Co-Founder and CEO of Coyote Software.
With 2020 in the rearview mirror and companies already planning for their post-pandemic re-entry into the workplace, one thing is now strikingly clear: the coronavirus pandemic has transformed, perhaps forever, the way employees utilize offices. The office of the future will see smart technology playing a role in maintaining seamless and streamlined business operations.
While most real estate professionals are eager to return to the workplace after nearly a year of mostly remote work and countless Zoom meetings, there is an expectation that employers will offer more flexible working conditions. These expectations include work arrangements that do not require long commutes to the office for five-day, 40-plus-hour workweeks.
In this new normal, employees will likely still want access to a physical office to collaborate in-person with colleagues and hold face-to-face client meetings when needed. But the outdated protocols that confine a business to one physical location – such as servers that can only be accessed in the office – will need to be amended. Remote access to company data and the ability to communicate and collaborate with team members and clients while on-the-go will be critical to the success and survival of any business.
The only way for real estate companies to thrive in this hybrid environment, operating at the intersection of people and places, is by building on smart technology that made it possible for these businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic. Examples include software for remote working, team collaboration and remote access to proprietary data and filing systems.
Catastrophe sparks holistic, lasting investments in tech.
The massive wave of tech adoption that occurred last year as a result of the pandemic was not a short-term trend. Investing in software and rolling it out across an entire organization is no easy feat – it can be costly and time-consuming. Not to mention there is a learning curve at first as users get acclimated to the software and integrate it into their daily workflows. This is especially true in real estate – an industry that typically relies heavily on handshakes and in-person meetings.
While much of the investment that employers made in software last year was done so in an effort to avoid business disruption, the convenience that these solutions provide – such as enhanced speed, security, convenience and efficiency – evoked an industry-wide appreciation for digital technology. This technology demonstrated the ability to help companies operate with more flexibility while driving business growth.
Historically, economic recessions and depressed markets served as catalysts for stronger risk mitigation practices and modernizing business practices and procedures. That was the case during the global financial crisis of 2008, and much of the same can be said about the coronavirus pandemic today.
A recent survey, conducted by global consulting firm McKinsey and Company, found that the pandemic accelerated companies’ adoption of digital technology by several years.
McKinsey and Company also suggests respondents recognize the importance of technology as a component of the business – not just a tool to achieve cost-efficiency.
Even here at Coyote Software, which was built to operate in the cloud and allow commercial real estate professionals to buy and manage assets from anywhere, we experienced our own growing pains. These included onboarding clients and new staff remotely and expanding into a new country without the ability to be physically present there.
McKinsey and Company’s survey also shows that nearly all respondents developed at least temporary solutions to meet the new demands. They expect many of these changes to last.
For real estate professionals, in particular, the global pandemic enabled companies to see the value derived from collecting and storing their data in a centralized database that analyzes and depicts the information for them. These types of solutions turn countless lines of data that may exist in an Excel spreadsheet, presentations, PDFs and emails into actionable, easy-to-digest insights that make sense to commercial real estate professionals – not just data scientists. This type of market intelligence is impossible to replicate by analyzing fragmented or siloed information using mere human intelligence.
Real estate companies seeking to bring their business into the 21st century by investing in proptech solutions should keep these four strategies top-of-mind to ensure a seamless onboarding experience for the entire company:
1. Make sure all team members, from management staff to junior associates, are aware of the cultural shift in favor of a new system about to take place.
2. Be prepared to enforce and drive the adoption and consistent use of the new software from the top down.
3. Designate ambassadors of the software from each department to really drive home the ease-of-use of the new system and to serve as advocates and evangelists for the platform.
4. Consider making “use of the new software” a factor in employee appraisals and performance reviews.
It’s important to remember that making the decision to buy software is not a magical all-encompassing solution – that’s merely the first step. From there, employers have to be prepared to make a top-down commitment to dive in and use the new system – only then can companies derive true value from the solutions they have bet on.
For those sidelined commercial real estate investors that are already using software to automate manual processes and better harness their data, it’s easier for them to identify the best investment opportunities that will yield solid returns. This added convenience and organization allows them to re-enter the market much faster and with more confidence than their competitors – particularly when it comes to investment teams looking to deploy capital in sectors hit the hardest by Covid-19 – such as retail, office and hospitality, to name a few.
Though workplaces of the future may bear some resemblance to pre-pandemic days, the new normal will call for digital-first, hybrid workplaces that allow for both in-person and remote collaboration. Companies that meet this demand will maintain a competitive edge when it comes to attracting talent, and this trend of tech adoption will accelerate deal flow now and into the future.
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Co-Founder and CEO of Coyote Software. Read Oli Farago’s full executive profile here.