Part 1 of Architrave’s series, “From analog to digital real estate management”
By Dagmar Hotze, Journalist specialized in property management issues of the future.
Anyone who has ever worked as a temp at a registrar’s office or a private company and had to fish documents from file labyrinths knows: not only is a tidy house a tidy mind, but it also lets you go home at a decent hour. The days of analog document treasure hunts are over, the era of the desktop 1.0 is coming to an end. To real estate firms, where a number of parties are involved, from portfolio and asset management to property management to facility management, mobile and 24/7 access to different data sets is indispensible. If working collaboratively is an objective, digitalized information is a must.
In addition, a lack of structure makes data expensive. French FIDJI (Format d’Interéchanges de Données Juridiques et Immobilières), focusing on the harmonization of national data standards within the real estate industry, estimates the cost-saving potential of efficient data management in European real estate firms at one billion Euros annually. In other words, it definitely pays off to invest in digital real estate management. But where to start?
Digitalization raises basic questions
BEOS AG with its interdisciplinary team of close to 100 members has chosen to enter the real estate economy 2.0. For over ten years, the independent project and asset manager, handling 68 commercial real estate objects and over 800 tenants, has relied on a virtual data room. It eventually became impractical and unable to perform in increasingly more complex processes. In addition, it was a proprietary system, which limited efficacy even more. These problems gave the company cause to look into digitalization as a new foundation, and to ask: Which documents do we have? Why would we need them in a digitalized format? Who has to have access to what and when? What are the advantages of digitalization? And lastly, what is the ultimate long-term goal of digital real estate management?
“The easy data upload and the convenient distribution of access authorizations were important to us. We also wanted a web-based application to have mobile access to our data.“ – Martin Czaja
Transition strategies from analog to digital
Vorstand BEOS AG
Under the leadership of board member Martin Czaja, in charge of asset and portfolio management, a milestone strategy emerged that set the framework for the transition from analog to digital. „The easy data upload and the convenient distribution of access authorizations were important to us. We also wanted a web-based application to have mobile access to our data,“ Czaja explains. In addition, external partners needed to be able to conveniently access the system. The goal is a centralized and integrated data room that enables document, asset, and property management, transactions, and reports in one.
An IT-Partner with expertise is crucial
In 2015, BEOS AG chose the software concept of Architrave GmbH because the modular guiding principle meets the demands of today’s and tomorrow’s modern document management system. Founded by Maurice Grassau and Dr. Benjamin Staude in 2012, the Berlin-based innovation hub has specialized in the development of software solutions for the real estate industry. As a team, they combine interdisciplinary and field-specific knowhow. Staude as mathematician and PhD biologist, Grassau with extensive experience from a career dealing with the leading data room providers and some of the biggest real estate transactions in Germany.
With their team of developers, designers, and usability specialists, they set out to take real estate management software into the 21st century. Smart interfaces ensure a maximally flexible system that easily adapts to different needs fast.
In addition, a separately created Machine Learning department focuses on research and development with the goal of automated reading and processing of document data. „This wealth of information will let us administer data rooms in the future that upload their own data by enabling documents to find the right place on the index autonomously.“Dr. Staude, Chief Technology Officer of Architrave GmbH, explains.
Digital transformation starts with data
Grassau, intimately familiar with processes inside real estate organizations, knows the industry’s inertia all too well. But he is convinced that „the immediate availability of data, data life, networking, and processing will be key factors to a company’s success in the future.“ Digitalization is not an end in itself but extremely important as a business strategy. BEOS board member Czaja agrees, and the founders of Architrave have heard his call. They soon understood each other, respective approaches and methods, and quickly cleared the way to practical implementation, which meant: data vault spring-cleaning. All documents and data in the non-compatible data room were transferred to Architrave’s software solution and subsequently indexed and systematized. Duplicates were eliminated and data completed where needed.
„Thanks to Architrave’s transparency and clear structure, our work processes have become significantly faster and more efficient.“ – Martin Czaja
Prepared for the 21th century
It took mere weeks for Czaja and his team to be able to look at their state-of-the-art data room, all without cumbersome data transfers via email, CD or USB stick. Instead: centralized, web-based, and mobile. Now, BEOS employees and authorized external partners, such as property managers, can access data from anywhere and around the clock. The self-explanatory user interface, with a look and feel taking cues from current Internet applications, is easy to handle and keeps training expenses at a minimum. Uploads are instant, the search function is fast, and the so-called “asset health index” is a convenient tool that shows gaps in the documentation.
„Thanks to Architrave’s transparency and clear structure, our work processes have become significantly faster and more efficient,“Czaja is happy to report, who particularly appreciates being able to work on the go with Architrave’s mobile compatibility. „Much can be displayed better in on-location client meetings.“
Benjamin Staude (CTO), Maurice Grassau (CEO)
A digital chief officer is a must
Asked whether real estate companies need a Digital Chief Officer to head up the digital transformation, Czaja unequivocally responds, “Yes,” and adds that while specialized IT knowledge is not necessary, you definitely need a basic understanding for how digitalization will affect processes and structures within the organization. It makes a lot of sense to designate someone in upper management as responsible for all things digital to develop ideas, plan them out, and follow up on implementation. It also takes coworkers who are more than ready to kiss the data world 1.0 good-bye.
„For Architrave, the iMS interface is a quantum leap because now, all relevant documents jump to the right place inside a data room on their own. Dispensing with manual copy and file procedures, the process has become much less prone to error.“ – Dr. Benjamin Staude
First real estate data room with an iMS link
BEOS AG recently passed another milestone on the path to real estate management 2.0 by linking the property management software iMS by Yardi Systems to Architrave’s software solution. An interface now allows for a synchronized document exchange between the two solutions, which makes circuitous data export from local hard drives and into other systems obsolete. „For Architrave, the iMS interface is a quantum leap because now, all relevant documents jump to the right place inside the data room on their own. Dispensing with manual copy and file procedures, the process has become much less prone to error,” says Dr. Staude.
The modular principle of Architrave’s software concept proves groundbreaking mostly because it relies on smart interfaces, through which incompatible applications can be merged into an integrated software system. „There is still a lot to do to take real estate companies into the 21st century in terms of software,“ CEO Grassau says. „But we still have a lot of ideas,“ he adds smiling.