The current pace of technological advancement brings with it both enormous opportunities and considerable challenges for the real estate industry. Many companies are investing significantly in their IT infrastructure and toolset. More often than not, projects are being undertaken with the help of external IT consultants or vendors. The risk here is that companies become dependent on the competence and goodwill of the 3rd party vendor, which is why this relationship needs to be approached carefully to ensure the success of your project.
Having been an IT consulting firm in the real estate industry for over 12 years, here are some tips we at Open Box have picked up along the way:
Choose someone with whom you can partner
It is often difficult to fully define your IT requirements upfront. That’s why you’re likely to get much better results by working with a partner who knows how to ask the right questions. They should be able to help you identify what you need in order to solve your business problem (rather than just wanting to sell you some software, or stick to the contract). Early on, you should be able to get a sense of which camp your potential partner is in – are they fixated on contracts and rules, or do they want to provide real value to your business?
Do a background check
Before committing your time and money to working with one partner, take some time to check their credentials. Do an internet search to see if you can find out what people are saying about the company and their products. Consider getting a reference from other companies who may be working with them (especially if the project you’re considering is a big and expensive one).
Select a company with real estate experience
While IT companies may seem to offer similar services, finding a partner that is able to understand your real estate business (without having to spend lots of time skilling them up on the relevant jargon and processes, etc.) makes the collaboration that much more fruitful. At Open Box, we’ve found that being able to converse with clients in their language from day 1 enables us to get up to speed quickly and deliver value in a short space of time.
Communicate clearly! Make sure there’s a common understanding of your end goal
When it comes to articulating your requirements, there is often room for ambiguity and misunderstanding. Undoubtedly, your project’s goal is the most important thing to establish and communicate to all parties, to ensure that you’re all on the same page from the word go. The clearer and more measurable your goals are, the better. Getting the details right is a lot easier if the whole team is working towards the same goals. As the project progresses, there are bound to be certain changes (regarding requirements, circumstances or stakeholders) – but this shouldn’t be an issue, as long as the focus remains fixed on the end goals.
Look for early wins
The rule of thumb is, the longer and more expensive a project is, the greater the risk of failure. That’s why it’s important to look for ways to deliver early benefits, e.g. rolling out a small but valuable piece of functionality to a group of users. Sometimes, an idea may work on paper, but falls short in practice. By rolling out small pieces of the project, you’ll be able to identify these instances and incorporate your learnings. As you receive early feedback, you can ensure that the project remains focused on adding value in line with your goals.
Involve the right people
Even more important than picking the right consultants, is involving the right people from your own organisation. While consultants bring external expertise, no one understands the intricacies of your business better than you. Internally, it’s important to involve people who know the business well, articulate clearly, and can keep focused on the project goals. What’s more, a strong leader is critical to keep everyone steered in the right direction, make timely decisions and deal with conflicts that arise between involved parties.
Measure progress and keep the lines of communication open
Healthy, functioning project teams are those who communicate frequently regarding progress as well as issues that the team may be experiencing. Silence is often a sign of suspicious activity or too many assumptions being made. That’s why it’s important to establish regular check-ins and promote open, honest communication.
At Open Box we have found that these simple insights can make all the difference to the success of an IT project. Set your projects up for success from the start, and you’ll no doubt be well on your way to realising the intended value of your IT investment.