Every business professional knows how difficult it is to keep track of paperwork. This is particularly true for commercial property owners and managers who routinely deal with dozens of buildings and hundreds of tenants on an everyday basis.
Say, for instance, a tenant in Mall A is having problems with the HVAC system. After the retailer makes a call to the property manager, the manager has to forward the request for service to the appropriate vendor, make sure the request is fulfilled and then pay the invoice. Many real estate professionals still use spreadsheet applications, phone calls and emails to keep track of management tasks like this one. That makes it difficult to stay on top of what’s going on and when the manager is handling multiple properties, increases the potential that something will be forgotten.
Workspeed, a Web-based real estate management solutions provider, helps owners and managers track all property-related tasks, including tenant communications, preventive maintenance, accounting, security incidents and work orders, using a single online application. The New York City-based firm has been around for a decade, working with office and residential properties totaling 500 million square feet. Now it’s launching Workspeed Retail, a version of its product geared specifically for the retail real estate community.
Just six months ago, the management staff at Tanger Outlet Center in Lancaster, Pa. would record work orders in a Microsoft Excel document, which was regularly updated and emailed to vendors. That meant assistant general manager Ryan Buyler had to be constantly on alert for unfulfilled work orders. Since January, however, Tanger has been testing Workspeed Retail. Now, Buyler is able to conduct virtually all of his communications with vendors and order tracking online or through a wireless device, which has made his life a lot easier.
“They have a nice set-up that really makes trackability easy,” Buyler says. “One of the nicest features is that I have the ability to track a work order from the time I create it to the time it’s completed and make it as detailed or un-detailed as I need to. And one of the things I really like is that I get updates on my Blackberry. I don’t have to call into the center and find out if something got done.”
Workspeed has held off on developing a retail-specific product until now in part because the company wanted to a retail real estate firm to test the product first. That would enable Workspeed to assess how the product was being used and adjust its features to better suit the sector, says Marcella Mazzucca, chief marketing officer with Workspeed. The firm has worked with diversified owners in the past, including Vornado Realty Trust and Muss Development Co., but Tanger is its first retail-only client.
Through its test runs, Workspeed has found that retail property managers like to use the product to deal more effectively with vendor work orders, property inspections, equipment issues and managing tenants. Workspeed can also help track security incidents, allowing managers to assess risk levels at their properties.
In its efforts to reach out to the retail real estate community, Workspeed found that many managers have been slow to adapt new technologies, often because they worry about switching their operating model to a completely paper-less process, says Mazzucca. For example, Buyler notes that many vendors still resist using the property manager’s Web application to complete work orders. But there is so much convenience in doing things through an easily accessible Web system, retail professionals are gradually starting to change their minds.
“They are actually saving a ton of money because they really get to see what’s going on with their property so they are handling things in a preemptive manner,” Mazzucca notes.
The product makes even more sense for smaller firms, that don’t necessarily have the resources to develop their own in-house management software, adds Buyler. For them, Workspeed is a cost-effective option.
They “kind of revolutionized our ability to track things,” Buyler notes.
Workspeed Retail is available through an annual subscription on a per property basis. The service is priced at approximately a penny per square foot, but on large portfolios, the firm often works with clients to offer an even more competitive pricing model, Mazzucca says.