Paul Unger Editor PlaceTech

Editor’s note: Use it or lose out

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Paul Unger

I suspect many of us have been there. You’ve downloaded an app and never used it. Taken out a subscription to some life-changing management aid a contact recommended and haven’t logged in since day one. Maybe you’re an architect who hates BIM?

All this bodes poorly for the rise of tech in property.

It’s not enough to have taken the plunge and signed on the dotted line, how will you get the people around you to use the tech now in your possession?

Nimbus Maps found signing people up to its site mapping portal wasn’t the problem, it was helping people become confident to learn new tricks and start making full use of it. Nimbus has introduced (paid for) training workshops to help people use data in their property roles and reports positive feedback. Nimbus rival LandInsight has launched a similar (free) service.

In the strange case of BIM, the factors that have held it back from wholesale adoption in the past decade are numerous and complex. I’ve met partners at national architects who have full-time in-house staff whose sole purpose is to walk around and explain how BIM works to their colleagues and encourage people to use it. Even then with mixed results.

It’s a regulated tool with both carrot and stick – today’s public sector projects have to be delivered with BIM in the UK or they don’t win the contract – and yet it hasn’t caught on as well as many say the clear benefits of saving time and increasing transparency suggest it should.

If we are to avoid tech being shoved in a metaphorical drawer to gather dust while property companies, tenants and investors carry on in a traditional manner then actual day-to-day usage of technology has to be at the forefront of the digital property revolution.

So how do the app makers and widget vendors get people to use the stuff their employer, landlord or client has bought?

Mark Rosenthal, VP of sales, marketing and success at HqO: “There are over 3m apps in the app store, and the typical person uses only seven of them in a given week. Creating an app that adds value to a user by removing friction or providing utility is critically important. Across our portfolio, we have honed our approach to successfully launching new buildings, driving an average of 60% adoption. We rely on a strong partnership between our Customer Success team and the property teams at our portfolio buildings.

“Today, many real estate organisations are not set up to manage Tenant Experience (TeX) software. That’s why we take a hands-on approach to launch & engagement, and we’ve found that using data to inform the strategy produces both the best adoption and usage rates among building occupants and the most actionable intelligence for landlords and property teams.”

Rosenthal adds: “For launch periods we look to implement a mix of experiences and activities that excite, intrigue, and delight tenants, while also educating them on the longer-term value and utility of the software. We are also building the playbook and training manual for property teams to find their own success with TeX software. Taking data and learnings from patterns across the industry and benchmarking tenant experience strategies accordingly will be incredibly important, so we are building this in to our technology to arm landlords with all the information they need to succeed. We want to empower landlords and property teams to enhance their property experience with technology that their tenants expect – it makes their job easier and helps them become even more invaluable to their tenants – a win-win.”

Lucy Lomas, director of Luma Marketing, says: “Having worked with a number of our clients on the adoption of new technology, we know…

“Get board support. It only needs one director to be off message for the whole thing to fail

“Plan it properly. What other systems does it integrate (or compete) with? How long will it run concurrently with other systems?

“Test the user experience properly. Don’t assume that everyone accesses technology in the same way you do. Design for difference!

“Communicate, communicate and communicate some more. Ensure that users really understand WHY they are using this new application, not just how.

“Create champions – at every level, in every team. Engage, listen, reward.”

Creating champions was also raised by Andy Dyer, sales director at Coyote Software, who proposes the idea of the “super user”. He explains: “Get one or two ‘super users’ on board. Get them using it, loving it and they will help amplify.”

Lomas continues: “Identify your laggards and bring them into the fold. If they are being listened to when they slate the app and can see that their moaning is creating a difference, they’ll engage (and you’ll find out where your tech is weak).

“Carrot and stick. People do what gets measured. Business critical activity (eg, filling in your timesheets or keeping your project info up to date) needs to be rewarded when it’s done well and punished when it isn’t.”

Michelle Buxton, CEO of Toolbox Group, has a checklist of recommendations:

  1. Invest in onboarding, go the extra mile to communicate it. With our Mallcomm onboarding service, we visit every single retailer or occupier over one or two days to communicate the benefits and show them how to get on the app and use it. We also run drop-in sessions and can provide posters, guides and other materials.
  2. Make sure there are real benefits and features for all users. Our tenants and their staff love retailer staff-to-staff discounts that also really generate sales for retailers, plus we’re working with landlords on adding other staff community incentive packages that are seen as added value of the app. Great content is also invaluable. You want your app to be something they depend on in some way every day.
  3. With a high turnover of tenant staff in the retail industry, for example, the landlord has to be prepared to work at reminding tenants and keeping it fresh. We are sometimes brought in to help with re-fresh campaigns to boost KPIs.
  4. Millennials are used to streamlined tech so user experience within the app goes a long way to whether they will use it or not. We’re always looking for ways to improve user experience, testing it vigorously and continually developing the look and feel of the app to keep it easy and attractive to use.  Landlords should be prepared to invest in development over time.
  5. Go cold turkey and remove traditional forms of communication for essential comms.

Most of this focuses on employees and tenants. In the business-to-business world of real estate there are often multi-discipline project teams with numerous companies involved on one job. Managing the supply chain is also vital when it comes to adoption. Suppliers, maybe based in a different region, smaller, with less time for training and their own cultures to contend with, also have to use this new platform you’re determined to integrate or else it will fail.

Consider the potential added barriers around fees for extra time taken to upskill, where the cost of the tech sits, different comms systems in each company, when thinking about managing adoption among suppliers. Email me if you have any suggestions for a piece on this subject for another day: paul.unger@placetech.net

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