SharePoint 2010, PowerPivot and Visio – Providing Insight into Real Estate Data

Posted on July 2, 2010


Recently I was asked to put pen to paper, albeit electronically, and provide my thoughts on how the combination of SharePoint 2010, PowerPivot and Visio could potentially provide some much needed relief to the data overload rampant in the Real Estate industry.    Given the broad audience of Realcomm‘s Advisory, from C Level to techies, this piece was intentionally kept at a high level.  Consider this a prolouge with the next chapters underway detailing how to transparently publish Real Estate data in SharePoint using these and other tools coming soon…

During these challenging economic times efficient and transparent accessibility to key performance indicators (KPI) and operational trends can quickly translate into improved performance through proactive vs. reactive management.  However, our property and asset management systems are too often buried under layers of transaction level details to provide meaningful and useful information. 

Furthermore, Real Estate with its inherent geographical barriers, such as regional and field offices, has an additional layer of complexity resolving data exchange and collaboration challenges.  These dynamics contribute to work flow inefficiencies and multiple “versions of the truth” hindering our ability to proactively gauge asset and organizational performance. 

Over a decade ago the Data Consortium, our industry’s original data standards board, put forth a motto of “write once, use often”.  As we continue to battle increased reporting requirements and shortened deadlines in the face of reduced resources those words still ring true yet have been an elusive holy grail.

With the release of SharePoint 2010 we finally have an arrow in our quiver worthy of William Tell’s marksmanship.  SharePoint has finally become a robust multi-dimensional, yet low cost, Enterprise Content Management (ECM) platform that is capable of providing self-service Business Intelligence and Data Visualization perfectly suited for real estate.

PowerPivot for SharePoint:

Despite our enormous investment in enterprise level solutions, Excel is still the predominant business analytical tool used in the Real Estate industry today.  Furthermore, Excel spreadsheets that drive key investment level decisions are often created from scratch re-entering system data.  

One of the key strategic advances is this version of SharePoint is the release of PowerPivot for SharePoint.  PowerPivot is Microsoft’s first foray into self-service Business Intelligence (BI) for the masses removing dependency on report writers and developers.  Based in Excel 2010 your Business Analysis or Accountant will understand how to work with PowerPivot’s basic function without a steep learning curve.

Without over simplifying PowerPivot we have three elements to consider; determining which property system will be your data source, what property data elements you want to visualize (i.e. Revenue, Expenses, NOI) and how do you want to slice the data (i.e. Asset Manager, Property Type, State).  Your data is then displayed as an interactive web page on your corporate Intranet in a browser letting you slice the data in countless combinations quickly spotting trends and improving insight into your portfolio performance. 


Data Visualization for SharePoint:

SharePoint 2010 also introduces simplified data visualization leveraging and integrating Microsoft Office’s Visio 2010.  With no programming skills required, you can now drag-and-drop data from your property management system into a map or CAD drawing.  If you’re not familiar with Visio it can be used to generate an organizational chart, process diagram or office floor plan.  It can also be used to import your building AutoCAD drawings, although you may need to create a simplified version of your plan for this to be most effective. 

Visio provides formatting tools that are consistent with the look and feel of an Excel graph allowing you to color code portfolio information based on predetermined rules or conditions.  In the map below we have aggregated property Net Asset Values by state and applied a different color to a value threshold levels.  Additionally you can display a wide variety of property details (i.e. Name, Area, Value, State) providing insight into portfolio segmentations.

Taking the example above to the next level, your property name could be an active link to a stacking plan dynamically displaying a wide variety of information (i.e. floor areas, rent psf, option or expirations) pulled directly from your leasing database.

A significant advantage of using SharePoint and Visio integration is avoidance of common problems, pitfalls and costs associated with data visualization.  No longer do you need specialized and costly software applications.  You can remove dependency on IT expertise required to connect maps or images to a database and concerns stemming from out-of-date information as a result of manual updates or intervention.


Improving Access to Information

Individually each of these tools is a powerful arrow in your quiver, collectively a force of empowerment ready to be unleashed. The operational benefits from delivering self-service Business Intelligence and Data Visualization from a SharePoint based Intranet is only the beginning.  Extending those benefits to your asset managers on the road or building managers in the field via an iPad or any mobile device (i.e. Blackberry, iPhone) has immeasurable benefits.  Simply put with SharePoint 2010 not only can you “Unify Your Information” but provide meaningful insight into “Your Data, Your Device, Any Time, Any Where…”