about business intelligence, or BI, one question comes to mind - what is it,
specifically, and how can it help grow my business? That’s what panelists in
the session “The Real Deal on Business Intelligence” at the 2014 NMHC OpTech
Conference & Exposition answered and explored .
“BI is the convergence of data from multiple systems, visualizing the data and pulling it all together,” said panelist Mona Stahling, vice president of operational service and support for AvalonBay Communities.
Mike Casper, senior vice president and chief information officer for Simpson, agreed saying, at its core, BI is “taking key data and putting it into a visual aid, or dashboard, that can then be read.”
Unfortunately, until recent years, there wasn’t a BI solution for property management. So in 2010, panelist Jay Kenney, chief information officer for Lincoln Property Company, said he put a proposal from a third-party vendor in front of his executive committee.
“Shortly thereafter, in 2012, they all got on board and we went with a vendor named Qlik View,” said Kenney.
Casper said Simpson is also using a third-party vendor. “We wanted to build it ourselves, but didn’t have the dashboard solution for BI,” he said. “But one of the challenges we’ve had is agreeing on the metrics-how do we measure this, how do we want to see it?”
“So, after moving through the data warehouse it’s really about the framework-what are we trying to do, what are we going to look at that is going to change behavior,” Casper added.
Stahling said that they are building their BI through the dashboard tool Dundas.
“And we have two different definitions for BI-one used by finance and one by operations. We also have a competency committee and a data governance committee,” said Stahling. “One of the biggest challenges for us has definitely been coming up with the metrics and that’s where the value is. It’s all about trying to manage the priorities.”
Casper pointed to the importance, when pooling the third-party data, of “determining the audience and what we want as an outcome because there is a ton of data out there from third-party systems.”
But what is most relevant for multifamily owners and operators when it comes to BI data?
“Our first dashboard for BI was rolled out to the community management, where we think there is the biggest impact,” emphasized Stahling. “For example, we look at renewals, how many unassigned leads are out there, and how many leads are you getting per available apartment home."
“One of our more popular key performance indicators are effective rent rates, which we identify by looking at things like trends in renewals,” said Casper.
BI data is also increasingly being used in forecasting behaviors. “We ‘reforecast’ with BI so we know how many leases will expire in a specific month compared to how many were lost historically,” said Kenney.
Of course, with larger multifamily companies comes the data and budgets that make gathering BI most effective. So what about smaller companies looking to grow, is BI for them?
“As systems improve, smaller companies are going to use more data,” said Casper. “However, it is an expensive undertaking for even larger companies, so it will be tough at the small end to be effective in building the system.”
Kenney agreed, adding “The BI metrics look the same at big and small companies, but small companies just can’t be as efficient.”
Ultimately, the panelists all acknowledged that multifamily has been slow in developing BI because the solutions were expensive. Plus, the return on investment wasn’t as visible-as it would be, for example, with revenue management. “BI’s return on investment was a little bit fuzzier for decision-makers,” said Kenney.
Panel moderator Greg Lozinak, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Waterton Residential, said getting the attention of decision-makers is not always easy when it comes to BI.
“The key is finding the change agents within your organizations at the community level in order to be successful when it comes to BI,” concluded Lozinak.