As capital floods the CRE Tech industry and budget season approaches, buildings across the world are wondering how to keep up with technological advances (and implement some really cool amenities) without breaking the bank. When you start researching new technology solutions and evaluating them for potential implementation, there are a number of factors to consider in order to make an intelligent and worthwhile investment in tech. Here are six questions we recommend asking yourself about each technology you evaluate.
With more and more money being invested in CRE Tech, it feels like startups are rolling out new, innovative, flashy products and services every day. But room in the budget for the shiniest new tech is hard to come by in most CRE buildings. Every financial decision needs to be carefully thought out, budgeted for, and approved by everyone from the top down — in other words, every new addition to your tech stack needs to both provide and drive value.
Before even evaluating new technologies, identify a specific problem that your building or portfolio needs solved, or an outdated process that just doesn’t make sense anymore. Having a specific goal in mind will keep you focused and undaunted by the saturated market of options.
While identifying what problem you’d like to solve and which processes can be handled more efficiently, consider the full scope of tasks your property team manages. Identify processes that are currently managed by humans (not because they need to be done by hand, but because the property team doesn’t have a better option). Just because a process or task can be handled without the help of technology does not mean that it should be.
Automation software can save property teams huge amounts of time and mental bandwidth by handling entire building processes with minimal human contribution.
Once you’ve identified a problem you want to solve or a process you’d like to elevate and start to evaluate technology solutions, one of the most crucial factors to consider is how well a new technology will integrate with the existing technologies and equipment in your building. If there’s an existing option that works with your system, start there. A solution that integrates with your existing systems is simply the best way to ensure a smooth implementation. It will also save you time, money, and hassle.
One of the best ways to evaluate a technology and dig into the nitty gritty specifics of system integrations is to schedule a one-on-one demo with the vendor. A demo isn’t only good for seeing the product or service in action; they give you the opportunity to really dig in and ask as many questions as you need to. You’ll get a clear idea of what the implementation process will look like, references, and pricing—all invaluable information when making your final decision.
All of this information will be incredibly useful as you compare multiple solutions and multiple bids.
If you’re going to invest in a new technology for your building or portfolio, you want to be sure that you’ll be able to receive reliable support from the vendor. You’ll want to spare your team the frustration of unanswered support calls and unhelpful answers.
The best way to ensure that you’ll be receiving first-class service for the duration of your use of a technology solution is to work with a company or vendor that you already work with and trust. When that’s just not an option, ask for input from your peers. Have they or anyone they know used this vendor? What have they heard about them? Do they have a proven track record?
You’ll feel better about your decision if you receive votes of confidence from those in the industry who are facing the same kinds of decisions.
Developing a technology roadmap will give you and your team a clear overview of how different technologies will work in synergy to both solve existing problems and contribute to the long-term goals of the company.
When evaluating new technologies to add to your tech stack, you’ll need to look at your roadmap to see how well different options fit into your objectives. Visualizing and analyzing how a new technology will support your goals, both short and long-term, is critical. You’ll need to take into consideration the longevity of both the technology itself as well as its value.
One of the more difficult aspects of choosing a new CRE technology for your building is getting everybody to believe that it’s a smart idea. Owners and asset managers will always have (at least slightly) different perspectives on the value of a technology than the property managers and building engineers who will actually be using it.
While those who work at the property itself are more likely to be drawn to solutions that solve glaring building and process efficiency issues, company leadership looks at solutions through a broader lens — with an eye on core value drivers, possible ROI, and portfolio potential.
The bottom line is that both perspectives need to be considered. Ignoring concerns of the end-users (property management and building team) will result in overlooked details. But so too does every new addition to a building’s tech stack need to be evaluated with solution longevity and ultimate value in mind. Various parts of the organization need to be connected and work together on making the decision.
Depending on what kind of technology you’re looking to implement, the costs may be able to be passed through to tenants — requiring little, if any, room in the budget. To find out whether or not costs can be offset, ask questions! Talk to the vendor and peers who use the product or service about how they suggest budgeting for the technology, or creative ideas they have for offsetting costs.
With more technologies available than ever before (and mounting pressure to utilize them), deciding which ones to add to your tech stack requires thoughtfulness and strategy.