Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for online collaboration in commercial real estate was growing. As the work-from-home movement started to gain strength, the ability to replicate the experience of meeting in person became even more important. However, working together is about far more than just communication; partners on development projects need to be able to share information and work together in the same files.
Many developers, brokers, and project managers end up cobbling together a variety of platforms to bridge the gap, but that can be confusing and time-consuming for everyone involved. A platform that incorporates several key elements can help streamline your efforts and make sure everyone is on the same page.
How to determine what you need
It's tempting to take a solution-first approach, but it may be more beneficial to instead focus on the problem you are trying to solve. The first step is to understand the types of functions you want your program to have.
One important consideration is that all users may not have the same types of computers or level of sophistication. Choosing an easy-to-use program may be better for the team, even if it doesn't have all the functionality you might want. The best way to evaluate new programs may be to establish your end goal and work backward toward the software.
Another critical factor is the programs you're already using. No one wants to have to start over and migrate files over to a new system. Not only does it take time, but it can also introduce errors in your existing system. Finding software that integrates or works with your existing programs can be a huge time-saver.
Some solutions recommended by agents and developers
Below are some solutions that are used by agents and brokers, as well as project managers and building developers. Not all of these solutions will be right for everyone, but they are among the highest-rated programs in the marketplace.
- What it is: A customized Salesforce (NASDAQ:CRM) CRM and marketing platform.
- Who it's for: Real estate agents, real estate teams, and brokers.
- Pros: Specialized tools for real estate marketing.
- Cons: Mostly designed for residential real estate.
- What it is: A customized Salesforce CRM.
- Who it's for: Commercial real estate agents, property managers, and mortgage brokers.
- Pros: Specialized tools for real estate marketing and prospecting. Relatively low price at $49 to $99 per month.
- Cons: Mostly focused on prospecting and sales.
- What it is: A collaboration platform that includes chat, search, and storage.
- Who it's for: Anyone interested in working with other people, especially Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) fans.
- Pros: Easily connects with other Microsoft platforms.
- Cons: Lacks special tools for real estate.
- What it is: A project-based collaboration platform.
- Who it's for: Anyone interested in tracking a project with multiple partners.
- Pros: Easy to use, works across multiple platforms, and has message boards, chat platforms, and the ability to upload files.
- Cons: Lacks special tools for real estate.
- What it is: A robust spreadsheet for storing all sorts of information and tracking projects.
- Who it's for: Airtable is used in a wide variety of industries.
- Pros: Very flexible. Can use Zapier and other tools to create automations.
- Cons: Lacks special tools for real estate. No formulas or chat features.
- What it is: Project managers, property owners, and IT pros.
- Who it's for: Managers who need to push a project through a variety of channels.
- Pros: Very robust. Integrates with Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK), Microsoft, and PlanGrid. Also includes IT governance features.
- Cons: Pricey and complicated to use. May take some time to get fully up to speed.
Making a decision
Many solutions offer a free trial. While testing out a variety of programs can delay the adoption process, it can be incredibly valuable to help you find a program that truly works for you and your team. The best program in the world is useless if your teammates won't use it effectively.
One way to test programs is to create a small group within your team that acts as an exploratory committee and then shares its recommendations with the rest of the group. This committee can evaluate not just the software but also how easy it is to use. They can also find out what adjustments and customizations might be necessary to make the software work best for the entire team.
The bottom line
Adopting new programs can be painful short term, but can save time and money in the long run. Do some research to see what options might be best for your team.