Digital transformation is not a new concept. It has been around for many years in various forms and across multiple industries, and the property industry is no exception. The pandemic also served as a major accelerator of digital transformation initiatives, with such transformations becoming key to the survival of many businesses during the tumultuous period.
The benefits of successfully actioning a digital transformation are numerous and widely stated. It’s not just about creating efficiencies and savings costs; adopting new technologies can help to empower decision making, enhance business intelligence and enable digital collaboration in an increasingly ecosystem driven PropTech universe.
So, for any agency that’s serious about increasing operational efficiency and enhancing their customer experience, digital transformation is a mission-critical process, and its importance will only grow as customers demand to interact with businesses on their own terms – whenever, wherever and however they choose.
Yet many organisations fail to deliver on their objectives when faced with integrating technology. According to research from McKinsey, around 70% of digital transformations fail to meet their intended goals. That might seem like a scary and off-putting statistic, but those transformations that succeed can pay significant dividends to any organisation – if they are done right.
As such, here are five key guardrails that I believe are important for any organisation to consider when embarking on their digital transformation journey:
1. Focus on solving problems
It’s easy to get distracted by the lure of complex technical solutions and forget about why tech is good for business; it’s a great way of solving problems and making things better. By having a clear definition of the problem(s) your business is trying to solve, you will keep yourself and the business focused on the bigger picture. Ask yourself what are the key issues you’re trying to resolve as part of the transformation, why do they hurt the business, and how does the solution address them?
2. Measure – before, during and after
The teams that work with me know I love to work with facts and data. You only know how well a delivery went and how effective it was if you can measure it! With this in mind, I’d recommend that any business about to kick off a digital transformation programme has benchmark data to show the current status of the issues they are trying to resolve, and data to show what “good” looks like post-completion. This data should be regularly checked against as part of the digital transformation delivery and then again post-conclusion. Always look back and measure, so that you know you’re on the right track - and be prepared to use data as a tool to help you to fine tune your approach as you progress through delivery.
3. ROI, ROI, ROI
Ask yourself what the transformation will cost you. Not just financially, but in product, time, effort and people. How will you get a return on those investments and when do you expect that return to be? For example, this could be operational improvements that allow you to focus on the real value-add activity within your business. It could be the value of a new revenue line that your digital transformation enables - or a combination of both. If you can put £s in front of something, it will tell a much more compelling story.
4. Investment doesn’t end with Finance
Procuring a product or a service is only part of the story. Be willing to invest time and effort into UAT, training, and end-user adoption. Organisational change management is often the thing that makes or breaks the digital transformation of a business.
5. Transparency and agility
Finally, be willing to adapt and pivot to address the emerging needs of the business as you work through your digital transformation - and take your stakeholder group on the journey with you. It’s impossible, but often expected, to have all the answers upfront. By instilling an ethos of transparency, predictability and repeatability as part of your transformation project, you will gain stakeholder confidence and buy in, which will be a key factor of your digital transformation success.
Have you got a holistic digital transformation strategy in place?
So, there you have it, five tips to make your digital transformation a success. There are many dynamics behind the process, and you may understandably have some hesitancy surrounding digital transformation and what it means for your agency. Many businesses may be reluctant to proceed given the challenges involved, but with a holistic digital transformation strategy in place none of these challenges are insurmountable.
Ultimately, technology isn’t about changing traditional estate agency. It’s about bringing in new traditions to adapt to the evolving market. And at the end of the day, it’s the people, not technology, that makes a success out of digital transformation.
*Sarah Dearden is the UK Regional Chief Product Officer at Reapit