond the first few automation projects.”

As they grow their audiences, commercial real estate companies face a serious problem: paperwork. Without automation, the back-end labor of onboarding and serving clients can grow out of control. Fortunately, a whole field of tech solutions known as Robotic Process Automation is emerging to automate these repetitive tasks.

But the back end is really just the tip of the iceberg for RPA. As companies look to allocate resources more effectively, automation will permeate every part of the way CRE works.

“Real estate companies always want more customers, but they won’t be able to get there without Robotic Process Automation,” Mahmood said. “The goal is to do more business. Automating repetitive work with RPA can free up staff to focus on higher-value tasks like customer interaction and growing the business."

RPA can make the biggest difference by automating time-consuming tasks that have to happen hundreds or thousands of times a day. That includes financial and legal tasks like invoicing and compliance, as well as customer service tasks like password retrieval, booking meetings and call center triage. 

“If I’m a broker, I don’t want to be spending my time processing lease agreements,” Mahmood said. “If I can have a robot review and approve those documents, that might mean 10 hours a week that I can spend on higher-value tasks that require a human touch, like negotiating and talking with prospective clients.”


While CRE professionals are somewhat anxious that automation could eliminate their jobs, Mahmood said that the industry is coming around to the idea that automation will not replace roles outright, but rather help roles grow and evolve in the digital era. Even companies that are excited about digital transformation need advice and guidance.

“Some companies try to implement RPA on their own, but self-implementation usually benefits only one team, or one office in the company,” Mahmood said. “The short-term gains of that automation run up against the long-term costs and inefficiencies of not having the same standards across the company.”

He added that much of the work that Baker Tilly does is not just in choosing RPA software solutions, but in standardizing processes and providing educational resources and use cases so that every employee knows how to benefit from automation.

While RPA has broken into CRE by streamlining repetitive back-end tasks, automation could soon help on the front end, too. Artificial intelligence may soon be doing the intensive work of due diligence, checking potential customers’ credentials, reviews and references. Even market analysts and salespeople could soon be getting help from bots.

“Imagine you have a bot that can do an entire health check on a property — it examines financial statements and audit history and knows whether a property makes sense to buy,” Mahmood said. “That beats an analyst having to comb through an entire Excel sheet to do market intelligence. Now the analyst can spend his or her time crafting the perfect pitch for that property.”

Mahmood mentioned that if RPA is combined with artificial intelligence, it can go even further to help developers scout for new projects. “Intelligent automation” could learn an area, keep up with current events, and even know that a certain plot of land would be ideal for an office because it has a Starbucks down the street. 

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Baker Tilly. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.