Improving your PropTech Journey: First edition

11 July 2022

 

Rishi Banerjee, Group Communications & Marketing Director at the Locale Group, chaired our first webinar. He shares his initial takeaways from the session

 

Website images (2)At Locale, we are driven by innovation. It’s in our DNA and we are constantly striving to share this with our clients and partners.

It’s also why we decided to launch ASPIRE – a series of webinars to bring to light some of the most pertinent themes and topics around real estate and tech. And, I was thrilled to chair the first session with four formidable women in real estate sharing their thoughts on improving the PropTech journey: Gemma Armsden, Project and Integration Manager at Warwick Estates, Susan Freeman, Partner at Mishcon de Reya, Harri John, Head of Digital Advisory at CBRE and Nikki Yates, Head of Occupier Services at MAPP.

We covered a number of key topics and so I have decided to cover some of them today and some early next week, so do keep your eye out as you won’t want to miss out! If you missed out on watching this session but would like to hear more about out forthcoming events, please e-mail marketing@locale.co.uk and we will make sure you hear about them.

The relationship between tech and real estate

The session kicked off with understanding the current climate between tech and real estate. Recognising that real estate has the reputation of being a dinosaur, Susan made the very pertinent point that tech or PropTech has always been side lined and, in many conferences including MIPIM, PropTech was segregated and needed to be found in some obscure location of the exhibition. Now and especially in the aftermath of the pandemic, there has been a real culture shift and CTOs are being taken seriously and the sector is appreciating the need to move on from very manual processes and mindset and there’s no going back with investment in tech 2021 up to £1.6bn, quadrupling since 2020.

The remainder of panel all agreed that the occupier world has also moved on – tech is a must have – and is taking a central position in the agenda when talking about strategies. However, it was also noted that there is still a difference between mature and newer clients. Newer clients lack ownership and accountability for the business and outcomes from the technology. Mature companies are starting to bring these functions into their various departments, have an understanding of the outcomes they want to achieve, then work backwards regarding how tech can assist.

Identifying the right digital solution

Harri led the discussion by stating that it’s vital to understand the value of tech and taking a strategic approach by asking some simple, yet, crucial questions: What is the problem that needs solving? Why are we adopting this tech? Everybody agreed that tech deployment isn’t just about going after the “shiny new tech” but understanding the value and metrics beyond financial return.

I also dug deeper into how the decision making is made. Is the process disjointed? Gemma and Harri both agreed that the sector does work in siloes, however, a top-down strategy combined with a bottom-up understanding was the secret to success when it came to both identifying and implementing the right tech solution.

Choosing a tech partner

Partnerships are created on mutual understanding and collaboration and Gemma led here by stating that choosing a partner hinges on the needs and requirements of a building or portfolio. Demonstrating the ability to collaborate, listen, offer guidance and evolve technology is crucial and also affects long-term retention too.

Harri also agreed and added that the people involved throughout the lifecycle of real estate and tech need to communicate constantly and understand all aspects of a project given clients expectations can be high.     

Onboarding

We know that many building teams and developers have been tripped up when it comes to the onboarding of technology. My next question was focussed on how we can improve this. Given this is a crucial focus for Gemma, it was natural that we came to her and her key takeaway was education and managing expectations for clients. She was firm in her belief that the buy-in to tech had to be early and this once again could only be successful through clear communication and constant collaboration with every stakeholder that has a touchpoint with that building.

Ensuring longevity and sustainability of tech in real estate

Throughout the course of the discussion the panel reinforced the need for tech and building requirements to complement one another. Gemma and Nikki very much honed in on the need for education and training for building teams especially with a relatively high staff turnover in this particular sector of real estate. It was also emphasised that training needed to be hands-on and in regular intervals and not just a video when first adopting a new solution. It was also pointed out that it’s also those teams that have to be encouraged to share that knowledge both within teams and for occupiers.

On the other hand, while accepting training was crucial, Harri looked at this theme from a slightly different angle suggesting it was ultimately the value proposition that would ensure tech was sustainably implemented. Susan also raised the point that the sector is generally resistant to change and needed to be open to experimenting whilst also considering the cost implications.

Nikki summed it up clearly that long-term success depended on ensuring the solution worked for everybody, added value and created efficiencies all underpinned by the support of both building teams and occupiers.  

Gemma’s point about ensuring it’s not just about facilities management but about community creation really resonated with the panel. Knowing how people communicated and survived through lockdowns, she felt that tech needed to consider the commercial and green spaces and amenities such as gyms.  

Harri quite rightly pointed out why it’s also crucial to understand the end-user and better understand the way in which they engage and interact with a building. Her persona studies were enlightening showcasing the need to focus on the types of people in a space rather than just groups of occupiers. This could be dependent on whether they are introverts or extroverts but a space can cater around them and tech can integrate accordingly.

Keep your eyes peeled for more takeaways from this session next week. If you missed out on watching this session but would like to hear more about out forthcoming events, please e-mail marketing@locale.co.uk and we will make sure you hear about them.

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