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Automation an urgent priority for three-quarters of commercial execs

By Juliet Helmke
07 December 2023 | 12 minute read
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A new report shows that commercial real estate leaders are eager for automated solutions to streamline outdated processes in the sector.

The research paper, released by MRI Software, suggested frustration by senior commercial real estate professionals with the sector’s continued reliance on manual processes and large array of data sources.

According to The Digital Transformation Journey report, 76 per cent of C-suite and director-level professionals in commercial real estate cite automation as an urgent priority across all aspects of their business between now and 2028.

Moreover, nearly half, or 47 per cent, reported they would be looking to make use of artificial intelligence (AI) specifically in that same time frame, while 46 per cent intend to prioritise IoT (Internet of Things) or ESG-initiatives like “smart buildings”. Roughly a third plan to pursue predictive analytics solutions.

Following a comprehensive survey of the sector, which polled 100 senior professionals across commercial, industrial, office, residential, retail, mixed-use and other asset classes, the firm sat down for in-depth interviews with a select group of APAC thought leaders to gain additional insights into how the industry’s major players are approaching digital transformation.

According to Mark Cohen, vice president of product for MRI Software APAC, AI has been getting a lot of attention for its more noteworthy abilities, but it’s the simpler functions that could be most useful if property harnessed it for the sector’s need.

“It’s not just AI’s flashy ‘eye candy’ capabilities, but its practical applications that deserve attention. These include things like image recognition for assessing commercial property damage through to using AI applications to uncover key insights hidden in corporate and legal documents,” Mr Cohen said.

Joanna Marsh, an advisor to Investa in the field of advanced analytics and innovation, commented the industry is currently lacking specific tools to address its issues, such as a wide variety of data sources that involve substantial human power to wrangle.

“Unlike finance with its Bloomberg-based knowledge base, real estate lacks a singular data source. We have a huge amount of unstructured property-related data, and standard large language models aren’t going to cut it. We need real estate industry-specific AI language models that are trained to liberate data from documents and disparate databases,” Ms Marsh said.

Amanda Steele, group executive head of property at ISPT, concurred that industry-tailored automated tools would allow commercial businesses to expedite certain processes and make the most of its human resources.

“For our part [at ISPT], AI will allow us to focus on improving tasks like lease abstraction through technology, and to break down barriers created by large legal documents and complex contracts that are not very user-friendly and have historically been very expensive to handle,” said Ms Steele.

“I think that technology, AI and the associated speed and efficiency of delivery can really improve our ability to personally connect with our tenant partners. And that’s the real sweet spot for us,” she added.

Nikki Steadman, senior director for Asia Pacific professional services at MRI Software, commented that research indicated the industry has hit a “tipping point” in terms of tech adoption.

“One could also look at that 47 per cent and say optimistically that there are almost one in two industry professionals considering AI,” she said, noting that it’s a sector that’s primed for innovation.

“AI technologies are a perfect fit for industries that rely on repetitive manual intervention to manage budgets, leverage insights from data and drive business operations – and as more leaders talk about it, and continue increasing their competitive advantage, adoption will naturally accelerate,” Ms Steadman said.

In her view, the sector presents fertile ground for new technologies to take root.

“Look at any industry that’s further down the road in digital transformation than real estate and they started with a few progressive thinkers and industry leaders,” Ms Steadman said.

“The progressive leaders profiled in our report are saying digital transformation is necessary, irreversible, challenging but exciting, with measurable return on investment,” she added.

Automation an urgent priority for three-quarters of commercial execs
nikki steadman reb jxuyrp
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Juliet Helmke

Based in Sydney, Juliet Helmke has a broad range of reporting and editorial experience across the areas of business, technology, entertainment and the arts. She was formerly Senior Editor at The New York Observer.

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