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Rounding off this series of innovation interviews we speak with our Chief Technology Officer Aidan Coleman about the Group’s latest workplace innovations and his view on the next technologies to shape the property industry.
What tech innovations are you working on currently at Charter Hall?
We have a number of exciting new workplace innovations in development or close to launch which are focused on enhancing customer experience in our buildings. For example, in our Office portfolio we have recently introduced an Australian-first implementation of the Comfy App which enables tenants to personalise their workspace environment temperatures. This has been recently launched successfully at 1 Martin Place in Sydney and will be progressively rolled out across our office portfolio.
We are also working with CBRE, our national FM service provider, on a new occupant app to enhance tenant experience when interacting with our building services.
At the same time, we are progressing big data and automation initiatives such as the MRI budgeting and forecasting systems project to drive efficiencies and streamline manual processes. I see scalability as one of our biggest challenges and opportunities in the technology space and so a lot of my time is focused on solutions that can drive further efficiency, increase automation and as a result contribute to faster, smarter decision-making. This will be key to ensuring our business remains competitive and scalable in the future as we continue to grow.
What is the driver of your innovation strategy at Charter Hall?
At the forefront of our innovation thinking is to keep learning and talking to our customers to continually understand their changing needs and deliver the right property solutions. Our business has always taken a collaborative approach to enhance customer experience. For example, our office, industrial and retail property teams regularly collaborate and share ideas to develop engaging spaces for our customers and community, such as Third Spaces in our office towers where tenants can connect and enjoy an extension of their workplace with customers and fellow occupants.
Leadership commitment is very important for innovation to flourish. We assign mentors within EXCO who have been actively engaged in encouraging innovation throughout the business.
Finally, at Charter Hall, we really focus on celebrating success and recognising the contributions of our people which encourages more ideas and innovations. We champion different thinking at all levels, so our people are truly empowered to make suggestions.
"We’ve made a lot of progress in our journey of innovation but to me it’s never-ending; we are always seeking to further improve..."
Which tech innovation do you think will transform the property industry most in the near-term?
In the next few years, I believe Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have the biggest impact on our industry. Fundamentally we are knowledge-based businesses and AI will be quite powerful in terms of utilisation of data to better inform decision making and augment capability.
At Charter Hall, we are looking at how we can use AI in many areas, for example optimising the property valuations process across our portfolios. We also think that AI has a lot of potential to automate the industry’s many manual processes which is a big focus for us at Charter Hall.
Another technology to watch is blockchain, this is a complex area we should take seriously as an industry as it has the potential to disrupt several aspects of the property value chain in particular investment management and property management. In fact, one of the start-up’s in our Accelerator program, Estate Baron, is focused on Investment Management Automation using blockchain.
How do you think the property industry can accelerate innovation?
The scale and speed of technology coming at us is unprecedented, so innovation is not an option, but we have much to be proud of as an industry and in several areas what we are doing in Australia and in the region is as good as, if not better, than the rest of the world.
One thing that’s apparent though from our industry peers in the US, which was evident when I attended the Realcomm conference earlier this month in Las Vegas – the biggest global gathering of tech for our industry - is that collaboration and knowledge sharing is instrumental to driving innovation.
I’m excited about the collaboration opportunities for our industry. We’re actively engaged and talking to our customers and industry partners. For example, I’m a member of the Property Council of Australia’s new Technology Leadership forum which was formed 18 months ago and is a productive working group where we are sharing ideas and learning together as an industry.
Further disruption is coming but the opportunities and market conditions are there for us to make a success of it.
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