The Digitalization Jungle: Evolution or Revolution?

Posted by Matthew Burnham on 29 January 2018 in: Insider, Real Estate, innovation, robotic process automation, Robots-as-a-Service, Automation, Digitalization

It’s a digital jungle out there. And like moving through a jungle, navigating to your digital future is tricky. You start off thinking you’re headed in one direction, only to discover you’ve been turned around and are suddenly facing a completely different direction with a whole new set of challenges.

Sometimes it feels like you should have just stayed put, where the landscape was familiar.

There is a fair amount of understandable skepticism at play

Part of the problem, in my opinion, is that technology evangelists are fixated on the big, revolutionary slam dunks. The bold, dramatic innovation that catapults you into the digital future, hopefully ahead of your peers. This is all very well, and you can see that it’s exciting and dial-moving, but it’s not exactly realistic for many companies, is it?

Most of the Commercial Real Estate companies I speak to are actually better served by a middle ground approach, and many of them know this. On the one hand, they know they can’t sit still and firefight issues as they arise. But they also know it’s impractical and risky to go for the slam dunk revolutionary approach. It’s one thing if you are a startup getting going from a greenfields situation. But existing businesses have a duty to their customers, employees and shareholders to maintain a measure of level-headed risk aversion and to protect their core business. Not to mention there is a fair amount of understandable skepticism at play, thanks to IT solutions that are touted as the best thing since sliced bread failing to deliver the promised utopia.

Instead, what I find is resonating with CRE organisations is a controlled investment strategy when it comes to digitalisation and innovation. They can ring-fence areas of their business -- down to individual processes and workflows -- that can be digitalised or automated with minimal risk and disruption, and are certain to produce predicted improvements and outcomes.

You really are tarring the road as you drive along it

This approach is a great way to dip a toe in the water and get a sense of the digital business landscape. There are so many directions to take and technology approaches that are being recommended that sometimes the biggest challenge is sorting the wheat from the chaff. And then, figuring out which is the most appropriate technology direction for your business and its future.

A related point is that you might not yet be sure about what this future looks like. You really are tarring the road as you drive along it. So you need an approach that allows you to change gears as new information arrives and as you gain digital experience. The last thing you want is to commit lock, stock and barrel to a defined, unchangeable direction today.

My advice? The CRE industry needs to better articulate its business requirements of technology. But, perhaps more importantly, the proptech industry needs to get inside the heads of their customers and their businesses and focus on long-term customer relations, not short-term revenue targets. This way, even though the bulk of the market is focused on evolution rather than revolution, we will drive better, smarter technology that actually delivers what consumers want.

So while the digital jungle might seem pretty dark and untameable right now, an incremental, evolutionary approach to navigating your way through could be most effective in the long run.

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