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Data is our most valuable property

“Data must be in the hands of those, who will actually be using it”. So says Michael Midtgaard, head of Risk & Valuation at ATP Ejendomme (ATP Real Estate), one of the leading real estate owners and developers in Denmark. Over the course of the previous year he has been showing the way ahead for a new way of working with data and automation for the real estate organisation. This new approach enabled the finance function to close their quarterly reporting in just a few days, and provided their asset managers with more detailed insights into the operational and financial performance of their property portfolio.

ATP Real Estate now have the appropriate data muscles to take on a market with increasing competition from international players and an ever growing necessity to better understand the customers’ needs.

Challenge: “How do we create a more data-driven finance function, and how do we become a more data-driven organisation as a whole?

“Make the finance function more data-driven”

When Michael Midtgaard first walked through the doors at ATP Real Estate in the spring of 2020, there was one particular challenge he had to solve: “How do we create a more data-driven finance function, and how can our organisation become more data-driven as a whole?”

Michael Midtgaard’s response to this challenge was to establish a data setup where the data tools were placed in the hands of those in the business who needed the data, rather than placing this responsibility with an isolated BI- og IT-unit. 

The tools they ended up choosing for this were Alteryx that they use for data collection and blending across a myriad of sources, and Power BI from Microsoft for data visualizations. Both Alteryx and Power BI are no-code softwares, and support self service analytics.

After a few hands-on training sessions where ATP Real Estate’s employees learned to use the tools, the first dashboards and data flows became a reality in a few months. 

“I don’t believe we are done until we can uninstall Excel from our computers altogether”

Stop the manual processes – start automating

The finance function was the first part of the organisation in focus for the project, and the first focus area for Michael Midtgaards collaboration with Devoteam Data Driven (previously Inviso by Devoteam) was to find a way to make quarterly reporting to the board of directors much more efficient and automated.

“We did spend quite a lot of time on building reports manually every quarter”, he says. “Obviously, this was an area that I wanted to dive deeper into. Both to reduce time spent, and to improve consistency of the reports”.

By carefully mapping out the processes involved in the quarterly reporting and transferring as many of them as possible to automated flows in Alteryx it was possible to reduce the amount of time spent on reporting to just a few days per month. Simultaneously they reduced the number of pages in the reports so they only include relevant information, without compromising on quality.

This has enabled the finance department in ATP Real Estate to spend much more of their time on business partnering for the rest of the organisation and use their unique insights to help drive the business towards the next strategic goals.

By automating reporting and visualizing it in dashboards (Power BI supported by Alteryx), ATP Real Estate have been able to reduce time spent on quarterly reporting significantly. This has freed up time in the finance team to do more business partnering.

When it comes to being data-driven, our industry has not been changing very fast. Probably because the urgency to do it has not been there. Until now.

Can we learn more about our customers?

The process to make ATP Real Estate more data-driven did not stop at automated quarterly financial reporting.

Michael Midtgaard explains: “When it comes to being data-driven, our industry has not been changing very fast. Probably because the urgency to do it has not been there. Until now. Historically, I think we’ve seen a tendency towards a pretty singular focus on the total return, i.e. the operating result (EBIT) plus the effect of changes in the valuation. In other words: a lot times, properties have been viewed as pure investment objects, and too little focus has been on the daily operation.” 

The reason this picture is changing can be found in the increasing competition. Especially in commercial leasing in Copenhagen, where a number of foreign investors have appeared in recent years. That has made it increasingly important for ATP Real Estate to also be able to service their properties in a way that keeps the tenants happy and shortens vacancies. An important part of achieve this has been changing the way ATP Real Estate use and analyse the data that they already have about their properties, but previously was not utilized to the full effect.

“In order to remain close the customers, close to the market, and to really understand the workings of it, you need data”, says Michael Midtgaard and continues: “ATP Properties have a longer horizon as investors than most of our competitors. That makes it extra important for us to optimize the service, keep the clients happy and ultimately generate a financial return for all Danes. Thus, our focus on much more than just the cash flow that we see when properties are sold. We are dedicated to having happy tenants who want to remain with us. And by being data-driven we can deliver much better on that ambition.”

What story do you want data to tell?

“Among property investors in Denmark, many use a platform called ‘Unik Bolig’. It contain a lot of good data, but it can be quite complicated to pull data out of it, blend it, or make different comparisons than what our ERP-system allows. It required that we pulled data manually out of the system in a spread sheet – or asked a controller to do it – and then start modelling it from there. It’s not efficient and makes it hard to learn from each other and build on each other’s work”, Michael Midtgaard says.

ATP Real Estate and Devoteam Data Driven’s first goal was to create a dashboard in Power BI that allowed the user, who need more facts about a specific property to get access to it in an easy way. At the same time, the dashboards also showed properties who were similar, which made it possible to benchmark the performance, and see where there was potential to improve.

The dashboard also pulled in data from EjendomDanmark, who collect information about prices and vacancy levels across the entire market quarterly.

With these new dashboard, ATP Real Estate’s asset managers (who each manage a portfolio of properties) could easily get an overview of driving factors that previously would have been quite complicated to find and see. That included information about number of clients, exact sizes of their spaces, when leases were due to run out, and much more. By combining these factors with publicly available data about companies and the housing market, each asset manager can now identify areas that need extra care, or spot rising trends and be ahead of the curve.

“We are done when we can uninstall Excel”

Automated reporting and new data based insights into customer demands have taken ATP Real Estate closer to the goal of being a data-driven organisation. But the journey doesn’t stop here. 

“No matter what kind of task you are working on, it is crucial that each individual in the company is as close to data as possible. And that they have the tools they need at their disposal. In fact, I don’t believe we are done until we can uninstall Excel from our computers altogether”, says Michael Mosegaard with a smile.

Does you company get enough out of your data?

Don’t hesitate to contact us to hear how Devoteam can help your organisation turn data into business. Talk to one of our experienced consultants and hear how we have helped companies like yours improve their business with automation, data visualization, business intelligence and analytics.