As commercial real estate firms grow and evolve, so do their means of communication and day-to-day operations. Expanding footprints equate to additional stakeholders, such as asset managers, property managers, and business analysts, and can prompt your CRE firm to add/change resources to accommodate the growing portfolio. Acquiring assets is always a great time to assess whether your current means of communication and information management are providing value and identify pitfalls that are adding unwanted risk and inefficiencies.
Best Practices to Keep in Mind
There is no right or wrong when choosing from different vendors and platforms, but there are best practices to keep in mind when implementing new technologies.
- It’s important to understand organizational needs across stakeholders and set expectations appropriately. For example, a CFO has different needs on a day-to-day basis than an asset manager. If an asset manager oversees third-party property managers, this will cause you to assess your technology solutions through a different lens.
- Fostering visibility and accessibility is critical not only from an internal alignment perspective but also in mitigating risk and saving time. Many commercial real estate firms suffer from “spaghetti chain” communication where person A contacts person B for information that person C has access to. That was a simplified example, but the point remains that this can result in old or inaccurate files being shared across parties and causes delays in making business decisions.
- To piggyback off the previous point, these “spaghetti chain” communications can result in stale and siloed data. Without a centralized platform or method of storing information, stakeholders across an organization are prone to working off their file/data which can have downstream implications. Not only can data quickly become outdated (and inaccurate!), but stakeholders can find themselves manually updating files to properly reflect the current state of business. Operating an efficient and profitable commercial real estate business requires the utmost attention to operational and financial data. The slightest miscalculation can steer your ship off course and cause your team to be reactive instead of proactive.
The Pros & Cons
Communication via email has been the most widely used solution across businesses and remains a staple in today’s world. Microsoft Outlook is prevalent for those who subscribe to Microsoft 365 for the suite of applications, but there’s been an emergence of alternatives, such as Gmail (Google Workspace) and ProtonMail.
- Email is not dependent on recipients using the same platform which means you can communicate with anyone at any time.
- Folder structures and paper trails (recipients, message content, attachments, etc.) ensure you always have a detailed point of reference in the future.
- While the ability to include attachments is great, this can sometimes encourage siloed files/data as recipients save attachments to their computer. This can be problematic if your organization doesn’t have a shared drive accessible by everyone and document management procedures in place.
- Emails can be misplaced or accidentally deleted, causing individuals to initiate additional emails in search for the missing emails. As many can attest to, email requests (whether they’re urgent or not) aren’t always responded to immediately, resulting in prolonged business activities and decision making.
Instant message applications have proven to be a more efficient method of communication when users need to discuss something that doesn’t warrant a scheduled meeting. As mentioned in the previous section, Microsoft 365’s suite of applications provides Microsoft Teams, but there are other big name alternatives, such as Slack and Twist.
- Conversation threads are preserved so users can read through and reference an entire exchange between parties.
- In-app channels provide a communal way of ensuring relevant stakeholders have ongoing visibility into group discussions.
- Unlike email, instant message applications have limitations when organizing/archiving conversations. In some instances, users have to spend quite some time scrolling depending on how far back an exact conversation occurred.
- The concept of sharing or, for email speak, forwarding conversation threads does not have the same functionality. Text exchanges can be copied and pasted, but this requires additional steps if attachments are involved.
Project Management Platform
While project management platforms are not your traditional means of communication, they warrant the same level of attention and consideration. Not only do project management platforms promote internal alignment across initiatives, but they also provide a centralized space for all project-related assets and information. Some of the notable players each with their own unique approach include Asana, Basecamp and Monday.com.
- Similar to email and instant message, users can rely on project-related communication threads with the ability to store and access files.
- Organization-wide access provides visibility into stakeholder initiatives and their project dependencies, deadlines, and progress.
- Individuals outside of your organization will most likely never have access to your project management platform. While they may be an integral part of your business, such as an investor, they may not need visibility and access to everything happening internally.
- Project management platforms are meant to help manage projects and not serve as your file storage system. While it has this capability, you would need to use it in conjunction with your internal file storage method.