Visionaries from the real estate industry gathered in Berlin for the ninth time to exchange practical experience and recommendations for the future. Datatrain’s Workout offered a diverse programme of forward-looking concepts and technologies.
Roman Riebow of the Berlin housing company Gewobag undertook a high-energy presentation of the transformative potential of digitisation. From digital megatrends – including new work, the smart city and business innovation – to drones as a safety maintenance tool, the IT manager illuminated new fields of action for the housing industry. And these aren’t about disruption, he emphasised, but change. What is decisive, he said, is the added value generated through the intelligent interconnection of people, buildings and processes. He described the cloud and blockchain as promising technologies that will serve as the basis for substantial improvements in the sector. Riebow laid out a company and process analysis that was foresighted rather than retrospective. The speaker also contributed substantial food for thought to the discussion and testified to the “truly new impulses” provided by the Workout.
The event revolved around animated expert discussion. Even during the talks and live demos, dialogue was sought. For example, a verbal duel between Datatrain founder Jörn Beckmann and Amazon’s Alexa voice control device demonstrated how and where this cloud-based service can be put to use in the housing industry. A resident’s concern aired via the Tenant Cockpit was received nearly according to plan: with regard to the registration of pets, Alexa balked at pit bulls (right!), but also pugs (wrong!). This and other demos of straight-from-the-lab developments begged the question as to whether representatives of the participating companies would support further development in the framework of a project partnership.
The first real estate company to put its full faith in cloud technology is meravis Wohnungsbau und Immobilien GmbH. Dr Danilo Kardel, the head of IT at meravis, reported on practical experience from the introduction of two Datatrain cockpits for cloud operations. His conclusion: The new solutions haven’t yet made staff and contractors faster, as many questions remain and habits are hard to change. But there is no alternative – the advantages are just too great. He wrapped up his presentation by making several valuable points. One of these: “You’re headed in the right direction – go!” Two more: “Hopefully money isn’t an issue. Or time.” The applications, he said, have been accepted above all due to their great user-friendliness.
The path to the cloud is clearly mapped, as explained by Markus Vosseler, Sales Director for the Digital Enterprise Platform at SAP Deutschland. To survive in the business world, he said, speed and agility are necessary to a degree offered (exclusively) by the SAP Cloud Platform. He elaborated that the platform enables machine learning and, with it, the intelligent interlinking of people, devices and companies. Above all, he refuted charges of inadequate security, pointing out that smaller data processing centres, too, are targeted by hackers. SAP, he maintained, currently offers the highest level of security in the industry, a standard that smaller providers can’t deliver.
Three students from the School of Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam presented new methods of analysis. Linda Enghusen, Carolina Martinez and Camilla Rackelmann had pursued the following research objective, which was set jointly by Gewobag and Datatrain: “Design an information and communication approach that helps tenants of housing providers manage their rental affairs in a convenient, simple and customer-friendly way and creates added value for all parties involved.”
Design thinking emphasises diversity of ideas and freedom of thinking, in keeping with the motto “Fail early and often.” This brand of wild cross-category thinking thrives on dynamically changing locations and perspectives. The interdisciplinary team, supported by students from other fields, identified the following approaches: Tenants often feel like marionettes of their landlords and desire greater transparency, especially with regard to billing. The need for security and trust also plays a central role. The solution could consist of providing smart applications that allow improvement suggestions from tenants, indicate monthly energy consumption and alert the user to appliances that have been left on.
A further contribution from the world of research was based on tested numerical analysis. Taking the example of tenant change, Prof. Mario Stoffels of the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development showed concretely how process costs can be calculated using identified steps that lead to overall process optimisation and cost savings, especially when comparing analogue and digitally supported property management concepts.
Between these presentations from the spheres of business and research, Datatrain introduced its own progressive developments, including its economical, high-powered mobile applications for inventory data management and the monitoring of safety maintenance during property walkthroughs. The company additionally presented new features such as the map function, a geographical overview of active tickets that facilitates mobile activities. Andreas Brietzke, designer and specialist for user experience, conveyed an idea of how tenant campaigns can be precisely guided with the help of an SAP-integrated application: criteria registered in the ERP system enable the identification of multilayered target groups for which service initiatives can be custom-designed and implemented.
The Tenant Cockpit proved to be a recurring topic, in particular against the background of comprehensive digitisation. In this context, the unpredictable process step of setting appointments between external service providers and tenants triggered lively debate. The proposals and scenarios presented by Datatrain were met with great interest and a number of questions on the part of real estate company representatives. A nerve was clearly struck here. Indeed, integrated IT-supported procedures often founder on such simple matters as the non-reachability of a tenant or the reluctance of a service provider to accept calls from an unknown mobile phone number.
Despite their similarities, every company works differently and therefore needs its own strategy, the representative of a Hamburg housing provider remarked. The trend, she said, is towards customised solutions. Blanket solutions require too much adjustment of processes after implementation. Sabine Wiedemann, who recently joined Datatrain’s management team, underscored this observation from another angle. She argued that the introduction of new software provides an opportunity to closely examine and slim down internal procedures – as long as this doesn’t lead to anorexic processes that neglect the uniqueness of a given housing company.
Carsten Stolz of the housing association NEUE LÜBECKER summed up the Workout appreciatively: “In my view, the Datatrain Workout is THE communication platform for the subject of digitisation.” Danilo Kardel of meravis called this year’s event “perhaps even better than the preceding ones.” Andreas Lerchner, Datatrain’s Head of Communication and Product Design and a chief organiser of the event, expressed great satisfaction as well: “This time, the exchange was even more intensive and the talks were more forward-looking. Workout 2018 took us to a new level.”