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Verifying and manipulating data are biggest pain points for managers, but little process around compliance

NAREIM Data Strategy meeting

November 10 and 12, 2020

One of the greatest pain points of data strategy within the real estate investment management firm relates to verifying results and manipulating data, according to members.

During the NAREIM Data Strategy meeting, members were polled on the greatest pain points within their firms relating to data governance, provisioning and usage. The areas scoring highest on the pain monitor were verifying results, manipulating data, populating templates and acquiring information.

One issue potentially exacerbating these areas is the fact 70% of NAREIM members do not have data compliance processes in place to ensure the accuracy and consistency of data.

The survey – which can be downloaded here – was one element of the NAREIM Data Strategy meeting, which walked through data strategy case studies, as well as the skills and ROI of data strategy implementations.

Key highlights from the meeting, included:

Keep getting the feedback from employees

During one case study, a member said they changed the focus of their initial, more informal, plan for data after socializing their plan and approach. When feedback highlighting data quality control issues was raised, the firm realized it needed a more formal data strategy.

The short-term goals included:

The ability to respond to specific investor questions relating to Covid, and fill in immediate data gaps, such as NAICS codes and building classes. A focus was also being paid to better utilizing existing software and tools, such as Sharepoint for an online lease library.

The longer-term goals included:

Data visualization, ongoing data reviews and training for external property managers

The things to think about

One case study urged members to think about data strategy through five key elements – with each stage of the data strategy dealing with:

  • Enterprise Data Management: Relating to data governance, warehousing and quality management

  • Information Management: Relating to data architecture and security, privacy, information lifecycle and taxonomy

  • Business intelligence reporting and analytics: Relating to predictive analytics, patterns and trends as well as information reporting. One key element is to also ensure you understand who is asking for the data and who is accountable for the data; and to conduct due diligence on the usage of the data.

  • Digital Business Processes. The ability to digitize internal processes, data and begin robotic process automation for standardized reports.

  • Data Culture: Executive officer buy-in, training and change management and enabling data for enterprise innovation.

Data literacy and the embrace of data is part of the challenge

You are changing the DNA of the organization, making data, data accuracy and consistency a part of the culture of the firm. That has to be aligned with leadership and business objectives.

Even something as simple as an AUM report

One member spoke to the challenges of how square foot was used across different functional and geographic groups. Nuances came up which made it difficult to integrate the square foot data sets, and therefore compile a global AUM report. The team needed to understand how the data sets were defined, how they were getting into the master report and who owned the data. The firm used definitions from the OSCRE data model with some customization.

How to get buy-in?

The NAREIM Data Strategy meeting also focused on how to embed data as part of the firm, and achieve additional buy-in from executives and employees. Ideas included:

  • Show the ROI of data strategies by proving potential reductions in the rate of head count growth through improved data provisioning, governance and usage. Tie data strategy to specific projects first, rather than a large all-encompassing idea

  • Always talk to the why before the how

  • Set up a data council, taskforce or power user group, potentially composed of different functional areas, to help set priorities and promote the strategy or case use

  • Find an advocate – whether a portfolio or asset manager, or in transactions, or if you’re on the business side work closely with data – to help champion the benefits and value of data to research, sourcing and underwriting.

  • Shine a light. Make public trends and data that have traditionally been opaque, with empathy for other people’s skills, experience and knowledge.

Download the meeting presentations here.

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