Adapting Your Access Control Strategy for the “New” Commercial Real Estate

Implementing and installing access solutions within CRE properties presents unique challenges that require a unique approach.

Adapting Your Access Control Strategy for the “New” Commercial Real Estate

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Every physical security integrator has their own “bag of tricks” when it comes to implementing access control systems – best practices they use to increase efficiency, maximize profits, and better serve their clients.

But when working in the commercial real estate (CRE) industry, the standard bag of tricks simply will not do. Implementing and installing access solutions within CRE properties presents unique challenges that require a unique approach.

And to better serve this key industry, it is first important to understand what sets it apart. Unlike government facilities or critical infrastructure sites, there are several stakeholders each influencing security and access decisions based on their own goals. This is more apparent now than ever before.

The owner’s relationship with the tenant has changed because the tenant’s relationship with their employees has changed. It’s no longer enough to simply provide security and safety, tenants today expect ease and simplicity so that their employees want to choose the office over their couch.

At the top, the CRE property owner’s main goal is to keep occupancy rates high in order to generate revenue and maintain property value. The property managers hired by the owners are then tasked with doing so as efficiently as possible.

The tenants/employers occupying these properties want their employees to be safe, yes, but also to come in and get their jobs done. And for the employees and residents actually using the space, the goal is to work in an environment that is both safe and accommodates their desire for flexibility within their workplaces.

With offices competing with couches as employees’ preferred place of work, employers are increasingly challenged to provide additional value in the form of amenities and other benefits to entice employees to return to the office.

Now multiply these goals across multiple properties and tenants, and the need for a nuanced approach to access becomes clear. In other industries, access control systems are often selected based on A&E specs, budget limitations, and other technical considerations.

However, in the CRE industry, integrators must recognize that a one-size-fits-all, top-down approach to access will not suffice. Instead, they must adopt a bottom-up approach, starting with the needs of the employees and residents who ultimately occupy the space. Why?

Because when residents/employees feel safe utilizing the latest access methods, they are more productive at work and generally more eager to work from their office building. For property managers, access data provides building usage insights that they can leverage to increase the efficiency of their operations as it relates to energy and investments.

Finally, more efficient properties filled with productive, happy workers increase occupancy rates for the property owner. In this hierarchy of needs, access serves as the foundation, driving value for all stakeholders.

How Security Integrators Can Thrive in the CRE Market

So how can integrators best implement such an approach?

Given the varied needs of different stakeholders, integrators must be both prepared and willing to diversify their access offerings. Today, access is no longer simply the physical access control system that grants or denies access at the front door. This is especially true within CRE where access includes visitor management, personal identity and access management (PIAM), and building management platforms.

The modern definition of access also extends to how various identities are accessing various spaces, e.g., how maintenance receives access to fulfill work orders or how a group of workers reserves a meeting room.

Take, for example, a property manager who manages several commercial office buildings, each looking to utilize a physical access control system to improve security. Many properties already have an existing access platform in place while others do not.

What’s more, the property owner would like to gain insights into how tenants are using various interior spaces while some tenants may insist on mobile credentials.

Based on the above scenario, an integrator’s knee-jerk reaction would likely be to propose a standardized access solution that fits the immediate needs of the property manager. After all, this approach would be faster and easier for the integrator, streamlining processes and pleasing the people at the top.

But, while abiding by access standards and system interoperability are valuable for streamlining operations and accelerating sales, they are not the sole determinants of success. Integrators should recognize that it is still possible to meet the diverse needs of all CRE stakeholders without insisting on standardizing on a single access control system platform or credential technology.

In the absence of an industry-wide access control standard and the growing demand for access under the modern definition, adept software platforms serve to bridge the gap. These platforms are designed to deliver interoperability, allowing access and other various business systems to work together seamlessly to meet a number of stakeholder objectives.

Imagine a platform for multifamily housing that can be used from the bottom-up, allowing residents to request access for visitors or book amenities while allowing property managers to view access-related insights to make more informed decisions related to security and operations, as well as provide residents with an elevated living experience in the process.

Such a platform impacts integrators because it allows them to offer customized solutions, and with immediate access interoperability on the table, integrators can provide comprehensive access solutions that cater to the specific requirements and evolving needs of each property and stakeholder group.

Adopting a bottom-up approach also enables integrators to better communicate the value of their solutions and target their messaging effectively. By prioritizing safety, efficiency, and user experience, integrators position themselves as trusted partners in the CRE sector.

And, while no single access control standard exists, any security integrator considering a foray into CRE should remain vigilant. There are currently many organizations actively working towards establishing standards for access control, with major access companies participating in such initiatives with no clear winner yet.

The good news is integrators can still create highly integrated solutions for their customers without a universal standard. However, understanding and adapting to the evolving landscape of access control standards only serves to help integrators deliver future-proof solutions.

Think of it like space travel. The first mission to the moon was difficult, as there was no ‘standard’ way of doing things. As time went on, the process became more feasible with the creation of more scalable, repeatable practices. Access integration is essentially the same, evolving from a landscape of customized solutions to one where interoperability is entirely achievable even in the absence of standardization.

So while today no set access control standard is available, and there is no mass transportation available to the moon, we are the closest we’ve ever been to achieving such. Today’s security integrators, armed with software to enable interoperability, inch us collectively closer to a future where such connectivity is as commonplace as a trip to the moon.

Andrew Campagnola is vice president of strategic initiatives at VTS.

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