Encouraging Tech Adoption in 4 Easy Steps
Would you believe it if we told you that nearly one-third of the global commercial real estate industry is still primarily using spreadsheets for asset and portfolio management? That was a finding of a recent study that surveyed 300 CRE professionals. This represents up to $11 trillion in assets, being managed manually. Considering the potential for inaccuracies due to human error that this method involves, this is a baffling statistic.
The attitude toward utilizing digital tools is very different in other industries. Spending on technology solutions in the Healthcare and Financial Services industries is double that in CRE. Technology implementation has been demonstrated as cost-effective, and there are powerful tools available now that specifically address CRE problems and processes, so why the gap?
Several things can help explain the slow and uneven tech adoption that we’ve seen in CRE. For starters, the industry is enormous. Commercial real estate in the U.S. has a value that’s roughly equivalent to the U.S. Stock Market, and it includes a diverse array of properties and players. It’s impacted by legislation, demographics, and economic trends. Occupations within the industry include brokers and investors, certainly, but also developers, contractors, architects, vendors and management companies. Finding solutions that work in this complex environment can be challenging.
Some other barriers to adoption include:
Perceived Expense: This is not significant compared with the cost of continuing to operate without digital tools. Technology solutions can be gradually integrated as the budget allows.
Compatibility Issues: A common concern is the idea that a product may be useful, but if it’s not compatible with what others are using, it has limited value. This argument is becoming increasingly less valid, as more and more software moves to the Cloud and is designed to integrate smoothly with other products, on any device.
Time Involved in Finding the Right Platform/Software: While it is necessary to do some investigating, it is time well spent. There are many more CRE-specific, all-in-one platforms out there now than there were 3 years ago. The problem will likely be which of several ideal products to choose.
Many hesitate to tinker with existing procedures that seem to be working “well enough” in order to make the shift to digital tools. Encouraging reluctant colleagues to take the plunge can be challenging, but the arguments in favor of tech adoption are too strong to ignore.
If you understand the many benefits of using digital tools in CRE, but are having a hard time getting your colleagues on board, here are some ways to encourage technology adoption in your firm.
#1: Address Existing Problems
When a move toward using digital tools is being planned, you can improve buy-in if you take the users’ concerns into account. Start a conversation about what common issues are faced at the firm: where is efficiency lagging?
Knowing these sticking points lets you focus on the why, not the how of tech adoption. Help your colleagues to understand the reasons that tech is a good idea. Point out redundancies that can be eliminated. Stress the streamlining of routine tasks and the increased access to relevant and timely data.
#2: Start Small
The office doesn’t have to undergo a complete revolution. For some, it can be very cost-effective to pay for software as you use it, adding features gradually. Take advantage of cloud-based applications that don’t require any specific hardware, installation, or updates to avoid adding work to everyone’s plate.
#3: Go with simple
This seems obvious, but it’s very common for applications to be adopted with little or no instruction in features and use. Just because they have it doesn’t mean they’re going to use it if they have to learn it themselves. Timely instruction and support makes successful implementation much more likely. Better yet, find a simple solution that’s intuitive enough to figure out without extensive training.
#4: Point to Industry Trends
Reluctant colleagues may be unaware of how widespread the use of technology is becoming in CRE. Leading brokerage firms, management companies, and investment managers are seeing tremendous benefits from the products available. Their competitors are already using digital tools, and their clients expect the efficiency and service that are possible.