Leading the competition with Microsoft Power BI
“At the end of the day, it’s really driving our bottom line.”
InvenTrust Properties Corp. is a premier, multi-tenant retail real estate company that owns, leases, redevelops, acquires, and manages 88 open-air shopping centers. That REI in Durham, North Carolina where you bought gear for your family’s hiking trip? That was in InvenTrust’s Renaissance Center. That Best Buy west of Austin where you bought those noise-canceling headphones? That’s in InvenTrust’s Shops at the Galleria.
A real estate must-have
In the leasing world, you have to be proactive and plan who you’re leasing spaces to, when, and for how much—before the space is empty. To do this, you need accurate, up-to-the minute data. This was InvenTrust’s challenge.
“We had a lot of data but no way to effectively mine it, visualize it, or report off of it quickly,” says John Simon, Director of Application Management and Infrastructure at InvenTrust.
Sitting, waiting, wishing
It took InvenTrust’s lease accounting team three weeks to create monthly, quarterly, and yearly reports.
“It was extremely stressful and always a big rush,” says Sara Campbell, Director of Property Accounting at InvenTrust. “We had to work a lot of late nights to get those reports done.”
On top of that, Campbell’s team had to respond to ad hoc requests for custom reports. For example: a leasing director would want to know which tenants were expiring at his properties but didn’t want to search through thousands of InvenTrust’s property and tenant data to find the information. So he’d ask Campbell’s team for help. Creating a filtered report would take the team anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of weeks. That meant leasing directors and executives had to sit and wait for the data—and couldn’t make business decisions on the fly.
“With leasing, things are constantly changing, so if someone had to wait weeks for a report, by the time they received it, the data was already stale,” says Campbell.
“We weren’t able to measure some critical KPIs for departments across our organization,” adds Simon. “And the manual reports were taking too much time to create.”
“With this technology, we’re way ahead of any of our competitors.”
A better way
Dipesh Shah, InvenTrust’s CIO, had a vision: create one standard place for InvenTrust employees to access information quickly and easily—and make sure the data is consistently accurate.
Slalom and InvenTrust started working together to turn that vision into reality.
First, we tackled the issue of having no single source of truth. We built a SQL Server database hosted on Azure virtual machines that consolidated and organized all of InvenTrust’s data—financial actuals, CRM opportunities, budgets, forecasts, and demographic information. We also created consistent definitions for data points.
From there, we developed dozens of Microsoft Power BI dashboards to relieve the lease accounting team of its weeks-long reporting headache and provide decision-makers with the accurate data they needed, faster.
With the new dashboards, users can access a wide range of information about their properties and the business in a visual, interactive way—from when leases are expiring, to real-time budget and forecasting analysis. No more waiting or guessing.
“The reports are automatically there”
The new dashboards gave Campbell’s team precious time—and sleep—back.
“Now, when I'm doing my reporting for the first quarter, I can go in on April 1st and the reports are automatically there,” says Campbell.
It took the data compilation time down from three weeks to a couple of hours. Campbell’s team can now focus on analyzing the data and pulling meaningful insights versus sorting through the data dump and pulling reports.
No more digging
“We now have a full view from soup to nuts of all the leasing activity across our company and a platform to help us make forward-looking decisions,” says Simon. “We can pull up a dashboard and show expired leases instead of having to sift through a mountain of data. It’s at our fingertips. Plus, we can show it in a visual graphic that’s easy to understand, instead of just looking at a spreadsheet.”
The new dashboards gave leasing directors mobile insights that they couldn’t get before. Now, they can be onsite at a property, take out their phone, and access data immediately—like which leases are expiring when, and the average rent per square foot for that property.
“Everyone who sees it, loves it. And everyone who uses it, sees the value of it.”
Turning beginners into experts
Along with giving everyone at InvenTrust access to the dashboards, we wanted to empower the teams even further—by teaching them how to create custom, self-service dashboards at any time. To do this, we hosted in-depth training sessions with a group of selected power users, as well as anyone else that was interested, where we created Microsoft Power BI dashboards together and turned the group into pros.
“With this technology, we’re way ahead of any of our competitors,” says Simon. “I go to conferences and tell other companies in our industry that we have these tools and I show them the dashboards on my phone. They’re like, ‘Wow, you guys are doing really great things out there.’”
Dipesh Shah is no longer with InvenTrust.