The Coronavirus Pandemic has literally turned the entire world upside down and caused the major economies of the entire world to slow to a crawl. Certainly not good news. As we all work through this crisis we also need to find the positive and embrace the ideas and solutions we have all had to figure out as we adapt both at home and with work. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.
One silver lining to all of this – it just may be the wake-up call the real estate and construction industry needed to think differently and to accelerate the modernization of our processes and to more aggressively leverage technology to augment our workforce and services.
There are distinct opportunities that every company should embrace and immediately adopt:
Resiliency in the cloud – Many in our industry have yet to completely migrate workflows, tools and communication to the cloud. The complications of not being fully in the cloud became immediately apparent for many when, almost overnight, firms found it necessary to have their workforce work remotely. In most instances this became a function of lost production but in more severe situations the teams couldn’t access their files, tools and project information. Besides the cost effectiveness compared to the dedicated server or on-site infrastructure, the critical advantage cloud-based solutions played in the immediate switch to remote arrangements was flexibility. Firms have started to think about “Business Continuity” and critical to that is access to your work whenever and wherever is necessary. Besides, it just makes practical sense.
Effective remote meeting environments – Typically, we think about construction as the craft workforce on site doing the actual physical assembly of the project. What that ignores is the tens of thousands of people-hours spent by team members planning, designing, budgeting and strategizing the project before it even breaks ground. The common venue for those meetings was the physical conference room with drawings, notebooks, and renderings pinned to the wall and the all-mighty whiteboard. Our talent has now had to adapt to hosting and leading these meetings through video conference solutions. The good thing is the video conference technology has advanced to provide a more stable connection to see and hear one another reliably. The current challenge is how do we package all of those disparate forms of information into a format and platform that is easily presented and consumed by the receiving audience. This is critical to ensure the remote version of the in-person group planning experience is equally if not more effective.
Digitization of workflows to increase talent efficiency – The real estate and construction industry continues to operate at a people deficit in the face of growing needs in the built environment. Our people are also suffering from having to do their work the old way in the new modern age which is why everyone has come to recognize the industry as “antiquated”. Now more than ever we need to digitize our best practices and leverage methods from other industries to turn the current state of inefficiency into a far more streamlined integration of digitized workflows. Not only will we free our talent up to do what humans do best – thinking, planning, relationship building, selling, but we will be effectively building the pipe network in which our data can flow and be useful in countless, forward-looking ways to guide and optimize the outcome on future projects.
Data driven analytics and decision making – There has been a greater appreciation for the need and use of data in the industry over the last 3 years. The challenge really is that no matter what great application of the data you can think of, the underlying data and the ability to access it is not in a place or format to use. It still takes significant resource time to find, retrieve and clean the data to make it useful, which often times makes it cost or time prohibitive. What the fight against COVID has taught us is that when you do have data and can properly organize it to guide your actions, it is pretty incredible how much better your outcomes can be. Several countries were able to significantly mitigate the expansion of the virus through the use of data and their ability to clearly see trends, hotspots and even trace past events to identify potential scenarios. Everyone should learn from our COVID experience that data and the infrastructure to generate and organize the data properly is a yet-to-be harnessed resource that can save everyone immense amounts of capital, mitigate massive levels of risk and can enhance the returns on investment for all stakeholders in our industry.
While revenues are down across the board for the industry, this is still the time to spend money on technology solutions that save manhours and positively impact the bottom line through increased volume, reduced risk and margin enhancements. Technology will save your money in the long run. The entire real estate, design and construction industry will benefit immensely if we take full advantage of the lessons we can learn from this current global pandemic. It’s not the industry that needs to act, it is every firm of every size that is in the industry that needs to take action and do it quickly. You don’t want to be the one who doesn’t and ultimately gets left behind.