Last modified on December 29th, 2020
By Dom Beveridge
Throughout the multifamily industry, it has always been a top priority for leadership to empower regional and community management teams to make better decisions. Access to good data is an absolute prerequisite when building a culture of accountability and analytical decision-making, however it’s the vital ingredient that many operators get wrong. An organization trying to make high-quality decisions should expect to spend time and resources, ensuring the quality of their data and the insights it produces.
The recent NMHC OPTECH conference included a panel on this very subject: Business Intelligence. The discussion: “Lots of Data, but Not a Lot of Business Intelligence” featured three multifamily owner/operators and focused primarily on their organizations’ efforts to arrive at that surprisingly elusive destination: a single source of truth.
The need to use data to empower regional and site teams has always been an imperative but, as the OPTECH panelists all agreed, the urgency has grown since the COVID pandemic. As operations have virtualized and in-person site visits have become less common, multifamily organizations have been forced to rethink how they run their businesses. Leaders need different business insights and controls. Here are a few examples of things that have changed in the last few months:
- Virtualization of tours has been one of the most disruptive forces in multifamily operations this year. The initial lockdown measures caused the whole industry to rush to deliver leasing without conventional in-person tours. The variety of channels and media for tours created both a control challenge and an opportunity: more digital touchpoints meant more data and more insight into the leasing funnel.
- Renewals have been an even bigger focus than usual, as the delicate balance of shifting demand, federal stimulus, and eviction moratoria have made it hard to predict trends. Overlay the wildly different demand conditions in, e.g., urban vs. suburban markets, and we see how reliable data contributes to critical decisions.
- Collections and tracking of payment plans have been a high priority for obvious reasons and will continue to preoccupy management at all levels as federal and local relief programs are created, implemented, and retired as the economy ultimately moves beyond the pandemic.
- Training is not the same as before the pandemic: both the frequency and modality have changed as in-person opportunities have dried up. For example, there is a need to reinvent in-person sales training programs for a digital format. Sessions have to be shorter, more frequent, and more engaging. Trackability of participation is a bigger challenge than before.
- Virtualization of team functions is a ubiquitous change in most industries (just look at the increase in Zoom calls!), but it isn’t just communication technology that has changed. With teams no longer sitting in the same physical spaces and with management unable to spend as much time walking properties, decision makers need better ways to keep track of what’s going on.
Maintaining transparency is a challenge in and of itself. The fact that our industry is doing so many things differently today creates the need for new data points to track or measure the things that make a difference.
Why are data and analytics such a natural priority now? Corporate, regional, and site teams should be focused on insights that help them make decisions, rather than wasting time gathering data for reporting. And now that their lines of communication and ways of working are so heavily virtualized, teams need their data sources to provide a complete, reliable real-time picture of the organization.
Real-time data allows property management teams to react quickly to changing market conditions and act while there’s still time. Better insights unlock value in areas that may not even have been on the organization’s “radar,” enabling managers to keep teams focused on the right areas of improvement, rather than just the habitual ones.
One of the OPTECH panelists put it succinctly: “Business Intelligence systems lower the bar to curiosity,” making it easier for talented and creative people to access insights about their businesses. When more and more conversations are about data-driven insights, the rewards for improving the quality of data and insights are greater than ever.
To find out more about the ways that companies have adapted, AppFolio and D2 Demand Solutions are working together to develop a new piece of research.
The appetite for data has changed during the pandemic, but this survey is intended to reveal more about how it has changed, what kinds of metrics have become more or less important, and what analytical problems operators are motivated to solve today. Please take a moment to complete our quick online survey — the results will be published soon.