Acclerated Digital Transformation

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Accelerated Digital Transformation

The last 2 years has a lot to answer for. We are witnessing transformational change on an epic scale – from how we act to the changes in our needs and wants as individuals, workers, employers and consumers. Organisations, to stay relevant, have no choice but to change and rethink operating & delivery models in line with the shifts in human behaviour.

This has accelerated previously slow adoption of technology or future digital strategies into rapid action, and the development of sophisticated digital solutions to underpin seamless digital processes and customer experiences.

BUT – where are we (the built environment industry) in the digital transformation journey? What are the new needs, wants and behaviours of our people & our customers? How are both traditional and Proptech organisations keeping up and adapting to the new world normal?

We discussed the situation, at a UKPA roundtable at The XCHG, with an aim to draw some clarity as to the status quo of the industry from both perspectives.

We asked –

  • How have you seen the approach to Digital Transformation develop either in your own organisation or that of your clients – and what have been the main drivers?
  • Have organisations borne witness to any changes in attitudes or behaviours towards the adoption of technology & the understanding of its benefits.?

Progress, yes, but still the same barriers.

There is no doubt, the market has moved, client landscapes have changed. Toolkits and skills are changing in line with developing needs.

Increasing demands for the adoption of technology & digital solutions have been driven by many factors such as the demand for remote working; occupational efficiencies;  job satisfaction; rise in legislation & upgraded standards; security & compliance requirements, environmental measures and ESG reporting.

In short, despite positive changes & progress in line with market forces, we’re hearing that key challenges to digital transformation remain the same: low & slow adoption; little trust; lack of knowledge & fear of technology; both sides ‘speaking different languages’; lack of technical staff, teams and relevant skills; a noisy market and fast developing technologies.

It would seem that the industry verticals, such as estate agency, construction and legal, which Proptech solutions are designed to disrupt, are actually the slowest adopters.

Whatever side of the industry, organisations are finding their way at different speeds…

We heard from a variety of Proptech companies who shared their particular transformation journeys, the opportunities opened up by the pandemic, and the challenges they faced.

From transition to full automation of operations and delivery mechanisms to simply a supported change to flexible working.

For one purely tech-driven organisation which digitised everything they do, automation is underpinning the scalability of the organisation as it develops its tech to support its clients & suppliers. However it is still dealing with slow adoption within their client base of legal companies & local authority organisations.

Another Proptech organisation pivoted their solution to support a wider field of new client organisations. The technology supports property developers, architects & local authorities yet the drivers for adoption over the past 2 years have remained the same. People are fearful of the speed of change and technology ‘taking their jobs’. Yet with the launch of digital planning solutions and a general move towards data driven design, these solutions help minimise risk and drive efficiencies and so, they suggest, it’s time for a change in industry mindset.

One tech solution created for estate agents & conveyancers improved their onboarding process, facilitated by automation & digitisation of legal forms and contracts. Efficiencies & scale driven by digital solutions and the development of a SaaS product supports a lean, data driven business model for another.

An estate agency platform, digitally slow to change, found that necessity led to the need for a remote offer during Covid. Now they provide remote support for clients, with 350 properties across 30 boroughs – managed by an accessible digital management solution.

Despite barriers, the exponential rise in Proptech solutions across many industry verticals was evidenced by a Real Estate VC organisation which has supported 3000+ organisations, with a focus on digitisation.

Other investors in the room shared the visible rise in cleantech for the Built Environment, from external detection of legionella to decarbonisation solutions.

As another data driven start-up recognised the Pandemic has forced the accelerated transformation of their business to digital hiring mechanisms across borders, and the development of a SaaS product for decarbonisation for property owners.

However the internal battle to adopt technology solutions is ongoing…

For traditional organisations which find themselves between a rock & a hard place – the rising need & benefits of technology adoption are unavoidable yet the challenges faced are tricky – with the minefield that is data; the lack of technical hires and the necessary skills; proving short-term ROI; managing multiple pieces of industry legislation & changes in standards and squaring off their concerns that hybrid working supports the reluctance to return to the office.

Cultural heritages and legacy systems are cited by one firm of financial advisors, self-proclaimed #dinosaurs. Pre-Covid there was no remote working – but a forced mindset & cultural shift created a different work environment and accelerated the approach & acceptance of remote / hybrid working.

One tech platform for tenancy services supporting 70k brands & 100k tenancies, recognises the demand for residential agents, whilst remaining strong, is faced with challenges from both sides of this vertical – there are so many products in a very granular market.

One of the biggest challenges for Proptech is getting heard amongst noise in marketplace. One of the biggest challenge for property organisations is making sense of the noise in the marketplace. To their mind, many of the latter have no clear decision process for technology, with respective adoption challenges including internal embedded cultures & teams, legacy systems and faulty or fragmented cascading of information and lack of training.

Addressing the Challenges – Adoption: Sales to Implementation

So we know it’s a slow changing industry where the internal & external transformation of legacy systems is required, yet senior cultural change and mindset is hard to change. What can be done to convince buyers that the time is now? How can the receptiveness of conveyancers, estate agents and other verticals be increased?

The continual upgrades of trading standards, alongside technology moving at pace, means  vendors supply buyers with ever more information to absorb & understand. With so many innovative solutions on the market, understanding value is hard. How can we help customers recognise the long-term benefits to the business, and procure the right system or solution?

Just a 50% adoption across a business in 4 x months was quoted, which led to the question – How do we drive adoption through company acquisition managers?

The end user or tenant is not interested in the product or tech process – just the end results. Getting tenants to engage with technologies is a challenge faced by many landlords. How can landlords be supported to drive adoption amongst tenants & customers?

Recruitment & skills need to align with the advancements and adoption of technology. Recruiting the right people for development and implementation is both key and tricky in a high-demand world. What can we do to support organisations with the education, training and upskilling that’s needed but not necessarily afforded?

Business development & sales representatives are having a tough time in this market with slowing traction. As such, many organisations are outsourcing sales and marketing teams – which alongside automation is currently seen as scalable without the staffing issues. How can in-house sales teams be supported by a change in business strategy or approach?

There are still many questions to answer on both the traditional & tech sides – however it is by asking the right questions of clients & suppliers, and listening to and acting on the feedback, that will help with the understanding of respective pain-points and challenges, the subsequent development of new strategies and operational pivots in response, and a shift to an educational mindset from both perspectives.

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