The biggest hurdle for most new technologies is inertia. Firms and its employees have been very successful doing it one way. There’s an institutional muscle memory around processes, even if they aren’t optimal.
The primary reason real estate technology has been slow to pick up can be summed up with, “If it ain’t broke…”
Everett Rogers’ 1962 book, Diffusion of Innovation, is considered the seminal work in the field for a reason. It has stood the test of time. During his research, Rogers discovered five basic stages of the tech adoption process.
One of the biggest challenges most firms encounter is navigating the internal decision-making process. Who needs to buy in? What persona does each person exhibit? Where does it fit into the budgeting process?
There are generally three types of decision-making approaches to new technology:
Optional Innovation – perhaps the Head of Transformation at your company decides this is the software the firm needs.
Collective Innovation – the preferred approach, with comprehensive buy-in across the firm.
Authority Innovation – because the boss said so, that’s why.
How your firm adopts new tech will likely dictate how successfully it goes.
Typical traits for firms that are the most successful at adopting software
- Buy-in from leadership – if the boss says it’s a priority, it will be treated as such.
- Internal power users – a handful of internal teammates serve as the initial hub for all questions.
- Regular training – while your technology partner should be able to answer questions at any time, consistent training sessions in the first year (that aren’t canceled or pushed back) really goes a long way to firm-wide adoption.
- Accountability and deadlines – every real estate transaction involves deadlines, and we have all gotten accustomed to working with those. But when it comes to adoption, lack of deadlines means it gets pushed to the backburner. Create deadlines just like you would for a transaction.
Questions to ask about adoption and implementation
- What support and training will be provided to encourage adoption? Are there any hidden costs or limitations?
- How long before most of the team is successfully using it?
- How many clients renew?
- What is the biggest obstacle you’ve encountered with adoption of this technology?
- Time is money – how much effort will this require? Ask them for candor. A promise of “this will be totally painless” is probably a red flag. Real estate teams are stretched thin, adding workload needs to realistic and with a light at the end of the tunnel.
Risks and considerations about adoption
- Some skeptics may have silent reservations about technology, fearful it could replace them. But tech rarely eliminates positions that require a lot of education and skill. In his book, Zero to One, Peter Thiel says, “the most valuable companies in the future won’t ask what problems can be solved with computers alone. Instead, they’ll ask: how can computers help humans solve hard problems?” Help teammates embrace technology as an enhancement, rather than as a replacement.
- Worst of all, poorly adopted technology can actually make things worse. Some teammates start using consistently, developing new muscle memory. But others may be slow to transition. What gaps will this create?
- Lack of support from the software provider. Is their customer support team as responsive as the sales team?
- Too many implementations – simultaneous implementations can be overwhelming, it might be better to stick to one at a time. And even some well-intentioned firms end up implementing too many separate technologies and spend all their time managing them, instead of benefiting them (tail wags the dog).
Adopting new technology or software can be a bit like starting your own business. It takes extra work at the beginning, but if you think of it as an investment you will see the dividends in the subsequent years.
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