3 steps to starting your digital transformation
In the property industry, the biggest risk is protecting the value of your assets. Using technology, you can gain better visibility into your assets which does more than help you protect the value of your portfolio. You can understand what you’re spending on your assets, uncover opportunities, and even increase the value of your portfolio.
From a real estate professional’s point-of-view, the investment in new technology goes beyond the purchase of software licenses. The people and process – everything that must be put into place to deliver a new technology into the business –are also a significant investment. Technology projects can fail because the technology is too complex to implement or because many disparate applications must be bolted together.
Despite these challenges, there are certain industry sectors that are quick to embrace new technology, such as retail, education, and healthcare. These sectors have high-volume, complex asset categories and are moving at a faster pace than the broader commercial sector. In fact, if you’re a real estate consultant or a surveyor/engineer, it’s likely you have created innovation teams to bring new technology into the business and gain a competitive edge. If you’re an owner/operator, it’s more likely that you will wait and hear what your peers are saying before you buy.
No matter the pace of change in your organisation, there are three trends in proptech that are changing your industry, ready or not.
- Mobile | Continues to be refined and improved. There’s still a lot of opportunity for organisations to leverage mobile technology. While you should always be looking at the next trend, keep in mind that the mobile trend is still going strong.
- Network connectivity | Movement to 4/5G connectivity allows Internet of Things to work to its full potential. This infrastructure must be in place for the data to be sent backwards and forwards. With this change in communication technology, think about what else can be enhanced. IoT is just one.
- Artificial intelligence and robotics | The efficiency and productivity of people will be augmented by the power of artificial intelligence and robotics. It’s still early days, but we are seeing some interesting things happening, including enhancements in task completion and decision making.
Accruent’s acquisitions of Verisae, BlueCielo and Kykloud are good examples of taking advantage of and contributing to these three trends:
- The focus on ‘mobile-first’ is important. Mobile-focused technology can tap into the whole service line, particularly asset data capture
- IoT will reach a level of maturity where it starts to saturate the market. We hear a lot about IoT in the market, but when you scratch the surface, there’s really very few products that are actually working and operational. There’s a lot of talk about IoT in facilities management, but very few companies are linking it together
- For artificial intelligence and robotics, it’s still early. In terms of efficiency and productivity, most companies are focused on information that’s accessible and readable
To enable these trends, companies must employ ‘political maths’ to make it all work. If there’s not a commitment to digital transformation within a business, then there’s no point in trying to push the technology.
For example, we see a lot of big real estate consultancies that continue to be run quite traditionally. How these more traditional companies use existing technologies, such as email, provides insight into the overall digital maturity of the business and the company’s ability to adopt technology. This vast majority still has a long way to go; they see digital strategy as a technology question. But a company’s digital strategy is a business question that should be discussed at board level.
Many of these traditional companies say they have a capital or lifecycle planning solution in place. The capital planning solution is often a spreadsheet, much like accounting was 15 years ago. Once their portfolio grows to a certain size, a spreadsheet just crumbles. If you have 100 buildings and 1,000 assets in each building, you can have 100,000 lines in your capital plan. No matter how good your spreadsheet is, it will soon collapse under the weight of all that information, and spreadsheets can’t handle photographic and visual data. The size and complexity of a portfolio that’s worth more than £15m justifies a capital planning solution that goes beyond a spreadsheet.
Gather a team
When considering new technologies, we see a move to pre-evaluating and pre-vetting; essentially, creating an internal marketplace or an internal app store. Even your best technical surveyor shouldn’t be alone in conducting commercial negotiations with software companies. You need to gather a cross-functional team, including operations and technology. The technology group determines if products meet the minimum criteria for data ownership, security etc. Then, the operations team reviews the product options that technology has evaluated. Giving a choice to your end-users is a good thing. This approach reduces the overhead of getting products up and running quickly because the user doesn’t have to become a software expert before using the product.
Ultimately, the technology – and you – will be judged by the output; not whether a button in the interface is blue or green. Instead of getting distracted by the features of the software, you should focus on the reporting. Always make sure your vendor demonstrates what’s possible in reporting. The focus on outputs helps with decision making in the buying process and reduces the risk of failure with a new technology.
Ed Bartlett is vice-president of Kykloud, an Accruent company. Bartlett is a chartered surveyor with over 25 years of experience in the property and construction industry. He co-founded Kykloud in 2011 and created the UK’s market-leading surveying and Lifecyle planning solution used by nine of the top 10 surveying firms. Kykloud became part of Accruent in January 2018, and Bartlett continues to lead the Kykloud product offering in Europe and beyond.