“Admin” in commercial real estate – a revolution is coming

The current soul-crushing admin that most highly skilled CRE professionals have to endure for at least 30% of their days. Is it a thing? How is our “now state” similar to pre-industrial revolution business? Is there hope of change?
Commercial real estate industrial revolution

Are CRE professionals like frogs being boiled to death by admin?

Is “admin” an unavoidable part of working in the CRE industry?

Is it normal that you, as a CRE professional, spend at least 30% of your working day doing “admin”?

With less admin, would you do more of the work that matters – leasing deals, strategic decisions and insights, building relationships etc.?

An ah-ha moment around “admin” in commercial real estate

While it’s the 21st century, are CRE professionals like artisan workers in the year 1800?

The clue – that hated part of every CRE professional’s job: “admin”.

Work with me here please…

Before the industrial revolution, workers used to exert large amounts of energy manually moving metal and cloth around factories. Processing it. Checking the finished products. Fixing it. Dealing with all the related moving parts. Doing this all by hand. It took long. It was error prone. It was mind-numbing. It was thought to be the only way.

Sounding familiar?

Today, highly-skilled CRE professionals do the same thing.

Inefficiency in commercial property

It’s the same moving, processing, checking, fixing, supporting actions.

But.

Instead of doing this with raw materials like metal and cloth, our grunt work happens with the 21st century equivalent: data.

The name for that inefficient data busy work? “Admin”!

Think about it… All the work you don’t like? It’s inefficient hands work, and all involves data.

An entire $33T industry – yet professionals spend 30% of their days working as 19th century artisans.

Specific examples of “admin” in CRE?

Let’s unpack the grinding detail around admin… Does any of the below sound familiar?

Vacancies admin. The admin of a vacancy changing, and then updating your website, and then your brochures, and then updating your master vacancies sheet for analytics, (and then also remembering to update your vacancy schedule if you are a property fund. Followed by the admin of having to merge vacancies from various team members).

Reporting admin. The admin of taking an Excel import from a system, checking it against the original. Then merging that Excel against other Excel, then checking those merges. Checking why there are differences. Then fixing the data at source. After that running the calculations on that data. Investigating data capture issues. Repeating the process. Until you can hand over that latest budgets / statistics / report / other.

Brochure or marketing admin. Taking images from here, gathering property information from here, client logo here, descriptions here, tenant installation allowance here, property attributes there. Then sending it for approval, changing the design when you get new information for a brochure? Thereafter, working late in the night moving all that information around again.

Vacancies management admin. The admin of capturing vacancy schedules every month. Then the admin of checking against the vacancy schedule. The pain of chasing the latest information from property funds before you can send something to a potential tenant? After that, playing phone call tennis until you can get confirmation. It’s the 21st century, and people are passing this sort of information between each other using email and phone.

Deal tracking admin. The pain of keeping deal sheets up to date. Which deals we are running, on which properties, by who, where they are in the deal? Of merging all that information for reporting once a week or month. Of having to do pivot tables. Of chasing missing information.

Analysis admin. Those dreaded words: “can’t you just find me how X talks to Y?” “Can you find all industrial category properties with a generator in the X part of the country, that are more than Y% vacant, that are more than Z sqm in size”. And “can you show me the info on a map?” So easy to say, so hard to do.

Admin!

Admin in commercial real estate is a virus. And it’s around us. It creates so much busywork. In a sense, CRE professionals are like frogs (albeit very highly-skilled and well-paid frogs) being slowly boiled to death.

Commercial property data inefficiency

The good news

To answer the question above – “admin” is avoidable, and unnecessary.

The winds of change are blowing. There is an overdue industrial revolution underway for commercial real estate.

Like with other industries, albeit many years delayed, the efficiency of automation is coming.

Like the industrial revolution boosted worker productivity, automation is removing “admin” in commercial real estate.

This means more time, for high-opportunity-cost-of-time professionals, to do the work that matters. The result: more deals, lower vacancies, better strategic decisions, better service, happier customers, a stronger industrry.

These tools to reduce admin are coming / already here

  • Data quality admin and related busywork –> is being reduced by hidden functionality that helps information to be captured correctly, first time
  • The high-risk admin of gathering, moving and checking data between different systems (financial systems, websites, Excel or databases) –> is being automated by extract, transform and load (ETL) processes
  • The phone and email admin of checking vacancies between broker and property fund –> is being removed by data switches, which allow property funds to update brokerages’ data used to market the property funds’ properties
  • The tedious task of wrestling information to put together on-brand brochures and vacancy schedules –> is being replaced by brochure automation sitting behind button clicks
  • The painful task of monthly or quarterly reporting admin –> is being replaced by CRE-focused data analytics solutions, that give professionals insights in button clicks
  • The pain of merging different versions of data – from deal tracking, to vacancies to property performance reports –> is being replaced by centralised, change-tracked databases, allowing people to seamlessly collaborate, creating one version of data truth
  • The time taken to put together attractive, decision-relevant presentations –> is being replaced by software that allows you to visualise and share these visualisations of your data assets

While change is scary, change that empowers people is positive – see here from Wikipedia:

“The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists have said the most important effect of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living for the general population in the western world began to increase consistently for the first time in history”

The long-overdue evolution of our commercial real estate industry is best summarised here, in a famous quote from back in 2011:

Gmaven software is eating the world

Our bet

Expect a new world of skilled professionals, earning more, but being even more productive.

Computers won’t replace humans (see our thinking here), but will make them more effective.

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