DALLAS, TX - With the rapid pace of technological advances, keeping your company on the cutting edge requires more than just saying you’re innovative. Pure-play tech firms, such as Intel or Google, have a mission that pushes the technology envelope. To that end, they have also institutionalized systems and processes to facilitate innovation.
Smart apartment companies are learning that the competitive advantage that innovative technology can bring to apartment firms can be significant. Many are following the tech sector’s lead, institutionalizing systems for the adoption and integration of new technology and creating new staff positions to keep the company on top of the latest innovations and technology.
Brian Zrimsek, vice president of analytics and innovation at The Irvine Company, and Scott Pechersky, vice president of technology at Alliance Residential Company, share three ways their respective companies are leveraging innovations in technology to maintain a competitive edge. Zrimsek and Pechersky are featured speakers at the upcoming 2013 NMHC OpTech (Multifamily Operations and Technology Conference & Exposition), to be held Nov. 11-13 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.
Marketing: Improved Online Presence
As it has grown its presence in Northern California, executives at Newport Beach, Calif.-based The Irvine Company noticed that many prospects were in the process of moving to the area—from elsewhere in the country and abroad—so they were doing much of their apartment hunting from afar. Since it’s inconvenient for these people to do in-person property tours, the company is focused on giving them the next best thing online.
“We’re going to be able to give these folks the ability to see what our communities are like and what the amenities are like in a really immersive experience,” says Zrimsek.
The Irvine Company plans to go beyond traditional pictures, tours and videos with some new technology similar to Google’s Street View, which offers panoramic views of streetscapes from sidewalks all over the world. It’s also considering using new and emerging technologies “to be able to offer an aerial experience that is much more engaging than a traditional flyover,” Zrimsek says.
In the end, the company expects this technology investment will sharpen its brand online and enhance its competitive position. “We want to convey the quality of our product online in a way that other folks can’t do,” Zrimsek says.
Development: Better Construction Efficiencies
Like many apartment developers during the construction process, The Irvine Company has traditionally relied on two-dimensional drawing, where each layer of construction—framing, HVAC, electrical, plumbing, etc.—is mapped out individually. While this system offers a clear view of each stage of construction, it often can lead to some on-site issues during implementation. For example, a plumber might realize he or she is unable to install pipes exactly according to plan because the electrical schematic called for a junction box in the same place.
Making plan adjustments can be costly and time consuming, but Zrimsek says Irvine Company and its partners are working on three-dimensional modeling to help identify and resolve these types of issues in advance. “By doing those drawings in three-dimensional modeling software, we can see collisions beforehand so we don’t spend extra money in the field.”
Down the road, Zrimsek says those models could be used in marketing as well. “Eventually we will take the three-dimensional models they used to construct the apartment with and turn it into digital rendering [for prospects on the web],” he says.
Business Intelligence: Enhanced Data Mining
Apartment firms track loads of information using a variety of data sources. However, the problem is that many of those systems cannot communicate well with each other, making it difficult for executives to match up business trends, identify correlations between disparate data trends and tease out meaningful analysis.
But Alliance Residential Company’s Pechersky is working to change that by spearheading a project to take data from a variety of sources, compile it and develop key performance indicators for each level of the company. For example, using this technology, Alliance might look to tie customer satisfaction survey data from Kingsley Associates to resident retention data from Yardi and see trends that may have gone unnoticed in the past, such as renewal rates at properties where work orders were completed within 24 hours or how earlier renewals correspond with amenity offerings. By establishing those trend relationships, the company expects to better establish performance expectations.
“We’re taking the data from different places and consolidating it in one database and to see what metrics associates are meeting at our properties,” Pechersky says.
For more insight into how the industry’s top companies are getting serious about leveraging innovation to improve business efficiency and productivity, be sure to join Zrimsek and Pechersky on Wednesday, Nov. 13 for a session on “Creating a Culture of Constant Innovation” at 2013 NMHC OpTech in Dallas. Full event details are available at www.nmhc.org/goto/OpTech13.