It’s won’t be news to anyone in the property industry that most managing agents should, if they aren’t already, be currently undertaking a transformation. Old models, roles, tools and processes need re-shaping and should be reviewed at a greater frequency than ever before, to provide end-users with the service and experience they now demand in today’s connected world.
For most property managers big or small, barriers to delivering this change can, unfortunately, be numerous and challenging to overcome. Vast workforces, legacy technologies and insufficiency of capital reserves to invest in R&D enabling them to get ahead of the game are just some of the obstacles which need to be worked through. Larger property management teams tend to face layers of management and bureaucracy, hamstringing the pace at which effective change can be delivered.
To help us think about property management in a different way, we considered first of all whether property management was the correct label for the service we wanted to offer, now and in the future. More importantly, we also asked our clients and customers what they thought on the subject. Is ‘property management’ what they are looking for, or is it something else?
The results of this exercise were clear cut.
In today’s ultra-connected world where user experience, in addition to the space and amenity itself, is the differentiator, property management no longer accurately captures what customers or clients want from the organisations operating in this space. In fact, what we would all recognise as core property management is only a fraction of the picture, albeit of course a very important part of it.
Sure, property managers will always need the capability to clean the windows, cut the grass, collect service charge monies and perform all the traditional tasks we know property managers must conduct in order to, well, manage properties.
However, it is now accepted that much of a property manager’s role is not necessarily about property, but about people and beyond that, community.
Bridging the Value Gap
In line with the shifting nature of the property manager, the role and remit of the asset manager is also becoming increasingly complex.
Because of the movement in market dynamics, namely shorter leases and widespread sectoral instability, cash flow enhancement and driving value into assets has never been more challenging for asset managers. One only has to think about the recent bout of high profile CVAs from retailers with huge property exposure and the rise of co-working in the commercial sector to get a flavour for this.
This necessitates that asset managers have to spend longer than ever thinking about the rather testing task of how to improve revenues and the commercial performance of their assets, as well as considering the longer-term horizon for the asset. The effect of this is that there is less time and resource available for proactive, strategic asset improvement in the here and now; refurbishment, public realm strategy, partnership and relationship building, community events and engagement, service enhancements, the digital layer and sustainability, to name but a few concerns which might fall to the bottom of an asset manager’s to-do list.
It’s no coincidence that all the projects mentioned above all fundamentally impact on the estate or property’s user experience. Because this is the case, it makes good sense for any strategic investment in these areas to be directly informed by the people who know how visitors interact with the assets, and understand what works for them and what doesn’t; the property manager.
This space between the asset manager’s re-defined brief and the role of the traditional property manager is exactly where property managers should focus on building their capability to add more value to clients and customers, and as a result, make property management work harder for everybody.
At Navana, we’ve formulated a new approach to managing properties and estates which we call Asset Activation. Does that mean that we aren’t property managers, and customers and clients won’t get solid basics? Absolutely not, but what it does mean is that we have assembled the team, technology, tools and thinking to be able to offer clients a more strategic take on property management and help them glean more value from their investments whilst offering customers the experience they want, on their terms.
As you’d expect this isn’t just an exercise in semantics. Our operating and delivery model is predicated on two simple objectives; activating more value for our customers, communities, & those who use our estates, and doing the same for our clients, asset managers or owners of the properties.
As with everything in life, change is the only constant. We expect the role of the manager to evolve continually and like the most successful property managers, we’re already thinking about what comes next.