This article was first published in EAToday
In the previous edition of this ‘PropTech’ series, Nathan Emerson highlighted the importance of effective implementation, linking poor staff engagement to the reason why “perfectly good products are often cancelled within months of release.” Emma Vigus, Managing Director of Sales Progression software provider mio, explains how to get it right.
What’s the end goal?
Be clear from the start what technology needs to deliver; how you’re going to measure results and how long it has to add value. Doing this effectively requires an honest appraisal of your business – do you want more listings, or do you need a better approach to sales progression to secure more exchanges; do you need new tech or a better team or both?
Don’t expect instant results – allow at least one turn of your pipeline to really evaluate impact.
Does the provider really understand your business?
As the saying goes ‘walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.’ If a PropTech provider doesn’t have a solid understanding of how your business operates their ability to add value will be hampered.
Providers should spend time with your team understanding day to day processes and they should ask as many questions about how your business operates, as you ask them about what their solution delivers. Both sides need to invest time in this process and honesty is vital.
Do you understand your team’s pain?
As a business owner or manager, it may be some years since you’ve operated, on a daily basis at the front line of your business. You should have a good strategic understanding of where you want your business to go but do you really understand what’s stopping your team achieving? Your team play a vital role in making your business a success. Listen to their concerns and understand what they really need to enhance their performance.
Get your team on side
You pay for the solution, but your team play a big role in defining success or failure. Many of us retain a childlike dislike of being forced to do something, especially if it’s something we don’t like; don’t understand or inherently mistrust. Change is inevitable but it’s far easier to drive through if at least some of your team are on side.
Firstly, you must believe in what you’re implementing, if you don’t believe in it, your team are unlikely to support it. Secondly, good tech solutions should make a difference to your business and your team so remember that your team might not be motivated by what motivates you, for example – you want more exchanges, but your team just want a simpler way of doing things.
The fit with existing processes
Technology that in the long-term makes your employees lives harder is unlikely to be fully adopted, irrespective of how appealing the impact of use on your business might be.
As businesses introduce more technology, solutions will overlap and in some cases conflict with each other. That doesn’t always mean you have to get rid of one solution in favour of another. You need to work through the process and deploy the best tools at each stage in the journey. There is unfortunately very rarely a nirvana – namely one solution that does everything brilliantly.
Whilst the industry battles with integration, a lot of PropTech solutions will require some form of re-keying. However, in some instances a few seconds spent re-keying data will reap benefits that significantly outweigh a minor inconvenience at the outset. Integration will move forward at pace in the next year. In the interim, if you believe in a new solution that requires duplication, review your processes and establish how to claw back the 10 seconds elsewhere.
Include all stakeholders
Don’t just think about the team using the technology. In larger businesses IT, Operations, HR, Marketing and Finance should all be involved. Numerous introductions of new technology fail to deliver because people who could have provided valuable insight, from HR advice on how to deliver training to IT guidance on integration, have not been consulted or have been asked at the last minute. Change might be driven by one person, but it takes a team to deliver it.
Almost every business has someone, everyone looks up to and likes. It takes a brave business owner to admit it, but it’s not always you! You should know who that person is in your business. Get them onside with any change you are trying to introduce and make sure the supplier recognises that individual as a key stakeholder, including them in the development of training plans, account reviews and feedback meetings.
Even in a small business, getting the communication right surrounding the introduction of new technology, or any big change, is really important.
A good prop-tech provider should support you with the messaging but the initial communication introducing the new solution should come from you, as the business owner or manager, as that demonstrates belief in the product. Remember to put yourself in your team’s shoes. Think about what concerns they will have about the change and proactively address them.
Change does not happen overnight. This should be recognised in the PropTech provider’s approach to training and ongoing communication. Regular review meetings between you and the provider are crucial and communication with your team should be relevant and frequent to ensure that engagement doesn’t diminish after the initial launch.
Always ask a new provider, how they approach training. How is training delivered? Is it a one-off session or do they provide drop-in clinics? Face to face or online? What learning resources can they provide access to on-line etc.
You know your team, so think about what training style will work for them and share that understanding with the provider. Reflect on what has worked and not worked in the past and share insight you have on who the supporters and detractors are likely to be.
Total and immediate acceptance of change is unheard of. Be realistic and remember that one-off training rarely works. The ideal is bite size sessions delivered in a variety of ways over several months with the training being informed by the insight gained from your users as they get to grips with the new solution.
On occasion, a firm hand will be needed to drive adoption but there’s more sophisticated ways of applying that firm hand than saying ‘you must do.’ Think about the carrot and stick analogy and use the carrot before the stick by, for example, incentivising regular use of new software.
Many early-stage PropTech providers invest heavily in product development and sales teams. It’s an understandable strategy but what happens when your team needs urgent help with a query? They will quickly disengage if that help isn’t available. When evaluating a new provider, always ask about the provision of on-going support.
It takes time
Athletes invest months of hard work to make an incremental change to their performance. Implementing new Prop-Tech is similar. Positive change requires continuous long-term investment in every element of your business. If you are repeatedly introducing new solutions and then switching them off after a month, it won’t always be because it was a bad solution.