MIPIM 2019 Engaging The Future
The theme of this year's show was echoed in meaningful conversations about digital transformation throughout Cannes

Why property is starting to buy tech

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Paul Unger

The talk of MIPIM was that property is at last waking up and smelling the tech. Gone are the rounds of insults about dinosaurs who haven’t a clue and nerds that don’t know how the real world works. Instead, proper conversations about actual implementation were being had in the private villas, beach bars and pavilions. Here’s why.

  1. Fear

Many principals describe themselves as risk managers first and property developers/investors second. Managing risk taps into fear, that most powerful of all emotions. The memory of a vital meeting that went badly due to pulling out the wrong number – or having no number at all to show – when being grilled over an asset’s performance or project appraisal is an open door for sales people who claim they can eliminate howlers through reliable accessible data.

  1. Below the line

A pleasant surprise to hear at MIPIM was that the softer targets are gaining more attention with property buyers than the more tangible benefits. Happiness. Pleasant working environments. Tenant satisfaction. These are where a lot of the early wins are being found, as property wakes up to the new world order of shifting value systems towards more personalised consumer-esque buying decisions in business.

  1. Above the line

Perhaps the point that most people expect sales to be about for property, but it’s not. In reality the ROI is not there yet in many cases. It’s early days and much adoption is only at trial stage. That said, I include above the line tangible numbers because the tech companies are still striving for the headline stats to pitch to the right person when required, the FD is more likely to want a number, and time savings in particular are a common weapon for anything that automates and can cut significant hours from a mundane exercise.

  1. Inevitability

Watching competitors hire innovation directors and dedicate resource to startup accelerators and more modern methods of working is too much to bear for even the most reactionary folk. The future is tech. Keeping up, starting now or never, is a tidal shift underneath the whole industry. Doing something, at least looking at innovations, accepting them into the boardroom to show products, is becoming more mainstream.

  1. Pocket argument winner

The MIPIM story recounted over breakfast on the last day went something like this: senior manager in a global investment firm is approached at a drinks reception on the beach by a representative from a large tenant within his one of portfolios and knows he is about to be harangued about an ongoing complaint. He whips out his phone opens the database and disarms him with full knowledge of the situation before the complainant gets going. ‘How did you know that, what’s that you’re looking at?’ Sold. Impossible when the details are stored only in a ring-binder back in the office. Equipping ourselves with the knowledge to shut down an argument is as powerful in a business setting as it is in the pub quiz team.

  1. Cross-selling

Tech sells tech. Once a property buyer takes one thing on board they often ask ‘do you know anyone that can offer this’ and points to the next desired solution, believing quite sensibly the tech players have better visibility of the innovation market than they do themselves. This is underlined by the growing trend for integration of complementary solutions, map providers partnering with listings sites for instance. Collaboration could be a powerful driver this year as long as balancing fee revenues for multiple partners in a bundled price doesn’t present obstacles.

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