Big data, big deals, big markets…our business is full of imposing things. They obviously deserve some attention, but I’m here to tell you that the big things are not the most important.
Being on top of things in the tech world can give you an edge in pretty much any industry, and CRE is no exception.
At Onyx, we have recently moved to a new floor in our building and with that, we have added some great changes I’d like to tell you about.
Is CRE Ripe for Disruption? What You Need to Know I’ve always been a big fan of disruption. When I started my own company in 1990 focusing on commercial real estate brokerage and advisory services, I was trying to disrupt at that point already. At the time, the only way I was able to disrupt was by partnering with CoStar; I was the second person in New Jersey to buy it. The tools and resources that I was now armed with would allow me to differentiate myself in the market.
CoStar took the research department out of the big firms and the complexity needed to create that on your own, whereby a small start up like myself could have the same market information as large companies. It gave me the opportunity to get into a business and provide data and services where I otherwise would have been average.
At that point it wasn’t a disruption per se, but it was really a start and the availability of using real estate technology in a different way in order to make our business and also the availability of our business to morph into something greater and move into different sectors.
In the early stages of my career, accounting systems all tried their very best to truly be an all inclusive product, but in reality, they only focused on accounting. Despite being disrupters in their own right, this made it very difficult to take the information and to use it effectively - especially when you compare it to the way we use big data, data mining and measuring now. The entire process was very much in the dark ages, but so was our industry! This doesn’t mean their products weren’t good, doing their best or that they weren’t efficient, but more so that we can do so much more today. In fact, they were pioneers in this field and they deserve kudos for their efforts to disrupt an industry that historically is quite antiquated.
Will Commercial Real Estate be Disrupted?
Absolutely! Today, there are millions and millions of dollars being poured into real estate technology investing like never before! Obviously we have a tech market surge in all markets, not just real estate. Yet, when you consider the size of the real estate industry and the impact that it has on our economy as a whole, it’s nice to see a bit of growth and disruption.
When you finally see the smart money coming into the real estate technology marketplace and they actually understand that these products are more than just fads and will literally change efficiency, ability to communicate with and reach clients/prospects, and more, I get really excited.
How Will This Disruption Take Place?
It’s technology that will disrupt this industry. It will disrupt in such a way that if you don’t get on the train of where this is going, it would be safe to say that you’ll end up disrupting yourself.
If I’m a person that took my entire operation and retooled it to what it should be and my competitor didn’t, I’m leading the curve. I would now have a disruption on how to sell in a much more efficient manner to service our clients and to have the ability to run my organization in a way that will be more efficient. This would also allow you to deliver a service level that you weren’t able to before.
Technologies in the real estate space serve as disruptions, because while I’m only in certain markets to start - since real estate is the most local business on the planet when it comes to deploying resources - with technologies, I am able to scale into different markets and become a competitor in areas where I wasn’t. There are so many more reasons why our industry is ready for disruption. This is just the tipping point.
Let’s hear your thoughts on the commercial real estate industry and whether or not it’s ready for the disruptions that are coming its way. Connect with me today on Twitter.
Since I began writing this blog, my primary focus has been the intersection between real estate and technology, with a little bit of my personal philosophies sprinkled in. For this entry, I would like to take a step back and examine what all good business, not just in real estate, really hinges on: interpersonal relationships. Don’t get me wrong. Using modern technology can certainly aid in fostering better relationships between teammates and clients, but good deals were being completed long before computers, and organizations were devising systems to help team members collaborate more efficiently long before smartphones and the cloud. Getting too caught up in the latest buzzwords of the day is the easiest way to lose your perspective.
YES, modern technology is a remarkable testament to human ingenuity and it can make our lives easier if used in the right way. What bothers me, though, is that the newfound importance placed on technology is completely overblown sometimes. Last time I checked, the closest thing we had to true artificial intelligence is the robot they had playing Jeopardy. While that’s relatively impressive (is it, though?) my overall point is that no matter how advanced the technology we are using today is, it still requires people to operate it who recognize the value it offers and use it appropriately.
The true potential of a particular piece of technology or software will NEVER be realized unless its users are well in-tune not only with its functionalities and purpose, but with themselves as well. In the end, you can have the best technology in the world, but without the right work culture, you will fail miserably. For example, what use is the latest cloud-based technology to a fragmented team that is already having communication issues? Do you really think the institution of a new software program is going to make up for the rifts in communication that have already manifested themselves amongst the team?
It’s sort of the equivalent to giving your child a new bicycle after they just got into a fight at school. Shiny new solutions that don’t directly address the underlying problem are nothing but a waste. A waste of money, as well as a wasted opportunity to communicate your true feelings about the situation, instill the necessary discipline, and begin the process of righting the ship.
So, if you want to enjoy the immense benefits offered by the latest technology, the responsibility falls first on you as a leaderto make sure that you have instilled a strong sense of trust in your team members. If you fail to do this, it will result in a work environment with no shared performance goals, no joint work efforts and no mutual accountability. Does that sound like the foundation you want to build on when spending out the nose to outfit your team with the latest and greatest technology? Sounds pretty crazy if you ask me. While I will always be a proponent of the newest gadgets, I will never put that sort of style over the substance that comes from having a completely unified team.
Data entry has made up a huge part of how companies have done business since computers were invented. It also happens to be a huge time suck. What’s the quickest way to drive someone crazy, especially in an office setting? Distractions and hiccups caused by inefficient processes (like data entry). But, there is newfound hope, especially given the recent introduction of modern technological solutions. Thanks to the application programming interfaces (APIs) and virtual private networks (VPNs) offered in the present day, we are no longer bound by the simplistic, inefficient, end-all be-all data entry processes.
Let’s talk about legacy systems. In my opinion, the problem is contained within the term itself: legacy. Personally, the first thing I think of when I hear this word is outdated. But, for the sake of fairness, let’s go with a word that connotes less bias. How about rigidity? Legacy systems are old, fragmented and outdated software programs that are preventing companies from evolving. They require the same data points to be superfluously entered four or five times across the network in order to keep everything up to date. The logic is obviously flawed. As we all know, time is money, and you can’t afford to be wasting either.
If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you’ll know already that I’ve been writing ad nauseam about the increased flexibility and continuity made possible by cloud computing (SAS). I hope that you keep humoring me, because I will continue to beat this dead horse ragged due to the nugget of truth contained within. Yet, in the end (like with all forms of technology), you will need to be able to accurately distinguish what your team’s strengths and weaknesses are and how you work best together first in order to properly outfit your company with the newest gadget or software that’s going to make it more productive.
For example, when choosing between ERPs and disparate systems, you need to first determine if the uniformity offered by ERPs is a priority, or if maintaining optimum functionality for all of the different tools at your team member’s disposal is more important. ERPs can put your company and the potential for maximizing their productivity in a box, because of how much time is spent customizing all of the different functionalities in order so that they are in line with one another. In the end, there really aren’t any one-size-fits-all solutions when it comes to workplace technology. So, if you’re looking to have the best tools in place above all else, than disparate systems are more conducive to your needs, due to their flexibility.
In the end, no matter how you cut it, data entry blows. Now that we’ve acknowledged it, the next step revolves around to what degree as a manager are you going to let that have an impact your team’s productivity? The solutions are out there, the onus is now on you to research your options and determine what will realistically work best for your team. We are entering a new day and age of information gathering and data mining. The best way to achieve maximum results with data is to minimize mistakes and issues of the initial data entry process. So, think outside of the box, and get moving. You don’t want to equate a “time suck” into a “you suck.”
While there are many roles that new technology has assumed in our workplaces today, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing consequences of modern technology is how it has suddenly made everything much more quantifiable. In past blog posts, I have written at length about how technology has helped to improve workflow, collaboration and visibility amongst team members, therefore enhancing the daily operations of any business that is using these new tools effectively. Going one step further, and as a result of all of the improvement in the aforementioned areas, team members are not only able to work more productively, but their managers are also able to do their jobs much better as well. For instance, let’s use the same parameters as the ones I referenced above. Working in the cloud has ushered today’s workforce into a more collaborative, more transparent, more organized, and much more FUN work environment than has ever existed previously. Team members can all work on the same project, at the same time, using the exact same tools, but from completely different locations!!! Finally, we’re deconstructing the real estate silo effect! They have access to all of the same information, can monitor the work that their fellow teammates contribute as soon as it is completed, and can devise strategies on the best way to proceed moving forward; all as a team.
Now, this is all well and good for the members of a team, but it also benefits the managers (coaches) of these teams as well. For example, gone are the days where team members are relegated to their offices and only drudged up on the occasional basis. In the world of the cloud and collaboration, you’re able to produce and track results all the time, even when you’re not in the office. A coach (manager) can pull up the status of a project anywhere on his/her mobile phone and know in an instant how the team is doing, what kind of help the team needs, what kind of progress is being made, etc.
Now, the coach can be way more proficient in assisting his/her team because they’re equipped with the proper information that they need. This new level of visibility enables them to do that. Bill Parcells had game film, real estate operations now has game film, allowing us to see what we need to see as the coaches of the team. Because of the increased transparency technology offers us, we’re actually given the license to coach, instead of just passively “monitoring” our team members. We can effectively coach their workflow, recognize each member’s strengths and weaknesses, and adjust accordingly on the fly (because that’s where the strength of working in the cloud derives from: flexibility)!
So, thanks to technology in the cloud, we can begin to bid farewell to menial, ridiculous tasks and wastes of time. We have tools that have equipped us with the ability to drive our decision making with the aid of real data. The technology has now put the burden on us to coach more effectively.