We surveyed over 250 property management professionals to identify benchmarks around employment issues, satisfaction levels and technology priorities, with a view to understand the workforce behind a rapidly changing property management sector.
In this article, we’ve pulled out some key insights relating to technology use in the property management sector to give an early look at some of the survey data.
Technology is a fundamental part of any business strategy, so the purpose of this report was never to prove that businesses need technology to thrive. Instead, our goal was to understand exactly how technology is supporting property managers as they navigate a fast-changing industry environment, and to identify the key trends and factors which are helping them to succeed in a period of significant uncertainty.
Property managers have experienced a raft of rapid changes in recent years, with the continued fallout of the cladding crisis amplified by the day-to-day realities of doing business during the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated fundamental shifts in both the retail and commercial lettings spaces.
Unsurprisingly, the survey data emphasises just how important virtual and remote working tools have been for businesses over the past 18 months in response to restrictions on in-person contact during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, property managers have also turned to technology to support with a much wider range of business functions, from compliance and asset management to fuelling strategic business insights.
For organisations changing their technology stack, efficiency is the number one driver, as property managers turn to technological innovation to juggle an ever-growing list of responsibilities.
Section 1: Technology Adoption
The rapid pace at which property managers are adopting new technology is astounding, with the organisations we surveyed adopting on average 2.8 new technologies apiece over the past 18 months. We asked property managers which technology areas they were investing in to understand the most important industry trends:
Question: Which technologies have you adopted within the last 18 months?
Shifting to virtual tenant relationships
A high percentage of the organisations we surveyed have invested in technology allowing them to conduct business remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, with 32% investing in virtual tour or inspection tools. Another key area of investment was online lease management technology, as well as self-service portals and apps allowing tenants to manage their tenancies online. These investments were key to navigating the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing viewings to be conducted, lettings contracts signed, and tenancies managed without the need for in-person contact.
While these tools were brought in out of necessity, it’s likely that property managers will continue to enjoy longer term benefits as a result of digitalising their lettings processes. Customers aged 18-34 are 130% more likely to book a venue or service if a virtual tour is available, so it’s likely that virtual tours will offer an ongoing competitive advantage to the organisations who’ve invested in them.
It’s also unlikely that tenants and residents will be keen to give up the digital behaviours they’ve learned during the pandemic – McKinsey research indicates that the rapid adoption of new technologies was an acceleration of existing trends rather than a temporary adaptation, and expects this to become a permanent shift even as life returns to normal. By continuing to invest in technologies such as digital self-service and online lease management, property managers can keep up to date with changing consumer preferences – maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction whilst achieving cost and efficiency savings compared to pre-COVID manual processes.
Digital processes are likely to be critical in ensuring that communication happens in a timely, accurate and efficient manner. From new building and fire safety requirements to increased communication demands from leaseholders affected by the cladding crisis, property managers are expected to engage effectively with a growing range of different stakeholders.
Tenant and resident portals and apps are a popular avenue for managing these communications requirements, supporting property managers as they adapt to a profound shift in their role from managers to community builders.
Staying on top of compliance requirements
Outside of the impact on customer experience, proptech is likely to be a lifeline for many businesses as the ever-increasing range of responsibilities placed on them show no sign of slowing. The ability to effectively harness large quantities of data will be critical as property managers respond to a rapidly-changing market.
The trend for mixed-use developments as well as a general broadening in the number of asset classes held by property investors means that property managers are likely to be responsible for much wider variety and quantity of leases and service contracts than ever before – not to mention a broader range of compliance requirements to stay on top of.
15% of survey respondents stated that they’d invested in AI or automation tools in the past 18 months. While this is a newer area and one many organisations are not looking too closely at just yet, technology like AI-powered contract parsing software is likely to be increasingly valuable, allowing property managers to keep track of high volumes of leases and their associated terms.
Driving strategic insights for the future
Property managers have also turned their attention to streamlining internal processes. Business intelligence and forecasting were areas of investment for 28% and 24% of respondents respectively. These strategic investments are likely to prove invaluable, offering not just the potential to improve efficiency in internal processes, but to surface critical strategic insights and aid decision to effectively navigate the road ahead.
Implementing a robust data strategy is key to harnessing a wealth of asset, tenant and market information and turning it into scenario-based projections to aid board-level decision making. Machine learning analysis tools can help to analyse complex data and draw out key insights to support future investment strategies, driving competitive advantage and fuelling business growth.
Investment in business intelligence tools can also democratise data across organisations, giving all team members easy access to accurate, reliable data and empowering them to identify opportunities and drive increased value in their roles.
Section 2: Property Manager Motivations
Building the right technology stack requires a significant financial and time investment, and changing platform can cause huge disruption. As part of our survey, we wanted to understand the motivations for change, and we asked our respondents what would drive them to change their technology.
Question: What would be the main motivation for your company to change property management software?
Efficiency was seen as the major reason for a shift, with 41% of property managers agreeing that this would motivate them to change to a new technology platform. Business growth was the second most important reason for property managers to change technology, while cost was not rated as highly as a priority, with only 11% of respondents agreeing that a cheaper price would lead them to change provider.
The role of the property manager is becoming increasingly more complex, while competition continues to put downward pressure on fees, driving property management firms to achieve more than ever, often with very limited resources. In such a high-pressure environment, even the smallest efficiencies can help to drive competitive advantage and make the difference between surviving and thriving.
It’s no surprise, then, that property managers are keen to invest in technologies that could help them work more efficiently. Whether by automating key processes, eliminating the need for duplicate data entry, or enabling customers to self-serve, investing in new technology is seen as an opportunity to streamline working practices, take admin pressure off employees, and ultimately “do more with less”, increasing profitability.
Property managers are rightly valuing efficiency over cost in their choice of software, understanding that understanding that even relatively small improvements to processes can far outweigh any difference in price.
MRI Software client Pennycuick Collins summarised the thinking of many of our survey respondents when asked about how a tech-first strategy is driving organisational efficiencies. Having recently put that strategy into action and migrating to a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, they were able to benefit from a fully hosted system, accessible anywhere with an internet connection, leveraging world-class infrastructure that transformed their ability to approve invoices processes.
“We’re now approving invoices in 30 seconds compared to 2-3 minutes. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but when you’re processing 1000 invoices a week it’s a massive win.”
Property managers know all too well the potential pitfalls of investing in a technology solution which does not fit their business needs, and are focused on identifying the most appropriate stack of technology solutions to suit their internal processes. This means a laser-focus on best-in-class features and seamless integration over the potential false economy of a cheaper platform.
Voice of the Property Manager Report
The full Voice of the Property Manager report contains the full insights from the survey as well as in-depth analysis on what the data means to individual property managers and the wider industry. Download your copy here.