Constructing a data warehouse for retail real estate
There hasn’t been much new construction in the real estate industry, but there has been a lot of building going on with Kimco’s data warehouse. I discussed some of the latest developments recently at the Realcomm 2012 conference, where I sat on the “Empowering the Business — Data Aggregation, Analytics and Visualization” panel.
As an Advisory Council member for Realcomm, I participate on panels and forums throughout the year, covering technology topics and trends impacting commercial real estate. Realcomm is a research and event company that strives to educate real estate professionals about the latest ideas and technologies to improve commercial real estate development, leasing, management, and operations.
I was joined on the panel by Cliff Alper, Director of Product Development from Analysis Factory; Brandon Henderson, Director of Business Innovation, Valuation and Advisory Services from Colliers International; and Shaun Smith, Chief Information Officer from Related Companies. Sandy Jacolow from Silverstein Properties moderated the panel.
Our discussion centered on the evolving role of data aggregation in the real estate industry. Data aggregation is the process through which organizations compile and organize data, whether it’s metrics for operational performance, energy usage, or other metrics for use in reporting or analysis. We talked about how the tremendous increase in data is transforming how the industry understands factors ranging from a property’s operational performance to energy consumption and sustainability. The challenges surrounding data aggregation have been no secret to real estate IT teams, and include:
- Companies having mountains of data that is not easily accessible.
- No industry standards for how to aggregate, organize, and manage operational data.
- Users want the ability to slice and dice data in ways that provide more insight into the operating business.
- Ensuring the integrity and accuracy of data.
At Kimco, we have created a cross functional team made up of associates from leasing, portfolio management, investor relations, property operations, accounting, forecasting, and IT to work on a major project over the past two years to address these pain points. I wanted to share some of the details of this project in order to help your team better aggregate and report on your data to various audiences.
Laying the foundation of a data aggregation hierarchy
The approach we’ve taken at Kimco is to create a data warehouse and set of business intelligence tools that bring all of our information together in a central location, formatted in a standard way, and categorized into a series of logical hierarchies.
The hierarchy is the heart of the data warehouse. It comprises three tiers of data (low-level, mid-level, and high-level), and can be visualized as a pyramid.
The base of the pyramid is made up of detailed data, which includes information from our core systems for reporting and calculation of operational metrics. For example, detailed data related to the leasing activity with prospective tenants provides a forward look at how shopping center occupancy will look in the future.
The middle of the pyramid consists of semi-aggregated data. This level features consolidated reporting from several data sources, allowing analysts and regional managers to identify patterns and trends in operational performance.
Topping off the pyramid is aggregated data. This consists of top-level reporting and dashboards which provide insight into the company’s overall financial health and provides projections for senior executives.
This hierarchy helps us quickly and accurately organize data to present it in an appropriate manner. The reporting gives each audience an accurate picture of the information and trends they need to know to improve their decision making.
The toolbox for continued development
Our data warehouse also includes a robust set of tools to query, analyze, and present information to senior executives, regional managers, analysts, investors, and other audiences. Prior to introducing the query and analysis (Q&A) tools, our associates and business analysts would have to make a request to the IT department for a query or custom report. With the Q&A tools, we have empowered a select group of users with access to a self-service platform to perform their own queries and very quickly respond to management’s ad-hoc requests.
In addition, we have been focusing on working with senior management to develop a series of dashboards that will let us view consolidated data on various aspects of our business, including operations, leasing, and finance. Our dashboards will also provide several levels of drill-down, depending on the depth of reporting we want to provide in a particular case.
By harnessing our data in this manner, we are transforming how our business looks at information, and the speed at which information is available. As a result we are able to make faster, more educated decisions which optimize the performance of our retail portfolio. We continue to refine our data warehouse features and functionality as technologies develop and our team’s business needs evolve. Keep an eye on our blog in the coming weeks for more updates on other IT initiatives Kimco is working on.