From Oil to Asset: The CDO’s Role in Refining Real Estate Data 

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The British mathematician, Clive Humby, is credited with making the analogy that “data is the new oil” back in 2006. Nearly two decades later, businesses still grapple with gushers as data generation outpaces data analysis. The role of a Chief Data Officer (CDO) is to refine this resource – to monetize it by turning it into valuable insights, actionable intelligence, and revenue growth. In doing so, CDOs help organizations optimize costs, lower their environmental impact, and make better-informed decisions. 

Across industries, data has become the most valuable resource for organizations looking to make strategic decisions in the design, development, and construction of new spaces. The commercial real estate sector is no exception. 

Many real estate firms only recently started to think about how to leverage their property data – everything from leasing agreements to building occupancy rates. They realized the need to embrace a new leadership role to manage all this incoming information and help guide their organizations through adopting the necessary technology to transmute data into a competitive advantage. Still, the CDO in real estate is a relatively new position, but the role is the same as in other industries, and just as critical. 

Here are several ways real estate CDOs can harness the power of data, a resource rich like oil and even more plentiful.

Data-Driven Decisions: Mining for Real Estate’s Diamonds

Data in its raw form is like coal. It has the potential to be valuable, but it requires refinement and processing to turn it into a valuable resource. The sheer amount of data generated by the built environment is staggering, and it is up to CDOs to make sense of it. Data helps understand the history and potential of property and spaces, driving better decision-making and unlocking new opportunities. Real estate CDOs can leverage insights primarily from two types of data: transactional (leasing and buying commercial buildings), and operational (insights into how buildings are being occupied and managed). 

The incoming data can train artificial intelligence algorithms within integrated building systems to benefit investors, brokers, building managers, and even occupiers, to maximize long-term value. If the immense amount of data generated by the built environment is coal, it’s the CDO’s job to turn it into diamonds.

Protecting Real Estate’s Most Valuable Asset

The role of CDOs as data custodians cannot be overstated. CDOs are responsible for taking the right measures to protect the data and then leveraging it in the right way to anchor to customers. Ensuring the security of sensitive information and personal data is of the utmost importance in today’s business environment. CDOs are responsible for implementing best practices and industry standards for data security, such as encryption, access controls, and monitoring systems. Data officers must also be mindful of privacy regulations, such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which regulate the collection, storage, and use of personal data.

Green Efforts with Data: Making Real Estate More Sustainable

In recent years, the world has seen an increased focus on sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint of businesses. The built environment is a major pollutant – in fact, nearly 40% of the world’s carbon emissions come from commercial real estate. Using data to make a company’s real estate footprint more sustainable and efficient is one of the most effective ways to get on the path to net-zero and meet long-term sustainability goals. Data helps identify inefficiencies in building operations, such as underutilized spaces or energy-inefficient systems, and take steps to address them. By leveraging the power of data, CDOs can help organizations reduce their carbon footprint, lower maintenance costs, and enhance their reputation as socially responsible organizations.

Data has emerged as a critical asset for real estate firms, and CDOs are at the forefront of unlocking its power. CDOs can find data’s hidden riches, safeguard real estate intellectual capital, and harness data for a greener tomorrow. The future of real estate is data-driven, and CDOs will play a leading role in shaping the industry’s path forward.

About the Author

Yao Morin is Chief Technology Officer at JLL Technologies (JLLT), a business division of JLL dedicated to commercial real estate (CRE) technology. Yao leads global data strategy and end-to-end management of the data product roadmap for JLLT. She refines and accelerates JLLT’s approach to gathering, extracting, storing and leveraging data assets across all JLL businesses to create new value for investors, occupiers and the broader JLL organization.

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