From tentative steps to excel spreadsheets of notes on paper in the early 80’s to the unveiling of the first online marketing platforms like Trulia, Zilovand Zoopla In the early 90’s, the technology journey for real estate agents has never been easy.
And even more for llarge brokerage houses who are even more reluctant to abandon old but still functioning legacy systems and jeopardize the stability of the status quo.
EY’s latest study highlights the key limitations and challenges in adopting technologies that are hampering innovation in real estate:
Let’s examine them one by one and come up with actionable solutions to overcome these challenges and hopefully allay real estate managers’ uncertainty about the sensitive issue of technology.
Challenge #1: Other priorities are more important
I’m not the one to question real estate agents’ business goals and plans, but I am can teach them about the ultimate benefits of adopting technology using factual language.
Studies by Deilotte show that a customer relationship management system can increase:
- Lead conversion by up to +30%
- Sales by up to +30%
- Sales productivity by up to +30%
- Customer satisfaction by up to +35%
- Faster decision making by up to +38%
- Sales by up to +25%
These estimates are justified by the real-world transformational story of Pyramid Brokerage Cushman & Wakefield, one of the few whose executives have stopped using Excel in favor of a modern CRM platform.
Multiply that by the number of numerous other real estate agent success stories using technology and you have ample reason why it is now your turn to jump in.
Challenge #2: New systems are not easy to integrate
And they never will—unless you start by establishing a transformation management office led by a technology leader (a CTO) and staffed by technology engineers with deep expertise in real estate processes and integration methodologies.
Once you have this department set up, start with:
Conducting a thorough review of the old way of doing things. This step will help you locate the productivity and usability gaps in your current systems and define how new software can address them. Gathering your brokers’ feedback is greatly appreciated at this stage.
Clean up your data. Introducing your data into the new systems as is can throw off even the most carefully thought out technology adoption plan. There are tools and methods to clean the data, ranging from low-tech apps like Excel to more advanced data maintenance tools like the ones included in it Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce CRM.
Integrate legacy systems with new software. This task, the most labor- and cost-intensive step, should be orchestrated by experienced technicians who are familiar enough with real estate processes to connect disparate systems and build workflows with multiple data touchpoints. If you don’t have technical staff on-site, continue to challenge #3 below.
Perform User Acceptance Testing (UAT). Don’t delay this step until you go live. Perform frequent system tests with actual business users until you are sure everything is working properly.
Challenge #3: Lack of in-house talent
While some large brokerage firms may have technical departments, many turn to third-party technology enablement firms — and there’s nothing wrong with that. Instead, such symbiotic cooperation leads to several wins for a real estate agent, such as:
- Access to the latest tech stacks and skills
- Reduced talent training and onboarding costs
- Even more so, the ability to learn from your technology partner’s past experiences with other brokers who may have had similar challenges.
The most important criterion to look for when choosing a technology partner is whether they have real estate-specific expertise. Otherwise, the benefits listed above easily evaporate.
Challenge #4: The existing culture is not open to change
“It’s people, not technology, that limit the growth of proptech ideas.” said a Hong Kong fund manager.
As the leader of a technology company that helps real estate companies adopt technology, I can better than anyone justify the importance of gaining your employees’ trust in the new systems and their outcomes.
To do this, I usually recommend my clients to have an actionable change management plan earlier to the actual technology implementation. It should include at least these three steps:
- Let your brokers and agents know how the upcoming changes will improve the day-to-day operations of the business.
- Train your teams. Simple “end user training” is not enough. Well-documented onboarding is required to proactively communicate and promote the benefits of your new system.
- You can also appoint a change manager who will facilitate employee onboarding and ultimately add value.
The last thing on your mind when revamping your brokerage operations is this Technology adoption is a journey, not a sprint. Nothing will come quickly, and that’s perfectly normal. But once you overcome these adoption challenges, new systems and architectures will drive efficiencies and revenue growth for years to come.
Wes Snow is the co-founder and managing partner of Ascendix Technologies with 25 years of CRM consulting experience.