Reality Check on Real Estate ERP

Posted by Phillip Schell Dec 18, 2013 1:11:00 PM

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In a Realcomm Advisory, a couple of years ago, the question was asked “Can real estate ERP vendors keep pace with industry demands?” Reviewing the pros and cons of Real Estate ERP and point systems, which had been broadened and integrated to perform more back office functions, the Advisory challenged the industry to “take a fresh look at the available options.” In light of the technology advances over the past two years, I believe it’s high time to re-examine Real Estate ERP functionality through a technology innovation lens.

Annually, SAP® invests more than $2 billion dollars in R&D aimed at advancing its customers’ technology platform. The following will highlight innovations resulting from these investments, and underscore how some implementation partners are creatively using these tools and concepts in real estate projects to create world-class solutions.

Game-Changing Technologies for Real Estate Management

The SAP Flexible Real Estate Module is part of the core SAP ERP solution. It is a powerful processing engine for all aspects of real estate business processes, which includes solutions for: Lease Administration; Property Management; Sustainability; Deal Flow Solution; Lease Level Budgeting; and Project Management/Fit Up.

These solutions are the industry’s most robust and advanced as they are continually enriched by ongoing SAP investments in technologies spanning: the cloud; mobility; business analytics; Big Data; and user experience and business function enhancements --including the Common Area Maintenance (CAM) Expense Recovery application. Solutions are further enriched through SAP strategic acquisitions and internal development projects – the fruits of which are integrated into the overall SAP architecture.

SAP has also brought to market new in-memory processing capabilities with HANA – a high-performance analytic appliance. This game-changing tool for Big Data delivers real-time analytics and data aggregation for new levels of business insight. Deployed on-premise or via the cloud, HANA is a revolutionary platform that features at its core a real-time database. This real-time database is the result of a combination of row and column store, which is fundamentally different from any other database engine on the market today. With real-time data, regardless of granularity at your fingertips via the device of your choice, you can make fact-based decisions to better manage your property portfolio for increased profitability, compliance and sustainability. And, SAP HANA is not just for large enterprises. It can be used as a highly affordable cloud-based, pay-as-you-go subscription at a very low rate.

While HANA is revolutionizing the world of real-time data, SAP has also introduced two new solutions to greatly enhance the user experience – SAP Fiori and SAP Screen Personas. These complementary solutions make SAP highly intuitive – debunking that old industry thinking that SAP is too complex. Fiori and Personas create consumer-grade user experiences that help advance adoption of business processes and increase productivity.  Out-of-the-box and ready-to-run, SAP Fiori is a set of applications that deliver a simple, intuitive user experience across your most frequently-used business transactions. The design offers a seamless experience from laptop to mobile devices, which allows you to quickly and easily execute tasks. SAP Screen Personas provides a simple, drag-and-drop approach to modify most SAP GUI screens on your desktop (Windows & Mac). It enables IT and business users to quickly simplify business application screens without any programming knowledge. With SAP Screen Personas, you not only improve the performance of SAP – you can personalize any transaction in minutes.

When it comes to mobility, SAP has a rock-solid portfolio of solutions that enable you to securely conduct your business anytime, anywhere, and on any device. It’s well-recognized that HTML5 is the future of programming -- especially for the mobile web and SAP is leveraging HTML5 and open standards to quickly build mobile applications.

SAP ECOSYSTEM

While this snapshot of SAP innovation distinguishes SAP from point-solution vendors who lack the bandwidth and resources to keep pace with technology that fuels growth, I’d be remiss in not citing the SAP partnership ecosystem that contributes as well to innovation. For example, thousands of SAP-certified third-party solutions can be used to enhance your ERP platform. Office applications from Microsoft and Adobe are integrated into the ERP processing engine, enabling you to work in Excel or an Adobe form and then create transactions in the ERP engine. And, SAP further extends ERP functionality via acquisitions, some of which include:

  • Ariba  - for cloud-based buying, selling, and managing cash in a network economy
  • Business Objects - performance management, planning, reporting, query and analysis and enterprise information management.
  • Coghead -Web-based service for building and hosting custom online database applications to facilitate business data management and collaboration.
  • Hybris – an integration framework that enables a commerce platform for direct selling to all customers.
  • SuccessFactors – cloud-based human capital management solution suite.
  • Sybase – enterprise solution to manage, analyze, and mobilize information
  • TechniData – compliance management solutions for products, the environment, chemicals, and health and safety

What do these extensive offerings of certified solutions, acquisitions, and innovations mean for real estate? All of your business needs are handled on a single, integrated platform today and tomorrow. SAP’s annual $2B spend on R&D is ongoing to ensure you can run the best real estate portfolio.  Capitalizing on these technologies, implementation partners such as B4 Consulting can design truly end-to-end solutions for real estate companies of all types -- commercial, corporate and REITs.  ERP is a powerful processing engine, but we now are able to use the rich ecosystem of solutions cited herein to enhance functionality, improve the user experience, and empower you to innovate with technology.

Mobility is a prime example as to how the power of ERP is brought to field functions such as property management. Access to real-time data enhances mobile dashboards and KPIs for managers and executives.  The powerful integration of ERP processing coupled with native property management functionality enables CAM to work even more seamlessly. The same data in ERP is integrated with CRM to deliver Deal Flow functionality the mobility pushes to the field.  Historically, many implementation partners would use the ERP system itself to try to deliver this functionality. The result was often non-intuitive, clunky and not easy to learn. All that has changed with the new SAP.

As noted a couple of years ago in a Realcomm Advisory - ERP vendors are heavily investing in the real estate space.  The new SAP has been aggressively providing the real estate industry with rich functionality and new business capabilities and insights through its pioneering technology strategy, R&D, acquisitions, and partner ecosystem.

Revisiting the Mainstream ERP vs. Real Estate ERP posited a couple of years ago, we see that SAP solutions are quickly closing-in on delivering a fully robust and integrated ERP platform for real estate.

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Mobility, Big Data and global scalability are of growing importance to Real Estate CIOs  It’s time for industry decision-makers to revisit their technology landscapes and revitalize their vision for success by adopting a strategy for innovation that fuels growth and competitive advantage.

To learn more on how you can optimize your real estate portfolio with innovative solutions from the new SAP -- email me at: pschell@b4-consulting.com.

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Topics: B4 Consulting, Mobility, Dashboards, SAP Real Estate, SAP ERP, Property Management, Real Estate CIOs

Why Mobility Matters for the Construction Industry

Posted by Jay Nichols Sep 11, 2013 2:40:00 PM

Mobility in Construction

When given the opportunity to write for the B4 Consulting blog, I gladly obliged.  I’ve always wanted to blog as I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of amazing experiences and passions that I want to share with the world.  One of my passions is mobility and the entire concept about “Mobilizing the Office and Home.”  I love the opportunity B4 Consulting has offered me to work with my clients and show them true value in mobilization of applications and processes.

B4 Consulting has years of experience in the construction space, and having such has allowed us to build a pretty comprehensive outlook on how the industry works.  As we continue to create blog content, we will focus on the challenges our customers bring to us for resolution with SAP solutions.

SAP Apps for Mobile Devices

Benefits of Mobile Applications

While mobile applications for construction can differ, the ultimate goal with an SAP mobility deployment is to help contractors streamline their communications, applications, and processes across their organizations. Construction companies who take the time and make the investment to explore mobile technologies can benefit from:

Improved Communication - Workers on a jobsite can instantly send one another updates and pictures. In addition, mobile devices open up the flow of data between field and office, giving the entire staff the most up-to date project information.

Accelerated Workflow with Real-time Data - Along with improving (and increasing) communication, mobile devices also offer improved workflow and real-time data. With instant communication, wait time for approval requests disappears. Field data entry allows for real-time data in the accounting and payroll systems with an accurate dashboard picture of the company’s overall performance, as well as the progress of each project.

“Store and Forward” Capability - While not all mobile apps offer this option, our apps are equipped with offline capability, allowing contractors working in remote job locations to enter timecards, save them and sync back to the office once they establish cellular coverage again. This creates a seamless transfer of information and ensures that data is current and up-to-date.

Increased Efficiency - By eliminating unnecessary data entry, your office staff will be able to work more efficiently and save time. Staff members can focus on other areas, increasing efficiency across the board.

Electronic Trail of Data - Using mobile applications also creates an electronic trail of data that contractors can reference at any time. Whether it’s solving an issue while a job is still active, or analyzing past jobs to better plan for future ones, the ability to learn from past data can save money.

Careful consideration of all these factors, in addition to a company’s size and budget, should drive any technology decisions. However, some applications can benefit most contractors regardless of trade or size.

Making the Move to Mobile with SAP

SAP mobile applications are changing the way the construction industry works with better communication, improved workflow and real-time data. With proper research and a plan for implementation, we are helping many contractors take advantage of the wide array of SAP applications, which streamline the flow of data and communication between field and office.

To learn more about SAP mobility solutions for the construction industry, contact me -- Jay the Mobility Guy at: jnichols@b4-consulting.com

Jay 'The Mobility Guy'

 

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Topics: SAP, B4 Consulting, Mobility, Dashboards, Engineering and Construction, Real-time Data, Reporting