Real estate going virtual

Monika Rajska Wolińska
Image : Colliers

With the slew of real estate data available, property managers, real estate owners and agents are employing new technologies to stay on top of things

by Beata Socha

What were the top 10 investment transactions in Poland last year? How much warehouse space is available in Poland’s logistics hub? How many retail schemes will be built this year? Which office project offers the largest floor plate?
These days the first step for people looking to buy a home has long been an internet search. The same is becoming increasingly true for the commercial property market. Real estate information is out there but accessing it is becoming increasingly difficult, given the amount of data produced daily. A simple Google search just won’t do any more.
“Technological development has flooded all of us with data. What was exciting at first has now become overwhelming,” said Monika Rajska-Wolińska, partner at Colliers International.

Fighting fire with fire

One way of taming the information beast is by using the very weapon that has created the chaos – technology. The area where technology seems to be the best fit is property management. The amount of data pouring in each month is enormous, and then there is reporting the data to property owners, fund managers, agents, as well as communicating with tenants and potential buyers.

“ Global advisory firms handle vast amounts of knowledge about tenants, property owners and properties. I believe ensuring data safety has become one of the most important issues. You can’t really function without proper security measures, limiting access to sensitive data and enforcing safety procedures.”
Monika Rajska-Wolińska,
partner at Colliers International,
managing director of Colliers in Poland

“Human nature is reluctant to change,” explained Rajska-Wolińska. “It became clear when we started implementing our online help desk system for our clients and property managers. The beginnings were tough for both sides but in the end the new technology made a lot of tenant-property manager processes easier and more expedient.” she said. The real estate business may very well be about human interaction, but cloud computing is what makes this interaction more transparent and efficient.

All in the cloud

The days of forwarding excel sheets and poring over endless rows of raw tenant data are hopefully coming to an end for property managers. No more documents lost in the chasm of company disk space, digging through mailboxes and scribbling on post-its.
“Our experience with using new technologies in property management, which has always been one the most innovative departments, has helped us develop more efficient databases,” said Rajska-Wolińska.
Across all industries, an increasing amount of business data are transferred outside the confines of company servers. According to forecasts by IT giant Cisco, 2014 will be the first year when the majority of workloads (51 percent) will shift to the cloud, versus 49 percent in the traditional IT space. By 2017, nearly two-thirds of workloads will be processed by cloud data centers.

“Our data rooms have made not only the work of property managers easier, they are also used by our investment department, as well as the office and warehouse departments,” said Rajska-Wolińska.
So even if real estate is not the most technologically advanced industry in the world, databases, virtual data rooms, online help desks – are taking the business by storm.
“A key decision for us was to share our knowledge with our clients and that’s why we’ve created officemap.pl and warehouses.pl, also available for mobile devices, which allow them to select properties they find interesting,” Rajska-Wolińska added.

Sensitive data
With all the data roaming around cyberspace, there is one issue that still needs to be resolved.
“Global advisory firms handle vast amounts of knowledge about tenants, property owners and properties. I believe ensuring data safety has become one of the most important issues,” said Rajska-Wolińska.
Meanwhile, only 56 percent of Cisco’s survey respondents trust the ability of cloud providers to safeguard the sensitive and confidential data entrusted to them.
“You can’t really function without proper security measures, limiting access to sensitive data and enforcing safety procedures (both internal and provided for in the law). It’s time the real estate market addressed the issues by careful analysis and proper data selection,” Rajska-Wolińska added.

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