Streamlining Adoption for CRE Tech
Properly introducing new technology to your organization can improve buy-in, remove obstacles to implementation, and, ultimately, benefit the bottom line.
When deploying technology in a real estate business, the first question is always, “Why are we doing this?” One of the best answers is to keep the organization profitable, productive, and competitive. But it's also important to realize adoption is a two-way street - it will take everyone's acceptance to be successful, including buy-in from managing brokers, principals, agents, and back-office staff.
According to Steve Weikal, CRE tech lead at the Real Estate Innovation Lab at the MIT Center for Real Estate, more than 3,200 startups focus on commercial real estate technology. A well-considered plan is key to determine which technology platforms can be the most beneficial to your business.
Here are four best practices for determining and implementing new technology into your CRE business to help boost success:
- Conduct an analysis - with leadership, agents, and back-office personnel - to address what challenges and hurdles they encounter with their current daily routines and how the company's current technologies cause difficulties and impediments to productivity.
- Clear and concise communication is paramount to success. Show how adoption can address specific pain points. Also, understand that accountability starts at the top, meaning principals must lead by example and embrace the new platform.
- Involving all stakeholders is important to create pride, accountability, and enthusiasm. Principals should celebrate ambassadors and champions as early adopters, who can then educate and nurture colleagues.
- Set realistic expectations on implementation. Listen to and address concerns. Understanding resistance can allow leadership to be proactive in their adoption strategy while maintaining a strong commitment and focus to moving forward with implementation.
An adoption plan for new technology buy-in will vary depending on source of the initial suggestion. If the idea for the technology came from the front line, acceptance from the back-office support staff can be challenging.
Adoption is a two-way street; it will take everyone's acceptance to be successful, including buy-in from managing brokers, principals, agents, and back-office staff.
Back-office managers for a CRE brokerage firm have likely developed “their way” of handling company processes and procedures. Often, change can be viewed as an existential threat. Make sure to address this directly; let them know the technology is aimed at helping them do more, not replacing them. Also, encourage ownership of implementation by letting them know it won't work without them.
So, how can you get buy-in from your back office if they resist? Here are a few additional approaches:
Make them the heroes. The back-office staff often get the blame for everything. For example, if an agent can't figure out why their commission hasn't come in or why an invoice has not gone out, the back office seems to take the heat. Encourage them to see the technology as a tool that will ultimately make them a star within the organization.
Hype efficiency. Back-office personnel typically think more analytically than salespeople. Appeal to the productivity and time savings from the new technology. Talk to back-office executives about improved key performance indicators and metrics.
Ask for a team effort. Appeal to loyalty and the company's best interest, particularly if an individual is considering retirement in the next few years. Focus on how implementing the new platform allows the company to stay competitive and become more profitable.
On the other hand, if the initial suggestion for new technology originated from the back office, experience shows adoption tends to go more smoothly. After all, they are actually going to be implementing and using the platform.
While back-office staff are typically analytical, managing brokers, principles, and agents are more likely to have short attention spans and want to see snapshots of data in dashboards instead of detailed reports.
It's no longer a matter of being an early adopter; if you aren't evaluating and embracing new technologies available to our industry, you are losing business and talent to your competitors.
In championing new technology to ownership, back-office executives should focus on removing pain points for managing brokers, principals, and agents. From the front-office staff, here are some common questions managing partners have in adopting new technology:
Can the technology provide me access to real-time reports? Most managing brokers don't have the tools in place to quickly get a true picture of their business. For many, making a request for a standard receivables report, a report on booked future income report, or a future revenue projection report can easily take several days, if not longer.
Will the technology improve transparency with our agents? Agents want to be fully aware about commissions. Reducing grievances can reduce tension with your producing agents and allow more time for agents, managing brokers, and back-office staff to focus on revenue production.
What are the costs and the potential payback of the technology? Although new technologies do have costs associated with them, gains in back-office productivity can ultimately keep cost down. In a growing economy, new technology can keep expenses in check as organizations grow. While in a downturn or normal corporate attrition with individuals retiring, technology may give companies the ability to trim personnel without a loss in productivity or transparency.
Can the platform help the company budget and forecast more effectively? Technology can provide insight on how and where they derive their clients and their income.
Are any of our competitors using the platform? If so, evaluating and adopting new technologies are crucial in attracting top talent and producers.
It's no longer a matter of being an early adopter; if you aren't evaluating and embracing new technologies available to our industry, you are losing business and talent to your competitors. Learning to successfully implement technologies is key, because, when done effectively, it means more profits.
For more on technology and disruption, check out previous coverage in CIRE, titled "Stability Through Tech Disruption."