Aiming to double the value of its real estate portfolio in five years, QuadReal’s decision-makers need timely, accurate insight into portfolio data scattered across many disparate source systems.
QuadReal is working with IBM to create an advanced, cognitive-ready analytics platform, delivering a single, trusted source of enterprise data that the company can harness to optimize decision-making.
Acceleratesreporting processes, freeing up time for value-added activities
Booststrust in data and analytics, helping the business make informed decisions, faster
Helpsidentify opportunities to optimize asset yields and drive business growth
Business challenge story
Informed decisions drive portfolio value
Paying into a retirement fund is commonly regarded as a prudent, low-risk investment—but the performance of pension funds depends on the diligence and skill of fund managers to keep your capital growing year after year. When a fund invests in a portfolio of real estate, it needs to ensure that the commercial, residential and industrial properties within that portfolio are well-managed and maintained to maximize the return on that investment.
This is the mission of QuadReal Property Group, a leading real estate investment and management company based in Vancouver, Canada—one of the world’s fastest-growing real estate markets.
Sam Wong, Head of Analytics and Data Science at QuadReal Property Group, explains: “Our business was formed in 2016 by the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation [bcIMC], which represents public-sector pensions across the province. Previously, bcIMC relied on a number of third-party businesses to manage its real-estate assets. To unlock efficiencies and drive the value of assets under management, bcIMC is now in the process of consolidating its entire international portfolio with QuadReal.”
He continues: “As we take on the asset management responsibilities for bcIMC, our goal will be to continue to acquire, develop, construct, and manage properties in Canada, and to invest in industrial, residential, office and retail opportunities around the world. Our total portfolio value stands at CAD20 billion today, and our aim is to double its value in the next five years.”
To achieve its ambitious goal, QuadReal needed to target new investments with the best potential for growth, and maximize the yield of its existing assets. The company realized that analytics would be essential to uncover the necessary insights from its vast quantities of operational data—and that traditional approaches to analytics, based on spreadsheets or individual BI tools, would not scale to meet its needs.
“In the past, bcIMC’s third-party asset managers relied on armies of accountants and analysts to collate, cleanse and report on their data at the end of every month and quarter,” Wong continues. “As well as requiring large amounts of time and effort, it was often not possible to produce data definitions that all stakeholders could agree on, which reduced trust in the resulting reports. As a result, people were reluctant to use the information to drive their decision-making.
“As we prepared to migrate data from the third-party managers to the new systems of record at QuadReal, we recognized an opportunity to design a flexible, scalable and trusted analytics platform from the ground up.
“By enforcing strict policies around data quality and governance from the outset, we knew we could deliver the kinds of diagnostic and descriptive analytics capabilities that would help the business to make growth-driving decisions. Better still, a single trusted data repository for analytics would also lay the foundation for predictive and cognitive analytics, preparing us for the future. To achieve our goals, we looked for an enterprise-class solution.”
Backing up instinct with insight
QuadReal is now working with IBM to build the analytics capabilities and governance framework it needs to accelerate its analytics processes and target growth opportunities.
“When we started looking for a solution, we knew it would be a mistake to focus solely on the business intelligence presentation layer,” recalls Wong. “We needed a stack that would be integrated all the way from the ETL and governance tools through the data warehouse layer to the front-end analytics applications. That was the only way to deliver the deep insights we wanted without creating complexity for our developers.
“Of all the vendors we considered, I felt that IBM’s solutions would best enable me to balance our need for agile development, lean operations, and good data governance. Not only could IBM offer us robust information management and data warehouse platforms, they are also industry leaders in advanced analytics—and we felt their integrated offering was the best fit for our needs.”
To accelerate its deployment, QuadReal engaged IBM Platinum Business Partner Lighthouse Computer Services.
“Although we have experienced architects in house, we knew that we’d need to augment our team with expertise from a vendor at certain stages of the implementation process,” adds Wong. “Lighthouse Computer Services offered us the flexibility to bring expert resources on site as and when we needed them—for example, to provide guidance on best practices for data warehousing, to help review our administration processes and to advise us on a future path to the cloud.”
Working with Lighthouse Computer Services and IBM, the company is now extracting, loading and transforming its asset data into a data warehouse based on IBM® PureData® System for Analytics. After cleansing the imported data with IBM InfoSphere® DataStage®, QuadReal creates data definitions using a centralized Business Glossary in IBM InfoSphere Information Governance Catalog.
“We are migrating data from our third-party asset managers’ ERP platforms to our own systems in waves, and mapping that data to our data warehouse as we go,” Wong explains. “We architected our platform so that all the data transformation happens in the PureData appliance, which means we can bring data into our repository without any performance impact on the source systems. Instead of using cubes or data marts, we do everything in PureData views and IBM Cognos® Analytics Framework Manager, which gives us a lot of flexibility.”
Before QuadReal rolled out its analytics tools across the business, it needed to ensure all its data was consistent and reliable.
Wong says: “Forging a close working relationship with our VP of Data Governance early in the project played a key role in securing the buy-in and resources we needed to invest in the full IBM InfoSphere Information Server suite. By working in partnership with our VP and other stakeholders across the business, we’ve been striving to achieve consistency and reliability in our data.
“We’re still working on getting some of our legacy data sources mapped to the data warehouse, and cleansing the data we’ve inherited from bcIMC’s previous managers is going to be a major task. Robust data quality management tools like IBM InfoSphere QualityStage are going to be absolutely vital to this effort.”
He adds: “Looking ahead, we’re also planning on deploying IBM InfoSphere Information Analyzer to help understand the quality and content of our data, and identify the optimal way to restructure it to support our analytics use cases.”
In the meantime, the company has already developed dashboards and reports for its business users in IBM Cognos Analytics.
“Cognos Analytics helps us bring together information on assets from multiple source systems,” says Wong. “Even though we don’t have all our portfolio data online yet, this is still a big step forward. We have opted for a soft launch to select users, and the feedback we’re receiving is extremely positive.”
Wong comments: “We see our work with IBM as more like a partnership than a traditional vendor/client relationship. For example, IBM invited us to play an active role in the development of IBM Cognos Analytics. We collaborate closely with IBM’s product managers and developers to advocate for new integrations and features that address specific commercial real estate use cases. By helping to augment the platform in this way, we are reducing our need to invest in third-party software packages.”
Enabling data-driven decision-making
By building advanced analytics capabilities on carefully governed business data, QuadReal can equip decision-makers across all parts of the business with the insights they need to drive the growth of its asset portfolio, and optimize return on investment.
“Dashboards are only as good as the underlying data—and when it comes to strategic decision-making, it’s not good enough if your figures are only 80 percent accurate,” says Wong. “Thanks to our IBM Analytics solutions, we’re building a central repository of timely, accurate, traceable data, supported by rigorous governance and quality standards.
“If a member of the business needs to see the definition for a particular KPI, and the data it was calculated from, they can see the entire lineage of the data in InfoSphere Information Governance Catalog. As a result, we are cultivating trust in our analytics insights from user communities across the organization, which will help us drive adoption of the platform.”
Some of QuadReal’s personnel are now using reports from the platform to drive their end-of-month reporting and day-to-day activities.
“Even though our data migration is still in progress, we wanted to focus on delivering use cases for portfolios of assets we could report on, and provide our users with simpler ways to consolidate the data,” explains Wong. “For example, we designed a stacking plan that helps our leasing teams visualize the occupancy of office buildings floor-by-floor, and identify when the lease on each unit is due to expire.”
He adds: “Month-end reporting is another area that our IBM solution is improving. Before, it took many person-hours to collate and prepare the data—but because most of the information we need is now already in IBM Cognos Analytics, we can accelerate the process dramatically and free our people to focus on other value-added activities.”
Once its asset migration is complete, QuadReal anticipates an explosion of analytics adoption—and the company is now investigating the possibility of augmenting its platform with cognitive capabilities using IBM SPSS® Modeler and IBM Watson® Analytics.
“We are always looking for better ways to harness our data to help our people make decisions,” comments Wong. “We see great potential in using predictive and prescriptive modelling to enhance the decision-making process. For example, by mining our lease data for hidden patterns, we could create a churn model to alert our people when we detect occupants who are unlikely to renew. Similarly, we could combine data on residential rates with the regional average to identify the optimal time to renovate a rental suite.”
He concludes: “By backing up our people’s expert instincts with hard data, we can help them find innovative ways to boost our asset yields and drive our growth.”
About QuadReal Property Group
Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, QuadReal was formed by consolidating the industrial, residential, office and retail assets and expertise of four seasoned players in the Canadian real estate investment and management industry. Working to support the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC), QuadReal is an independent organization focused on managing and growing a portfolio of over CAD24.5 billion in real estate assets across 150 cities in 17 countries
- Cognos Analytics
- InfoSphere DataStage
- InfoSphere Information Analyzer
- Information Governance Catalog
- Information Server
- PureData System for Analytics N1001-002
- SPSS Modeler
- Watson Analytics
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Founded in 1995, Lighthouse Computer Services provides a comprehensive range of information technology services, including security, analytics and cloud to enterprises across the Northeastern United States and Canada. An IBM Platinum Business Partner, Lighthouse Computer Services offers assessment, design, and implementation of high-performance, cost-effective solutions. To learn more, please visit: lighthousecs.com