Facility & Maintenance Management

Is It Worth It to Invest in New Technologies for Commercial Real Estate and How to Choose a Software Provider?

March 17, 2021

An investment could be described as resources being allocated, which can be beneficial in the future, and is including potential risks. An investment in software certainly might be risky. First of all, because we are unable to check the full potential of a system before it’s fully implemented, but also because we’re unsure how the potential users and engaged parties will react to such a change. The possibilities that tools such as Computer-Aided Facility Management (CAFM for short), visitor management systems, incoming vehicles automatization systems, and other technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), and mobile experience tenant apps are being significantly more valued over the past years. Awareness of what value these solutions provide grows rapidly, which results in them being used more often in the real estate industry worldwide. If these kinds of tools are worth implementing depends on what kind of problems the property manager, facility manager, owner, or tenant is facing. If you can quantify the problems, surely we will find the best system aiming to solve the exact issues that are being faced.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Implementing a Real Estate System

It is worth noting that real estate software implementation process in most cases includes mapping your own business processes into the software, and also in some parts, it requires some changes in the process, like implementing some best practices into a software, or a more innovative approach. A typical mistake is aiming to keep the process in the way it used to be before, in fear of making any changes. A result of such an approach may be that the system will only map already inferior processes and won’t generate all of the added value it could have provided under the correct circumstances. It seems that the best solution is to find some sort of a compromise between a well-configured system and the processes that were run before in the facility or centrally implemented in the company. The change mentioned earlier - system implementation - should be taken slow, and gradually incorporated into the company, with full awareness of people that will be using this system. Only under such circumstances, it’s possible to implement new standards, which should be introduced parallel to the needs that defined the decision to implement the software.

 

How to Choose the CAFM/CMMS System Provider

 

Furthermore, a very essential element is to choose your software provider. When choosing a provider for CAFM/CMMS software and other technologies for real estate, you need to remember about checking a couple of aspects.

Primarily:

  • Check the references of the real estate software provider,
  • Prepare a project specification, that’s based on realistic requirements which systems available on the market provide
  • Check whether the system is regularly developed, updated, and adapting to market needs (e.g. new modules in the system, monthly system updates, etc.)
  • Get familiar with the history of other projects that the provider managed, both successful and unsuccessful
  • Verify if the software provider gives the ability to test the software (e.g., pilot implementation)
  • Find out about the post-implementation support services - both commercial, analytical and technical
  • Verify whether free updates are being provided and what are the costs of any possible expansions
  • Get to know the providers profile, e.g., team size, range of services provided (local, international, global)

Reference Validation

The first essential step in selecting the right system vendor for your real estate is checking their references. This simple step can significantly reduce the risk associated with the inability to test the system in real operation in an environment similar to yours before implementation.

Preparation of Project Specifications

It is extremely important to prepare a good specification that is based on the real capabilities of systems that are available on the market. If any supplier says that "everything can be done", such cooperation usually comes with a higher risk. Not everything can be done, and the more doubts and suggestions the system manufacturer has, the better. This means that the company is experienced in what they do and, in case of doubt, will be able to prove why it is "not worth it". In principle, it is better to implement a system that has fewer functions, but the functions that are well-developed and used in practice, rather than trying to change an already existing software.

System Updates and Customizations

It is worth asking the supplier about the number of fixes and adjustments he made to the software. This means that the system is being regularly developed and updated to the needs of the market. It’s not good if we want to change the software already on the start to have to adapt it somehow to our needs. The processes, as mentioned above, can be incorrect and duplicated in the system, and adding new functions at a fast pace almost always means that they’ll come with their imperfections, and there is a good chance that they will not be further developed by the software provider.

Experience of the Software Provider

An important aspect is also verifying whether the supplier has enough experience to provide us with a history of both successful and unsuccessful implementations. One of the questions to ask a vendor before choosing one should be the number of unsuccessful implementations. We shouldn't hear that they were all successful because that is extremely rare. Systems evolve and adapt to changes in the marketplace. The first implementation of a given function verifies whether it was written correctly. Therefore, the supplier should provide us with reliable information to predict possible difficulties.

Another important element when choosing a company is the readiness to conduct tests. If the vendor does not agree to this, consider that the system may be inflexible, the vendor places too much stress on finishing the project, or simply put, does not have the resources or willingness to invest to conduct tests. However, the tests should not be a temporary launch of a few features, but a full implementation on a selected facility or facilities. Partial test implementation, as a rule, fails, e.g. due to the lower involvement of the customer.

Free System Upgrades and Additional Costs

You should remember to consider whether the system vendor provides free updates and what are the costs of any expansion. If the developers are located outside the implementation region, then in the case of further development, e.g. in Asian countries, it may result in problems in the implementation of more difficult functions due to cultural or linguistic differences. Development located in countries like the USA, Canada, etc. can cause high costs when compared to European costs. So, it is possible that due to the extended waiting time for the functionality and the high cost of application development, the additional costs may even significantly exceed the initial investment.

Therefore, before implementation, it is necessary to discuss the full scope of implementation and functions planned for development. It is also important to prepare a specification, or, if necessary, a pre-implementation analysis to avoid the risk of high costs of changing the system to a new one in the future. Suppliers almost always sign temporary contracts with the cost of early cancellation.

However, not every CAFM module should be developed. It is the supplier who should ensure that it is close to the very idea of the system and the information it offers. It is then up to the supplier to make the final decision whether a given function can and needs to be implemented. It is the supplier's responsibility to ensure that the system is consistent and does not expand in different dead-end directions.

Post-implementation Support

An important aspect is also the post-implementation support, e.g., commercial, analytical, and technical support. It is worth verifying the supplier in terms of available resources, if they have dedicated, competent employees who specialize in their industry: coding, testing, server/hosting issues, interface design, and ergonomics of use.

Company Size and Reach

Another important aspect when choosing a supplier is the size of the company. Systems are usually divided into cheaper, mid-range or expensive ones. The expensive ones are most often solutions coming from companies that operate on an international scale, have a number of possibilities, and most often a number of people work on these solutions. Mid-range solutions have fewer possibilities, the supplier is smaller in terms of the number of employees. The cheapest solutions are usually systems proposed by a company made of few people, they’re often very flexible companies, but cooperation comes with the risk of the inability to quickly scale resources to ensure adequate software development. Medium-sized companies, on the other hand, ensure maximum customer support. They care about growing their company, which is frequently driven by customer recommendations to one another. It’s in the interest of the supplier for each side of the process to be satisfied. Large companies usually do not stress on this problem, and small ones may finish their development after just a couple of implementations.

How To Investment in Real Estate Software

The essence of investment, especially in IT, is that apart from its potential risk, it brings many benefits. If we choose the company we want to cooperate with and the tool it offers, the return on investment will take place in a measurable, defined timescale.

There are many companies on the market that provide technology solutions for real estate. If the facility manager, owner, or technical company decides to implement the system, this is the first step to return on investment. The return may or may not be measurable. It is measurable when we achieve real returns on expenditure, for example by accurately registering and accepting costs, limiting the number of working hours, e.g. of the technical services, or if we have an overview of all work performed by an outsourced technical service. It is also measurable when we understand the investment as an added value for tenants or an increase in the value of the property itself. And hard to measure value is when we increase the level of security, increase the value of our brand or optimize processes.

The purchasing process is usually not very methodical, so it is worth indicating the people who will implement it at the decision-making stage. These are employees who participate in making decisions, coordinate the entire implementation process one by one, and supervise the successful implementation. Often, the very decision to purchase and implement software is made quickly, only basic functions are implemented, which ultimately means that the possible returns on investment are not as high as expected.

What are Approaches to Real Estate System Implementation

It is worth considering a well-phased, partial, e.g. geographical or functional implementation. This is the safest form of system implementation as it is slow and phased.

The geographic deployment covers one or more facilities at first and the system is implemented successively in the others. The functional implementation allows you to implement basic functions first and then expand them with other modules. However, this kind of project should be well-timed and consistently executed. The point is not the implementation process by itself, but to finish the implementation to achieve the goal, which is the return on investment, and the profit that the implementation will bring.

Summary

A correctly implemented real estate system can significantly improve the functioning of the entire facility or portfolio of real estate. The ROIs occurs regardless of whether the deployment covers a single property or the entire property portfolio. It very often happens that the implementation of one facility results in the implementation in another, in the country or abroad. This means that the returns are real, the work comfort of employees increases as well as the satisfaction of tenants. However, the goal is not the implementation itself - the goal is the return on investment, and then the profit from the implementation.

Today, there are many software programs to manage the facility and building maintenance but none of them can do it all. Our software Singu FM is different because it is one platform to help you manages all your facility and maintenance needs in one place. Singu FM is a CAFM/CMMS hybrid that gives you total control over your building. We developed our platform for real estate professionals who need greater control over their properties. Our solution centralizes the management of facilities, people, and processes and streamlines the communication between the property staff, tenants, and contractors.

Do you want to transform the way you manage and operate your real estate? Talk to one of our representatives today and get a free Singu FM trial.

Written by:
Karolina Kowacka
PropTech Expert

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