Reshaping property management through digital enhancements
Mita Srinivasan
10x Industry

Reshaping property management through digital enhancements

Prabhu Ramachandran, the founder and CEO of Facilio, an enterprise-wide platform for facilities operations & maintenance across real-estate portfolios, shares his views on how technology will smoothen the transition to a ‘new normal’ in property operations and management.

With the world slowly coming out of stay-at-home restrictions, entire economies are gearing up to adapt to the post-pandemic ‘normal’. Over the course of the last few weeks, the UAE – along with several other middle eastern nations – has begun to ease restrictions. malls, restaurants, retail outlets and wholesale business were some of the first businesses to reopen, although with several guidelines to adhere to.

So, what are the primary operational concerns the UAE real estate industry faces, in the aftermath of Covid-19? For one thing, there is a need to alter existing processes, operational workflows, and resource allocations, while sticking to stringent guidelines and minimizing the disruption to occupants. These requirements are made even more demanding because they need to be met right away. The silver lining is that many of the technologies, which led the vigorous digital transformation of the UAE real estate sector in recent years, can also help the industry respond to these extraordinary times.

A recent Savills report has come to the conclusion that, despite short to medium term challenges, commercial real estate could experience strong growth in the post-pandemic scenario – provided it adapts proactively. The obvious question to ask in response to that assessment is, ‘what will it take for the industry to turn this crisis into an opportunity’? Fundamentally, there needs to be a further acceleration in digital transformation, greater automation of portfolio operations and an emphasis on making informed, data-driven decisions.

Tech enabled solutions, such as cloud, mobility and predictive analytics, were already the industry’s go-to-option to optimize returns on OPEX, achieve ambitious sustainability and deliver greater value for end users. These same solutions hold the key to the sector making a seamless transition, to the new standards and conditions it now has to navigate. Broadly speaking, the six major tech enabled features that real estate owners and facility managers will need to adopt include:

  • Heightened Sanitation and Hygiene – Digital tools will assist facility management teams schedule, perform and monitor stringent disinfection and deep cleaning routines. These solutions will also ensure essential inventory for these tasks is maintained and provide tenants with up to the minute sanitation status updates.

  • Visitor Management – QR-code based touchless access will ensure buildings are secure, while also tracking the spaces and assets visitors came in contact with. Accurate digital records can also be updated with pre-registration of the visitor’s recent travel and health history, enabling effective contact tracing.

  • Portfolio Scale Analytics and Compliance –The new operating procedure will require complete transparency into indoor air quality and agile response to the performance of HVAC systems, across the entire portfolio. IoT enabled solutions can help CRE businesses monitor compliance in real time, while making this data available to tenants.

  • Portfolio Automation – Modern building portfolios incorporate complex multi-vendor automation systems. Digital platforms, deployed at an enterprise scale, can simplify portfolio management of automation systems with the ability to send control commands to systems remotely based on evolving HVAC compliance requirements and tenant requests such as bulk changes to schedules and overrides, automating trigger-based sequence, audit logs, and more.

  • Touch-less Service Access for Tenants – Eliminating the need for tenants to use buttons or control surfaces, to access spaces and comfort controls, will play an important part in restoring their confidence. Touchless, app-based access to elevator calls, HVAC parameters, and lighting will emerge as a standard feature, moving forward.

  • Unified Operational Command Centre – Real estate owners and property managers will need comprehensive command and control, and granular transparency into operations. Tech enabled, data-driven decision making will be critical to ensuring a 360-degree view of property operations readiness, take data-driven decisions, and holistically benchmark against C-19 guidelines for hygiene, maintenance, BAS operations, and tenant management.

Perhaps the greatest challenge that the post-pandemic world presents to real estate operations, is the strict adherence to protocol required in everyday operations. Fortunately, such consistency is a built-in feature of digital solutions. Another major concern is the need to achieve this transition without major disruption to tenants, practically immediately and in as cost effective a manner as feasible. Once again, the new generation of digital tools are the industry’s best bet to tick all of these boxes.

The idea of using a ‘threat versus opportunity matrix’ is an established assessment construct in business, but astute strategists realize that these two variables are part of the same continuum. When dealing with a crisis, it’s good to be cognizant of the risks involved, but equally important to identify the opportunities. Enthusiastically adopting next-gen digital technologies has been the UAE real estate community’s calling card, in recent years. In the months to come, this capacity to embrace innovation will ensure the sector is collectively able to seize emerging opportunities, in a world redefined.