The time has never been more right to implement technology for managing all aspects of apartment operations. The migration of tech-savvy Generation Z into the same apartment spaces shared by Millennials has already started and is pushing multifamily farther into the 21st century.
Technology has gone from a cool thing that once differentiated communities to a necessity to reach today’s renters. A good onsite cell phone signal isn’t just a perk, but a need near as much as a roof overhead.
As the renter base transforms, mobile and desktop technology applications are becoming more essential to manage lease-ups, accept payments, book amenities and run the back office. Business intelligence and artificial intelligence have advanced past corporate buzzwords to practical solutions to keep the lights burning.
At a recent conference of investors and operators, panelists were asked how they are dealing with the core competencies of implementation technology into their everyday businesses to satisfy a younger generation of renters and employees. Each is implementing or have deployed technology to assist in property operations, as well as sprinkling in a few techno treats for residents.
“The Millennials and Gen Z run to the technology, so in terms of changing demographics and associates, I think we find they are pushing us more and more,” said Lloyd Proffitt, who is president of the property management division at Allied Orion Group. “That’s really healthy for our industry. Historically we have been a little behind or delayed implementing cutting edge technology compared to the other industries.”
The pace of technology implementation is important
The consensus is that as long as technology is implemented in the right fashion it’s a good thing. Everybody has to have buy-in with the purpose and benefits, and third-party implementation can be beneficial.
But the pace of execution is critical. Establishing technology systems can be as unique as the community and vendors who have the software and hardware. No matter how great the solution, handling them with care during deployment is a must or a big investment may fail.
Roscoe Property Management Senior Vice President Kelly Blaskowsky said that property management systems assist in providing leasing agents and maintenance staff those essential operational duties that sometimes get in the way of the ability to focus on marketing, leasing and customer service. Also, smart amenities and automated processes are hot and hip but onsite staff must know how they work to properly market to residents and prospects before it can become a great amenity.
Communication is critical for implementing technology or any other new process, Proffitt says.
“We’ve got to be eyes wide open as an organization about how all of that new technology and those new ideas hit the properties, how that pace affects the core business on site.”
Business intelligence and artificial intelligence gaining momentum
RealPage Industry Principal/Asset Optimization Andrew Bowen has been on both sides of the software implementation process in the last 30 years. Prior to selling solutions at RealPage, he operated properties for two decades. He says support from the top is just as essential as getting buy-in at the site level for any new technology rollout.
“There’s so much more buy-in from the site level when it’s coming from the executive level as opposed to a vendor,” he said. “Having it come down from senior leadership is probably the No. 1 thing that I can tell you that from a good rollout to a bad rollout, regardless of the platform, is executive-level support and how it trickles down.”
Bowen has seen a lot of traction lately in multifamily for business intelligence and artificial intelligence for screening.
Business intelligence is something that panelists agreed they need to rely on moving forward with the next generation of renters and beyond. Roscoe Property Management is in the midst of rolling out a new BI platform that Blaskowsky says will give the company greater visibility into property performance.
“We do think it’s important to have those tools to be able to analyze each community and figure out where those opportunities are,” she said. “It’s new to us and we’re excited about that venture.”