2020 was an unprecedented year for technology adoption and advancement in the commercial real estate industry. Remote work, agile solutions and data analytics took center stage as the industry was forced to adapt to the conditions brought on by the pandemic. We sat down with Eric Flohr, SVP Transformation, to look back at the impact of 2020 on CRE tech and how that impact will continue to shape the year ahead.
Pandemic Puts CRE Tech in Focus
If you could sum up the past year for CRE technology in one word, what would it be?
Adoption. CRE tech was an interesting side project for a lot of people prior to 2020. Everyone knew the future was more digital and data driven but were still in the experiment and testing phase. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the commercial real estate industry to go virtual by necessity and the industry embraced digital transformation in a way never before seen.
Now the industry recognizes it is essential to leverage technology to solve issues or pain points and as a result it is becoming embedded in every aspect of the transaction lifecycle.
What have you learned about technology as a result of the pandemic? What lessons will you take forward?
The importance of being agile and the criticality of data. At the onset of the pandemic, we, like everyone else, were forced to pivot, adjust our priorities, and find new ways to deliver meaningful solutions to our clients.
Our Data Analytics team changed focus and within a few days began producing highly relevant analyses to help our teams and clients understand the resiliency of specific markets and properties, given the unique conditions created by the pandemic. We were able to connect our clients directly with each other to share best practices on dealing with a crisis situation no one had ever faced.
The pandemic reemphasized the criticality of having timely, accurate, and accessible information so owner/operators and investors can make intelligent decisions based on the latest developments.
What have you learned about your team in the last year?
Great people don’t let adverse circumstances impact their performance. We used the pandemic as a catalyst to think differently about our business and how we interact with our clients and I couldn’t be more proud.
Growing Comfort with Technology to Drives Decisions in 2021
What trends do you see on the horizon for your industry in 2021?
Several areas appear to be emerging as hot spots for 2021. First is the growing comfort with connecting systems to systems instead of emailing documents or attachments. Companies are embracing APIs and other data transmission mechanisms to reduce or eliminate the time delay associated with sharing information.
Second is the growing ability of technology to extract data from written / non-structed documents. Several companies have developed very interesting technology in this space.
Third is integrating alternative data sources into the deal process. Can we use aggregated cell phone data to understand foot traffic patterns, or capture data points regarding income and debt levels to underwrite at a tenant level? These areas are prime to become part of the standard process we use to evaluate a deal.
What are your biggest priorities for 2021?
A big focus for 2021 is creating a frictionless client experience. We want to make it easy for our clients to share information and access critical information, to better equip our teams with all the relevant client, property, or deal data available, and make the overall transaction lifecycle both faster and more effective.
–Eric Flohr, SVP Transformation