How Property Managers Can Unlock Proptech’s Potential

RiverRock strives to balance tech tools and the human element at its office properties, such as 1100 Broadway in Oakland. Image by Jason O’Rear, courtesy of RiverRock Real Estate Group.

One of the most important tools in an office property manager’s belt is the technology that fulfills day-to-day duties and plays a long-term administrative role. What is most important to using these tools effectively, experts say, is a strategic approach that allows a manager to balance multiple responsibilities while also maximizing the tenants’ experience and satisfaction.

Tenant autonomy

David Himmel. Image courtesy of Jamestown

As they implement diverse technologies, property managers share a goal of balancing a smooth tenant experience with effective operations for managers themselves. For David Himmel, managing director & COO at Jamestown Real Estate Services, this has branched into three distinct categories of proptech adoption, governed by simplicity and ease of access. “The first category is creating a frictionless tenant experience, the second is how we build efficiency [and] drive NOI and the third is how we leverage big data to draw insights and improve the performance of our portfolio,” Himmel told Commercial Property Executive.

In keeping with this approach, Jamestown has taken to piloting numerous software applications across one or two properties, and, if they work, using them across their management operations. As Himmel summed up the process: “Pilot, test and iterate. When it works, scale it to the portfolio.”

READ ALSO: Building an Effective Commercial Property Management Team

At the Innovation and Design Building in Boston, Jamestown piloted various property management programs. Image courtesy of Jamestown

For instance, to address the goal of creating a seamless experience for the tenant, the firm has adopted the HqO platform, born of a successful pilot program in the firm’s management of the Innovation and Design Building in Boston’s Seaport District. The move streamlined the firm’s operations at the property and enabled tenants to play an active role in its employment, from delegating access control and reserving meeting rooms to more mundane tasks, such as ordering lunch.

At the core was a desire to encompass the building’s management operations within a single tool, and to give tenants significant autonomy and flexibility. “It enables tenants to be part of the building community, [giving] them, a frictionless experience as they move throughout the building,” Himmel said.

Bill Klump. Image courtesy of JLL

Bill Klump, a vice president & general manager at JLL, sees value in using a singular application or programming interface to manage a property. That translates to both streamlining management operations and making the tenants’ lives easier. Additionally, Klump sees it as an industry-wide trend.

“In a traditional sense, you have your work order system and your access control system, [and] tying it into one app has not only been helpful for tenants to utilize, but for our property management team as well,” Klump told CPE. “A lot of these building apps are getting developed out of a need for consolidation and efficiency.” Such a mindset allows Klump’s team to understand the broader aspects of managing a property as they oversee its day-to-day operations.

That principle is demonstrated in the team’s management of 167 Green Street in Chicago, where different, more isolated applications are integrated into a shared application program interface operated by Sharry. The software serves as a central platform for the firm’s other proptech platforms and points of tenant contact, which in turn provide the property’s occupants with more of a say in their day-to-day operations. “They’re the ones actually doing this, and they’re able to program and do it immediately, not waiting for us to respond,” Klump noted.

For work order management, the JLL team uses Prism, a platform created by Building Engines, which JLL acquired in 2021. C•CURE software activates access control badges for its properties. From assigning parking spots to creating guest passes, the tenants have significant autonomy in how they use their space, being able to do it all from one consolidated system.

Assisting, not replacing

Gail Ringer. Image courtesy of RiverRock Real Estate Group

In addition to using proptech to maximize efficiency and tenant experience, equally important is a recognition of the role it plays in traditional property management functions. In other words, technology should help, but not replace, the human elements of property management. As RiverRock Real Estate General Manager Gail Ringer put it, “These tools help us do our job, but there is still a lot of face-to-face communication with our staff and tenant customers to keep those relationships going. The tech portion supports what we do and makes it easier.”

Austin Brown. Image courtesy of RiverRock Real Estate Group

Toward that end, the firm has selected technology that streamlines inspecting and databasing, and makes those tasks more convenient, but does not attempt to take them over. For RiverRock, the technologies, be it Nexus for accounting, ComfortIQ for energy and HVAC management or HappyCo for property inspection inherent usefulness in the more hands-on, day-to-day tasks. As Operations Manager Austin Brown observed, “Everyone is talking about AI taking over, but you have to have boots on the ground, you have to touch and feel the property, (and) you need to get a good sense of what’s going on.”

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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