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Blog Mar 01, 2017

Why Real Estate Organizations Should Care About Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation

Artificial intelligence (AI), particularly in combination with robotic process automation (RPA), is a powerful technology which will, and has already begun to change industries. When hearing the term AI, most people probably think of recommendation algorithms, about search results, about chatbots, etc. In short, we think about consumer-focused products. But AI is also starting to rapidly spread into business-focused solutions. Going forward, AI solutions will move far beyond commercial, nice to have solutions, and focus more on adding true value, also for large corporations and businesses. Real estate organizations are not an exception.

AI meets real estate

Deep learning, a branch of artificial intelligence, can be used to train algorithms to identify and understand text. The learning happens through repeated exposure of the computational model to a term it’s supposed to learn about until it learns to recognize it. A computational model can thus be trained to read and understand corporate documents, such as real estate contracts. Anyone who has ever reviewed a complex real estate lease is usually fast to understand and realize the immense value this technology can offer. In addition to saving cost and time, there are a number of other benefits.

Global corporations with offices around the world must keep track of thousands of real estate documents containing legally binding information – across various jurisdictions and in multiple languages. When negotiating lease terms, companies face the challenge of being dependent solely on local resources. Once finalized, only a speaker of the native language is able to understand the negotiated terms. AI technology can be trained to “understand” any language, enabling it to extract key information from all global contracts and convert it into a target language, regardless of the original language type. Thus, the application of intelligent technologies allows you to understand the contents of your international portfolio in any language. By overcoming these language barriers, a global portfolio overview and a new level of transparency can be achieved.

Taking the robots out of the human

Robotic process automation is a form of process automation technology based on the concept of software robots. This type of technology can add immense value in real estate organizations which historically have been using a ton of spreadsheets to track all the lease invoices, payments, renewals, etc. Adding automation technology adds “digitization” to real estate processes and is the first step to simplify and streamline workflows.

The digital robots will be the newest recruits to property and facility managers’ workforce, bringing new skills to help the human workforce enhance what is already possible. Furthermore, they allow humans focus more on tasks that require client interaction, judgement and interpretation, and thereby take the robots out of the human. This kind of digital workforce is also the essential new co-worker for the digital age to improve business performance with greater insights and consistency of skills.

Robotic process automation allows data and processes to be retained onsite, which is crucial for sensitive tenant and property data. The robots are programmed to follow standard operations, hence perform the task in the exact same way, every single time. In addition, robotic automation also generates extensive audit trails at the ‘keystroke’ level, which provides an extra level of assurance during testing and production. In real estate we see many tasks like rent accounting, periodic postings, master contract adjustments and master data maintenance as key tasks for robotics process automation and artificial intelligence.

Generating higher data quality

Have you ever tried to keep a data base or an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system accurate and up to date? When it comes to extensive real estate documentation, this requires great manual effort. The most common way to get critical data from a contract into a system is to manually read it out from the original document and re-type the information into the system. This is both time consuming and risky. Due to the human factor, there’s always a risk that the data entered into the system isn’t completely error free. By having RPA & AI technology automatically handle the request and read out and gather crucial data from a contract and import it into your ERP system you save a lot of time while increasing data quality. By maintaining your systems and keeping your data clean, you will experience great benefits. AI applied correctly can deliver more accurate and structured data. This means you can actually trust the data in your system and make better decisions upon it. Your reporting and forecasting will be significantly more accurate, too. And effortlessly having access to accurate, structured data also means you can focus on the value add activity – the analysis and the interpretation of your data.

Increased transparency and better data quality also lead to lower risks. Consider this scenario: A window breaks in your office building. Not only are you stressed about the situation, but you also find yourself wondering who is legally responsible to fix it – is it you, or the landlord? In order to find out, you must manually search through pages and pages of the original contract to find the “contractual repair clause.” Simply looking into your database or ERP would be risky, as the information it contains may not have been correctly inputted, or may even be outdated due to built-in contractual changes which appear over time. With a structured and accurate data base you can rely on, you thus experience less document risks and essentially higher ROI.

How can you benefit from RPA & AI?

In summary, real estate organizations should care about advanced technologies such as AI and RPA because it can be leveraged immensely to make the management of global real estate portfolios faster, easier and more transparent. It allows portfolio managers to focus on analytical, value add tasks and increases ROI. It is important to realize that applied AI is not science fiction anymore and that it is already changing the way real estate organization operate. Furthermore, there are many new innovations yet to come. With increasing resources being put into the research of AI and deep learning, the current use cases are just the beginning. Future trends include models that learn from much less training and will lead to an even more efficient management of large, complex sets of real estate data and documents.

This article is co-authored by Robert Betz, Partner Enterprise Solutions at CSC.

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