Transforming Uncertainty into Opportunity: The Power of Analytics in Commercial Real Estate

Transforming Uncertainty into Opportunity: The Power of Analytics in Commercial Real Estate

The world is changing at a historically unprecedented pace. While gradual shifts in how we work, the ways we shop and where we live,  were taking place pre-pandemic, Covid-19 has catapulted us into the future. These seismic changes carved outgaping opportunities in various markets, as witnessed by the largest increase in new business formations on record, but they also brought several unforeseen challenges.

On the office side, the sudden pivot to remote work sent occupancy free falling and a tidal wave of digital transformation activity reverberating across industries, causing major shortages in cloud, IT-security and data science talent, among others.In contrast, the call for supply chain “resiliency” meant redundancy and additional inventory was needed – effectively sending demand for domestic industrial real estate and qualified warehouse workers through the roof and producing performance levels the industrial sector had never experienced.

"Translating those senses, or data, into insight and that insight into a response, is where the right data-driven approach removes risks, improves decisions, and not only enhances a firm’s probability of survival but also enables them to thrive."

The pandemic created what is perhaps the greatest chasm in the last half-century between the market’s needs and the existing solution set. Then, came the conflict in Ukraine, rapid inflation and a raising interest rate environment as we teeter on the edge of recession. This confluence of events has forced organizations to seek data as a beacon in the fogas they reevaluate how their real estate footprint can better enable their organizational objectives in an increasingly uncertain operating environment.

Maximizing the Return on Data

A common mistake of organizations who resolve be more data-driven is to jump right into data aggregation mode: hire a data scientist or consultant and begin consuming the ever-expanding buffet of new data sets.

However, the most critical element in this process is aligning the business context with the technical capabilities and developing clarity around the precise business challenge they want to address. With the advent of the internet, answers are commodities. 

The lion’s share of the value is generated by applying expertise to understand the nuanced questions to ask from the data sets and developing a systematic approach to ascertaining answers to those questions. If companies venture into that data journey without a value hypothesis, if they don’t know what it is that they’re trying to solve for and don’t have requisite expertise guiding them through the journey, it can be both time and capital intensive with very little return.

For instance, labor availability remains a top concern for CEOs, and thus we employ the Colliers Workforce Intelligence Platform (WIP) to help companies look at supply and demand side factors at both the macro (city) and micro (site) market level to inform their location strategy.

As an example, on the macro side, wages for engineering talent has about a 75% cost differential across the top 30 cities in the U.S. and labor costs typically make up about half of a typical Fortune 500 company’s annual spend (though it varies widely by industry). Yet some of the historically lower cost metros that have high-quality talent and attractive supply-side factors like Atlanta are experiencing record turnover because demand has outstripped supply. Thus, a complete picture of both the supply side and the demand side is critical to making an informed market selection decision.

Applying Competitive Insights

Even within a market there can be vastly different competitive landscapes. By using the WIP to uncover which competitors our clients are losing talent to and hiring talent from, where those competitors are located, if they are increasing or decreasing hiring, etc.,we can pinpoint down to the neighborhood within a given city the locations that will grant superior access to talent with limited competition.

These types of granular insights into where target labor pools live, and work, is more important now than ever as many workers refuse to make long commutes in the post-COVID world of remote jobs.

The intent of all this is to help our clients sense what is happening today, look around the corner as to what may take place tomorrow, and devise an action plan to minimize risk and maximize value or as we say, “generate alpha” via their real estate strategy.

Sense and Respond

In the words of Charles Darwin, someone who know the success of evolution: “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”

Sensing involves apply the lens of experience in one’s field of expertise to pair qualitative insights from peers, customers, and suppliers with quantitative insights derived from best-in-class data to identify emerging trends.

Translating those senses, or data, into insight and that insight into a response, is where the right data-driven approach removes risks, improves decisions, not only enhances firm’s probability of survival, but also enables them to thrive.

Whether trying to identify where to find to industry 4.0 talent or how to redesign their supply chain to minimize cost while maximizing resiliency, leveraging best in class analytical platforms designed to transform data into insight and insight in actionable intelligence is critical to developing a competitive advantage. It takes a combination of best-in-class data, subject matter expertise and leading technology and analytics to convert uncertainty into opportunity.

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