By Lisa Stanley
There are many options available to manage real estate data. How do you determine the best approach to meet your needs? First, let’s identify the difference between data and information. Information is the critical part of the data you collect—it’s the right stuff that drives business analytics and enables you to make decisions that reduce costs, increase revenue, and improve performance.
Developing an information strategy starts with a constructive collaboration between owner/occupiers, service providers, software developers, and others to identify needs and build a plan. Information management systems have often been cobbled together, with multiple platforms that don’t communicate and lack of consistency in data terms and definitions. Where is the best place to start? Make the business case for adopting a “data dictionary.”
A data dictionary—offered by organizations such as OSCRE—defines real estate terms and creates a foundation that ensures consistency for building an effective information strategy. How do you make the compelling case for the needed allocation of resources to invest in this process and implementation of standards to follow? It’s a business case discussion that focuses on creating a collaborative plan for better information that leads to better business decisions, including benchmarking. A standardized approach leads to a single source of truth for information—one platform with integrated information, replacing siloed data that’s not always shared between units, often has disparate terms, and can be difficult to access. Time spent on reconciling these disparate information sources and their corresponding spreadsheets is time wasted when there is a better alternative that’s increasingly being implemented across companies and around the globe.
Another important aspect of the business case value proposition that must be presented to the corporate suite addresses the importance of improving transparency, data governance, and risk management in the collection and transfer of data within the company and between business partners. The importance of this compelling and relevant discussion should be a primary focus when presenting the business case for resource allocation.
Once the terms and definitions are defined, the process often starts with space. A space classification hierarchy is established, with many companies using a three- to five-tier approach.
Let’s look at an example with a recent global implementation of OSCRE’s Space Classification Hierarchy by a Fortune 100 company.
Prior to the implementation, the company had over 100 space classifications, significant redundancy, and inconsistent space classification management. They wanted to consolidate and simplify their data architecture, improve data quality and reporting, align tools and global processes, and establish that often elusive single source of truth. Their implementation resulted in eliminating more than 10 outdated and disparate systems (the kind that didn’t communicate with each other), and consolidated space and lease management functionality into one integrated system, where all drawings and lease data now reside for more than 18 million square feet of space.
Initial benefits reported are compelling including:
- A single integrated database and system
- A reduction in the number of space functions and space types by more than half
- More accurate and valuable reporting
- Improved benchmarking
- More flexibility for future modifications and enhancements
- Improved work flow through streamlined space functions
- And a simplified and collapsed classification layering system
If you start with a streamlined approach to classifying space using a common set of terms and definitions, it can be a springboard for other areas like improving workplace productivity, occupancy cost, and space management. Improving the effectiveness of facility management functions clearly improves company performance.
The industry needs more leaders willing to step forward to engage in discussions about the importance of information standards, and allocate the financial and human capital needed to effect the change to a standards-driven information strategy. Implementing this approach will not only improve your own company’s performance, but it will help the real estate industry advance as a whole in the expanding age of standards-based performance.
Stanley is the CEO of Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE International), a membership-based, not-for-profit organization committed to the collaborative development and implementation of global real estate data standards.