For those of you who read our previous blog post “Why Real Estate Players Are Going Digital and You Should Too”, you are probably already aware of why we believe it is essential for companies to increase their digital presence and invest in digital tools in order to stay competitive in today’s rapidly evolving markets. And if you haven’t had the chance yet to familiarise yourself with the topic but are interested in doing so, we encourage you to read more about it here.
You may also remember us saying that despite the digitalisation process being of huge importance, it can be quite challenging and should definitely not be rushed into. Clearly, the majority of businesses, regardless of whether a multinational corporation or a small start-up company, do not always dispose of the necessary skills and resources to develop their digital tools in-house. For those businesses, choosing the right IT partner that fits their specific needs is the key to a successful digitalisation. This article aims to provide you with some guidance on what factors we strongly believe you should pay attention to when making such a crucial decision.
Before getting started, it is important to note that there are both internal and external factors that a company needs to take into consideration when digitalising its business. We are convinced that before looking at external variables, i.e. the various technology firms that are at your disposal, you should start with an in-depth internal analysis.
To begin with, and we cannot stress this enough, it is vital to always identify what problems your company is currently facing.
What are obvious issues and bottlenecks that are negatively impacting the company? These issues can range across various areas of your business and may include inefficient workflows, unhappy customers, stressed-out employees, lost documents, lack of communication, and so forth.
Having identified the most obvious drawbacks, you should then try and dig a little deeper. Are there any potential hidden costs or inefficiencies which you may not be aware of? For example, break down your overall budget across all departments and see if there is any disproportionate spending that you had not noticed before.
Be aware that some challenges may seem “small” and “less important” at first glance, though quite often it is those small challenges that can add up and have a major impact on your business.
Next, you should spend some time contemplating which of those problems can be solved using the right technological tool(s). While it is true that, to a large extent, this is the job of the IT provider you reach out to, you should at least have some idea about the areas of your business that could benefit from the digital changeover. This will be a good starting point for the IT provider when analysing your business, and at the same time it gives you a foundation on which you can lean on when challenging your ideas with potential technological partners. Most importantly, have an idea of what you’re looking for to avoid being sold a shiny tool that you might not need.
The next logical step is to review your company’s budget. How much money can you afford (and wish) to spend on digitalising your business? This is of course a decision every company has to make on their own, but there are a couple of things you should be aware of.
While we would argue that it cannot be too expensive to commit to digitalisation, keep in mind the various benefits the right digital tool may bring to your business. Investing in a quality solution can go a long way, from more efficient processes and happy employees to satisfied customers and so much more. In the long run, these benefits may well (and definitely should) outweigh the initial costs.
That being said, you need to know where you’re headed with your budget and have an idea of what your business needs. Avoid overspending on some shiny toys you do not really need, but at the same time recognise that high-quality products are rarely the cheapest and that investing in the future of your company does require some financial commitment.
Setting up a strategy
Finally, you need to combine your results from step 1 and 2 to set up a clear strategy. In summary, this should include the following:
- What issues are you trying to solve?
- What is the budget you can afford to spend?
- What is the timeline over which you aim to implement this solution?
Once you have set up your strategy, it is time to find an IT partner that fits your specific needs. There are numerous qualities you need to examine here.
Communication is one of the key pillars when it comes to a well functioning business relationship. First of all, the responsiveness of your solution provider is essential. Are they quick to respond to your messages and demands? Are they communicating clearly? These are qualities that, in most cases, already stand out during the early stages of discussion, before entering into any agreement.
In addition, and this is crucial, the early communication phase should point out whether your IT provider clearly understands the specific challenges of your business that you are trying to solve. If they are not able to specifically address your problems when presenting their solution, chances are that you will be wasting your time and money on a tool that is too generic for your particular use-case.
Finally, a good IT provider should also be able and willing to challenge your ideas and not just blindly follow them. This does not imply they should ignore your demands or are incapable of providing a solution tailored to your needs. It simply means that they are supposed to use their expertise and experience to thoroughly investigate your specific situation, and challenge their findings with the results of your own analysis.
Expertise & product
Obviously, the IT provider you choose should have good expertise of the product they are selling and the industry they compete in, in general.
To start with, you should always reflect on whether the technology and product they are selling actually fits your needs. A company may use the latest technologies and offer a high-quality product, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the right choice for your business. Always ask yourself how this product will actually impact your business.
Furthermore, especially when the company is still quite new to the market, it is important to look at their team. Do the individual team members have the necessary skills and experiences in the field? A young company may not be able to provide an extensive track record yet, but the founders’ and team members’ background and work ethic should give you the necessary confidence to trust them.
Additionally, make sure that the partner you choose offers an adequate product onboarding program, and potentially on-going training sessions (depending on the complexity of the product). Adopting a new technological solution can be challenging for you and your team, and it is essential that you are given adequate guidance to make this onboarding and transition process as smooth and easy as possible.
Last but not least, if available, have a look at your IT provider’s client testimonials and past projects they worked on. This will give you at least some idea about the quality of the work they provide.
Price & transparency
As already mentioned in the budget considerations, price plays a key role when choosing a new digital solution. In addition to figuring out how much you are willing to spend, you need to verify whether this aligns with your IT partner’s offer. Make sure that they are fully transparent about their price and any potential future costs. The last thing you want is to pay a “fixed” amount only to find out later on that there are a lot of hidden costs associated with the use of their product.
Keep in mind, however, that the best solutions are rarely the cheapest, and vice versa.
To sum up, it is clear that choosing the right IT partner does require a substantial amount of research and commitment. Again, start with the problem: Identify the challenges your business is facing and analyse which of those challenges could be solved using the right solution. Then, define your budget and set up a clear strategy. Once your strategy is set up, you can then reach out to different technology providers, keeping in mind that the main factors to consider before making a decision are communication, expertise, product, price and transparency. All that being said, we hope we’ve been able to give you some practical guidance regarding the selection of an IT partner.
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