In the first part of our deep dive into tech readiness in the real estate sector, we uncovered the dual narrative. On one side, there’s a blossoming array of technological advancements transforming the industry. However, on the flip side, there remains a noticeable lag in adoption, a gap between the desire for change and the preparedness to do so.
In this continuation, we probe deeper into the nuances of the industry's tech journey, exploring what the real estate sector gets right and where the pitfalls lie. With insights from Caitlin Koskinen, CIM’s Senior Enterprise Account Executive, we delve into the importance of leadership buy-in, the challenge of reshaping traditional models, and the undeniable value of people in driving digital transformation.
What is the property sector doing well?
Caitlin: The real estate sector is commendably leading the way in adopting ESG frameworks and pushing for environmental change. While other sectors like retail and banking are discussing these issues, it seems like their actions often don’t match their statements. Real estate firms are putting substantial efforts into implementing ESG initiatives, embedding a culture of sustainability-mindedness, and measuring impact over time.
What are your thoughts on property companies’ building tech themselves versus partnering with a software provider?
Caitlin: Rather than trying to construct a complete solution internally, property firms should consider partnering with leading tech providers who offer established open platforms. These platforms can typically solve around 90% of typical use cases, leaving your team to develop solutions for the remaining 10% of edge cases. The opportunity cost of trying to build everything in-house, with a relative lack of expertise, is significant and unnecessary.
It's easy to get overly focused on the edge use cases—an out-of-the-box technology might not cover—but it's more efficient to cater for the vast majority, find a partner who allows you to have open access and then build upon that foundation. This way, you leverage existing solutions that make sense of the data for you, and you can address edge cases on a needs basis.
Based on your experience, what are the key factors that will make or break the successful adoption of a software solution?
Caitlin: People. People. People. Organisations that have led the most successful digital transformations are not the ones who have bought the best technology. It is the organisations where senior leaders have had a mission to drive change and they’ve aligned their teams on a common path. Then technology becomes an enabler to allow people to do their jobs more effectively. Having frictionless technology that empowers employees to do their job better, more efficiently and is aligned to a common mission is not just how you adopt technology, it's how you transform your organisation.
How crucial is senior leadership buy-in when it comes to successful technology adoption?
Caitlin: Buy-in from the top is absolutely crucial for successful adoption. Without their support, you'll face an uphill battle. When senior leaders advocate for transformation, that's when real change starts to happen.
But the immediate priorities of senior leaders might not always line up with those of frontline team members. In our case, FM’s often express tactical difficulties around managing contractors and interpreting an overload of BMS alerts. Meanwhile, senior leaders are more concerned with portfolio-wide costs and asset valuations.
Technology can close the gap by empowering all levels with full visibility of what's happening. This enhanced visibility not only improves the management of day-to-day operations but also facilitates a better understanding of portfolio-wide performance. So, it's about providing a solution that serves both senior leaders and those who will be using the technology on the ground. Bridging this gap involves addressing the challenges faced by all team members and ensuring the technology meets their needs.
Can you share an example from a past role where you've seen technology successfully reshape a traditional business model?
Caitlin: Absolutely, in one of my past roles, I assisted airline customer experience teams transition their customer support from purely traditional methods like phone and email to more customer-centric and modern channels like chat, text messaging, and social media. The goal was to resolve customers' issues faster and, often, at a lower cost. Technology played a crucial role in automating many of the repetitive enquiries, such as "how early should I be at the airport?" which allowed the customer service staff to focus on more complex issues like rescheduling of flights. These more complex issues would then be routed to a high-value resource - a human being. So even though the customer interface remained the same, a human would only intervene when necessary.
The essence of this is that technology has reshaped a traditional business model to engage consumers on the platforms they prefer, offering faster, more efficient solutions and enhancing customer experiences often at a lower cost to the business. It was a win-win.
This approach bears many similarities to what we're trying to achieve in the real estate sector with CIM. Our aim is to notify the relevant team members when they are required for high-value interactions, for instance when something is broken and needs immediate attention. The traditional approach of physically checking items is no longer necessary.
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