Residential owners should assess their technology strategy and its fitness for purpose
The effective deployment of a well-considered technology strategy is an important element in optimising operational efficiency, reducing costs and maximising revenue. This article explains the steps that residential operators can follow in assessing their technology maturity, and selecting and implementing new products to further improve performance.
Typical symptoms and root causes
As service providers the global real estate industry, RealFoundations consultants frequently encounter companies seeking to solve challenges related to:
- The use of disparate, disconnected systems
- Siloed data sets that hinder reporting and decision making
- Manual workarounds that address issues within and between systems
- Prevalence of Microsoft Excel as a “system of record”
- Widespread use of personal and shared drives
- High volumes of internal email
These typically stem from one or more of the following:
- Lack of an overarching technology vision or strategy
- Unwillingness or inability to invest in “enterprise grade” technology, particularly in the early years of an organisation’s operations
- Outgrowing previously adequate technology
- Poor implementation and/or maintenance of applications, particularly Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems
- Inadequate adoption of specialist software (global real estate has traditionally been run on spreadsheets)
- Failure to keep up with new technologies and ways of working (notably cloud-based systems and collaboration software)
Each business is different, and it’s probably fair to say that no organisation perfects everything.
Additionally, real estate is a relatively immature sector from a specialist technology standpoint, in comparison to many other industries and investible asset classes. It is important to prioritise areas with the biggest positive impact, while ensuring that no significant risks remain elsewhere.
Clients should think holistically and consider the overall business operating platform and application architecture, before considering specific technological solutions
Clients often believe they need to resolve a specific problem, but on closer inspection that problem frequently requires a wider perspective to address it adequately. Clients should think holistically and consider the overall business operating platform and application architecture, before considering specific technological solutions.
It’s also important to look beyond today to the future. Solutions that work for today’s business might not be sufficiently scalable, while leading software suppliers are constantly evolving their offerings from both a technological and functional perspective.
Finally, not everything has to be to be provisioned in-house: external partners can offer systems as part of managed services offerings.
A technology stack is a series of discrete technologies that interoperate.
When considering a technology stack, it can be difficult to foresee the degree to which it supports current and future operations and how it can drive better efficiencies. RealFoundations uses a number of artefacts to describe an organisation’s operating model, and to see the critical functions of the organisation:
- Work Map: A depiction (that, at a high level, fits on a single page of paper) of the work being performed by or for an organisation, which provides much better clarity than a traditional organisation chart
- Sourcing Map: Describing who performs that work, be they internal groups or external partners
- Technology Map: A functionally-aligned view of all applications being used by the organisation and relevant third parties
Collectively, these models can readily depict relative levels of health and pain across the current business, and then form a basis to explore the future possible options.
Improvement road map
Having identified issues to address, solutions can be developed to each as distinct but linked workstreams that can be implemented as individual projects. Which of these get retained for deployment, and in which order, depends on factors such as business urgency, direct and indirect costs, benefits and resource availability to deliver.
Solution selection principles
In many cases, improvement actions will include the selection and implementation of one or more technology components. Use case-based requirements to form the core of an RFP (Request for Proposal) to software vendors, and a level playing field for software demonstrations.
When assessing options, we consider four dimensions of “fit” for any application suite:
- Functional fit: Where there is typically the most focus
- Economic fit: Solutions need to be affordable (but consider whole-life costs – implementation and support as well as the headline licence cost – in addition to the business benefits that they can drive, which can be a multiple of the costs incurred)
- Technology fit: Architecturally, the solution needs to fit with your wider application stack
- Vendor fit: It is important to select a software supplier with whom you can partner over many years; perfectly adequate software is frequently replaced due to a breakdown in the client-vendor relationship
Real estate technology projects take time, cost money and can cause considerable upheaval
Implementation and adoption
Real estate technology projects take time, cost money and can cause considerable upheaval. They should only be started with clear objectives in mind, as well as strong senior management sponsorship.
The project team will make the difference between success and an expensive failure. Most real estate organisations do not have sufficient in-house business and/or IT resource availability, or indeed the specific capabilities (system implementation skills are quite different from those required to manage a live system) to successfully configure and implement a new solution that supports existing business operations.
While software suppliers can typically provide their own implementation teams, the most successful deployments are often the result of a partnership between the client organisation, the software supplier and an independent implementation partner with detailed knowledge of both the software solution and business operations.
This article offers high-level guidance on assessing the real estate technology stack, identifying and prioritising improvement initiatives and successfully implementing them.
All residential owners should actively assess their technology strategy and its fitness for purpose: for today and the future. Independent real-estate technology experts can offer an external perspective on solutions that may support their enterprise strategy.