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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Resilience Through Diversification for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

There are countless scenarios that require Market Research. Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Market Research to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. Let us analyze the following scenario.

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Consider this scenario: A prominent Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) specializing in commercial properties faces a strategic challenge in adapting to the post-pandemic market dynamics, necessitating thorough market research.

The organization is confronting a 20% decline in occupancy rates and a 15% fall in rental income, attributed to an increase in remote working and a shift in commercial space requirements. Externally, there's a rising trend of tenants demanding more flexible leasing options and enhanced facilities, while internally, the REIT struggles to optimize its property portfolio in line with the evolving market needs. The primary strategic objective is to diversify the property portfolio to include mixed-use and residential properties, thereby enhancing resilience and long-term profitability.

This REIT has reached a critical juncture where changes in work habits and the economy have impacted its traditional revenue streams. The core issue seems to stem from an over-reliance on commercial properties, which have seen fluctuating demand due to the rise of remote working and changing business needs.

Strategic Analysis

  • Internal Rivalry: The presence of both traditional and emerging REITs has intensified competition, driving a need for differentiation in services and property offerings.
  • Supplier Power: Limited by the specific geographic focus, supplier power in terms of land and property development services is moderate to high.
  • Buyer Power: Tenants now have greater bargaining power due to a surplus of commercial spaces and flexible work options reducing demand.
  • Threat of New Entrants: Barriers to entry remain high due to capital intensity and regulatory requirements, limiting the threat of new entrants.
  • Threat of Substitutes: The threat is high from alternative real estate investments and leasing models, including co-working spaces and short-term leases.

Emergent trends include a shift towards mixed-use properties that combine residential, commercial, and retail spaces to cater to a broader range of tenants and consumers. Major changes in industry dynamics include:

  • Increased demand for flexible and short-term leases, creating opportunities for REITs to innovate leasing models but also posing risks to long-term revenue stability.
  • The rise of remote working necessitates a reevaluation of commercial space utility, presenting both a challenge in repurposing existing properties and an opportunity in developing new, hybrid workspaces.
  • Environmental sustainability has become a critical factor for investors and tenants, offering opportunities for REITs to invest in green buildings but requiring significant capital expenditure.

A PEST analysis highlights the impact of technological advancements in property management, evolving social attitudes towards work and living spaces, and regulatory changes focusing on sustainability and building codes as critical external factors influencing the industry.

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Internal Assessment

The REIT boasts a strong market position with a significant portfolio of high-value commercial properties but faces challenges in agility and innovation in property management.

Benchmarking Analysis

Compared to industry peers, this REIT has lower occupancy rates and slower portfolio diversification, indicating a gap in strategic asset management and tenant engagement strategies.

McKinsey 7-S Analysis

The analysis reveals misalignments between strategy, structure, and systems, particularly in the areas of portfolio management and tenant services, hindering the organization's ability to quickly adapt to market changes.

Digital Transformation Analysis

There is a critical need for adopting digital technologies in property management and tenant engagement to enhance operational efficiency and customer satisfaction. The current lag in digital adoption is a significant barrier to achieving competitive advantage.

Learn more about Competitive Advantage Customer Satisfaction Portfolio Management

Strategic Initiatives

  • Portfolio Diversification: Expand the property portfolio to include more residential and mixed-use properties, aiming to reduce dependency on commercial leases and increase resilience against market fluctuations. The expected value creation comes from tapping into growing demand for residential and mixed-use spaces, which will require strategic investments in market research, property acquisition, and development expertise.
  • Adopt a Flexible Leasing Model: Develop and implement flexible leasing options for tenants, aligning with the shift towards more dynamic work and living space needs. This initiative aims to enhance tenant retention and attract a broader tenant base, creating value through increased occupancy rates and rental income. It will necessitate adjustments in lease management systems and tenant engagement strategies.
  • Accelerate Digital Transformation: Invest in digital technologies to streamline property management processes and enhance tenant services. This initiative seeks to improve operational efficiency and tenant satisfaction, driving value through cost reductions and increased competitiveness. Key resources will include technology investment, training, and change management efforts.

Learn more about Digital Transformation Change Management Market Research

Market Research Implementation KPIs

KPIS are crucial throughout the implementation process. They provide quantifiable checkpoints to validate the alignment of operational activities with our strategic goals, ensuring that execution is not just activity-driven, but results-oriented. Further, these KPIs act as early indicators of progress or deviation, enabling agile decision-making and course correction if needed.

A stand can be made against invasion by an army. No stand can be made against invasion by an idea.
     – Victor Hugo

  • Occupancy Rate: An increase in occupancy rates will indicate success in portfolio diversification and flexible leasing initiatives.
  • Tenant Satisfaction Score: Improved scores will reflect the effectiveness of enhanced tenant services and digital transformation efforts.
  • Operational Cost Savings: Reductions in operational costs will demonstrate the efficiency gains from digital transformation.

These KPIs will provide insights into the effectiveness of the strategic initiatives in addressing the REIT's core challenges and achieving its strategic objectives, allowing for timely adjustments to the strategic plan.

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Stakeholder Management

Successful implementation of the strategic initiatives will depend on the active involvement and support of a wide range of stakeholders, from property managers and tenants to technology partners and regulatory bodies.

  • Property Managers: Crucial for implementing the diversified portfolio and flexible leasing models.
  • Tenants: Their feedback will inform continuous improvement in property offerings and services.
  • Technology Partners: Key to the successful digital transformation of property management and tenant services.
  • Regulatory Bodies: Compliance with codes and regulations is essential for portfolio diversification and property development.
  • Investors: Support from investors is necessary for funding strategic initiatives, especially in portfolio expansion and digital transformation.
Stakeholder GroupsRACI
Property Managers
Technology Partners
Regulatory Bodies

We've only identified the primary stakeholder groups above. There are also participants and groups involved for various activities in each of the strategic initiatives.

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Market Research Deliverables

These are a selection of deliverables across all the strategic initiatives.

  • Portfolio Diversification Plan (PPT)
  • Flexible Leasing Model Framework (PPT)
  • Digital Transformation Roadmap (PPT)
  • Operational Efficiency Improvement Plan (PPT)
  • Stakeholder Engagement Report (PPT)

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Portfolio Diversification

The strategic initiative of portfolio diversification was greatly supported by the use of the Resource-Based View (RBV) framework. The RBV framework, which focuses on leveraging a company's internal resources and capabilities to gain a competitive advantage, proved invaluable. It was particularly useful for this initiative as it helped the organization to identify and capitalize on its unique assets and capabilities in property management and development to diversify its portfolio effectively. The organization implemented the RBV framework through the following steps:

  • Conducted a comprehensive audit of internal resources, including financial assets, real estate management expertise, and market relationships, to evaluate their potential for supporting diversification.
  • Assessed the capability of existing resources to venture into residential and mixed-use property markets, identifying gaps and areas for development.
  • Developed strategies to strengthen these capabilities, such as training programs for staff on managing mixed-use properties and partnerships with residential developers.

Additionally, the Growth-Share Matrix was utilized to categorize the existing portfolio into 'Cash Cows', 'Stars', 'Question Marks', and 'Dogs'. This classification helped in making strategic decisions about where to divest and where to invest further for diversification. The implementation process involved:

  • Mapping each property in the current portfolio according to its market growth rate and relative market share.
  • Identifying 'Question Marks' that could become 'Stars' with investment in diversification and 'Dogs' that should be divested to free up resources.
  • Allocating capital and resources to 'Stars' and potential 'Stars' in the mixed-use and residential sectors to ensure growth in these areas.

The results of implementing these frameworks were transformative. The organization successfully diversified its portfolio, reducing its reliance on commercial properties. This led to an improved occupancy rate and a more resilient revenue stream, effectively mitigating the risks associated with market fluctuations and changes in commercial property demand.

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Adopt a Flexible Leasing Model

For the strategic initiative to adopt a flexible leasing model, the organization turned to the Value Chain Analysis. This framework, which involves dissecting a company's activities to understand where value is added and costs are incurred, was instrumental. It allowed the REIT to pinpoint areas within its leasing operations where flexibility could be introduced without significantly increasing costs. Following this analysis, the organization took several steps:

  • Analyzed each step of the leasing process, from marketing to contract signing, identifying areas where rigidities were causing tenant dissatisfaction or lost opportunities.
  • Implemented changes in the contract negotiation and signing phases to allow for more tailor-made leases that could accommodate tenants' changing needs.
  • Introduced technology solutions that enabled dynamic pricing and lease terms, based on real-time market data and property occupancy rates.

The implementation of the Value Chain Analysis led to the creation of a more agile and responsive leasing model. This model not only increased tenant satisfaction but also attracted a wider range of tenants, thereby enhancing occupancy rates and stabilizing revenue streams.

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Accelerate Digital Transformation

The strategic initiative to accelerate digital transformation was supported by the deployment of the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI). CMMI is a process and behavioral model that helps organizations streamline process improvement and encourage productive, efficient behaviors that decrease risks in software, product, and service development. The model was chosen for its effectiveness in guiding organizations through the stages of process optimization and maturity. The REIT applied CMMI in the following manner:

  • Assessed current digital capabilities against the CMMI levels, identifying key areas for improvement in digital infrastructure and tenant engagement technologies.
  • Developed a roadmap to progress from initial to optimized digital processes, focusing on areas such as data analytics for property management and tenant services.
  • Implemented targeted initiatives to enhance digital capabilities, such as adopting cloud-based property management systems and mobile applications for tenant communication.

Moreover, the organization embraced the Scrum framework to foster agility and responsiveness in its digital transformation efforts. This involved:

  • Organizing cross-functional teams to work on digital projects in sprints, allowing for rapid development and iteration based on feedback.
  • Applying Scrum ceremonies, artifacts, and roles to ensure alignment with strategic objectives and timely delivery of digital transformation projects.

The application of CMMI and Scrum dramatically accelerated the REIT's digital transformation, resulting in significant operational efficiencies and enhanced tenant engagement. The organization not only improved its internal processes but also offered new digital services that enhanced the tenant experience, leading to higher satisfaction and retention rates.

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Increased occupancy rates by 15% through strategic portfolio diversification into residential and mixed-use properties.
  • Enhanced tenant satisfaction scores by 20% by adopting a flexible leasing model and improving tenant services.
  • Achieved a 10% reduction in operational costs due to efficiencies gained from accelerated digital transformation.
  • Divested underperforming commercial properties ('Dogs'), reallocating capital towards 'Stars' in the mixed-use and residential sectors.
  • Implemented digital technologies that led to a 25% improvement in operational efficiency and tenant communication.

The strategic initiatives undertaken by the REIT have yielded significant positive outcomes, notably in increased occupancy rates and tenant satisfaction, which directly address the initial challenges of declining occupancy and rental income. The diversification into residential and mixed-use properties has proven successful, mitigating the risks associated with the fluctuating demand for commercial spaces. However, the results also highlight areas of potential improvement. The 10% reduction in operational costs, while notable, suggests there may be further efficiencies to gain, possibly indicating that the full potential of digital transformation has not yet been realized. Additionally, the divestment of underperforming properties, while strategic, requires careful management to ensure long-term portfolio balance and market positioning. Alternative strategies, such as more aggressive investment in emerging real estate technologies or exploring joint ventures for rapid diversification, could potentially enhance outcomes further.

Based on the analysis, the recommended next steps include a deeper focus on integrating advanced technologies such as AI and IoT for predictive maintenance and smarter property management, which could further reduce operational costs and enhance tenant satisfaction. Additionally, exploring strategic partnerships or acquisitions, especially in the technology and residential development sectors, could accelerate growth and diversification. Continuous evaluation of the portfolio to identify and address underperforming assets should remain a priority, alongside a more aggressive approach to sustainability initiatives, which could improve investor and tenant appeal and compliance with regulatory changes.

Source: Resilience Through Diversification for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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