As featured in Property Week, November 22, 2018
David Smith, CEO, Bellrock
Talking about proptech is easy. Real estate companies are falling over themselves to advance their use of technology for the benefit of their business and customers.
Look past the buzzwords and the PR puff, however, and the number of firms that have concrete examples of how new technology provides solutions or better services dwindles. So is proptech just an easy talking point, albeit without much substance, or are technological advances set to transform the property industry?
At Bellrock, we believe technology has the ability to reduce risk within the property industry as well as improve client experience. The company uses intelligent data collection and workplace analytics, as well as automated workflow management across the range of facility management and property portfolio management activities.
Fundamentally, what we try to do is work with clients and help them to unpick their own property conundrum and map out an estates strategy for the future. The objective is to help them maximise the assets they have and ensure they stay compliant and safe and, of course, reduce their overhead costs.
The successful use of technology is rooted in data collection, which enables us to create an accurate picture of a client’s portfolio – from the total number of assets under management to the day-to-day running of buildings.If you conduct a search online for ‘technology’ and ‘proptech’, you will see that it is a prominent and regular subject of conversation and discussion. Yet, while many companies are aware of the role technology and data will play in the future of their business, few are mature users of either when it comes to property management. In our experience, very few organisations can provide an accurate summary of their buildings, the assets inside the buildings and the condition of those assets.
Having said that, we are now seeing a sea change. In the post-Grenfell era, property owners are becoming increasingly aware of the need for up-to-date compliance and regulatory information, as well as the risks posed by incomplete data. The public sector, in particular, tends to be more driven today by the need to demonstrate its compliance with regulatory requirements.
Following the tragedy, remediation work began on 114 of the 159 social housing blocks that exceed 18m in height in England, which are managed by local authorities or housing associations and failed fire safety tests.
Furthermore, a Property Week investigation revealed that across London’s 33 boroughs at least 86 residential blocks over 18m had the same ACM cladding as Grenfell’s tower. As housing standards increasingly come under the spotlight the pressure on owners will only grow.
Data-driven property management
The importance of data and technology comes from the visibility they provide across a portfolio. Once a data map is in place, any issues, both practical and compliance-related, can be quickly identified along with the most effective way to solve them from a supply chain point of view.
Migrating clients on to Bellrock’s management system, Concerto, will typically lead to around a 10% increase in their level of compliance. The system brings together data stored in multiple locations, such as ‘personal’ Excel spreadsheets or Word documents, with data held externally with solicitors or consultants.
Essentially, Concerto is the property engine – Bellrock’s workplace, facilities and property management analytics, workflow and financial system. Stage one of the process is to upload all the information related to assets on to the system. The second stage is to map those assets to a set of rules you want to apply, such as those that are most operationally critical. The third stage is to apply a set of suppliers or partners to those rules.
Technology enhances service
Having a technology platform allows property service providers to work together across a portfolio, under one centralised system. By adopting a supply chain agnostic approach, Bellrock can partner with companies such as CBRE and Savills without competing. Central management system technology allows clients to bring together multiple services in a cost-effective way. This is particularly important for areas such as service charge management where conflicts of interest can develop when relationships exist with both the landlord and tenant on certain properties.
Tech-enabled property management
Despite the work that still needs to be done across the sector to bring it in line with rapidly advancing technology, Bellrock is already looking at the future use of technology and how proptech can go further in reducing risks for customers.
Currently, Bellrock is focused on the use of three-dimensional mapping and visualisation tools, looking at how they can be integrated into its engineering division within the next year, and the resulting benefits.
The complexity of running a diverse estate or campus will almost certainly lie in understanding a set of data that tells the story of those buildings and what goes on inside them. This may seem obvious but it is at the core of how technology can fundamentally change operations and decisions in order to reduce risks and costs.
As regulatory compliance continues to remain front of mind, developments that improve efficiency and safety should be welcomed.
David Smith, CEO, Bellrock