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In Search of PropTech Solutions

No one questions that technology is having a dramatic and potentially disruptive impact on the real estate industry.

By Nancye J. Kirk
IStock 957685258
James Scott

IREM’s new innovator-in-residence, James Scott

No one questions that technology is having a dramatic and potentially disruptive impact on the real estate industry. Property management is not immune from the pressure. Whether it is used to automate tedious, manual tasks, enhance customer service or monitor building activity, technology may be the answer. Accurately identifying the problems that can be solved by technology, knowing how to vet technology solutions, and just staying on top of what is happening in such a fast-changing environment—therein lie the challenges.

IREM’s PropTech Initiatives

IREM is taking action to help address these challenges. The first step is establishing a technology innovator-in-residence post to identify innovations that will help members operate buildings more efficiently, improve their properties’ competitive positioning and better serve their tenants and clients. This ground-breaking innovator-in-residence role is being filled by James Scott, lead research analyst for the Real Estate Innovation Lab (REIL) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Among other projects at REIL, Scott has been responsible for creating a global database of all real estate-oriented technology companies. Sharing his experiences about this project, and evidence that PropTech (technology that impacts the world of real estate) has exploded, Scott reported that when his team started on the project, they anticipated they would find 80 to 100 or so companies. In the end, they identified over 1,800 such companies—and that number continues to rise.

Broadening the Discussion

“James brings to the position both a background in commercial real estate and a passion for technology,” said Greg Cichy, CPM, of Colliers International, AMO, in Washington, D.C., who as an IREM senior vice president has been tasked with advancing this initiative. Cichy also is chairing a newly formed technology advisory board for IREM. This board will bring together a mix of property management practitioners and those from the PropTech space to inform and guide IREM’s strategy in addressing the vast array of issues involving technology and data security that managers are facing.  As IREM’s innovator-in-residence, Scott will play a key role on this board.

“Our goal,” said Cichy,” is to deliver the tools, services and support to our members that can be used to add value to the companies they work for and the properties they manage.” This means understanding the personas of all IREM Members, no matter the type of property they manage or the size of the company they work for. Regarding the latter, Scott has been quick to point out that when it comes to technology decisions and investments, large companies may be able to make mistakes, but “smaller companies can’t afford to get it wrong.” That’s why they especially need guidance in identifying those pain points that can be addressed by technology and vetting the products and companies that are offering solutions.

Issue: March/April 2019  

Journal of Property Management

Nancye J. Kirk ( is chief strategy officer at IREM Headquarters in Chicago.

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