Q&A: Making the case for new technology
Introducing new technology to an established operation can be tricky. Professionals may be reluctant to change or distrusting of new tools. Breaking through these barriers is a challenge, but it's one SuiteSpot is eager to help multifamily owners and operator overcome in order to unlock the advantages of its mobile property operations apps and software.
Here to discuss the challenges of adopting new tools, and how to unlock full value from a technology investment is SuiteSpot CEO Elik Jaeger and Business Analyst Adam Chiarotto.
Do you see hesitation to adopt new technology in property management?
Adam: Sometimes, sure. In every industry, you're always going to have employees who may not be as tech-savvy as others or, in the case of property management, ones who are overwhelmed with the idea of trading their notepads and walkie-talkies for a mobile device. That's always something you need to consider in both the design stage and when it's being brought into a company.
How does technology design help ease that reluctance?
Elik: Technology is always easier to adopt when it mimics and enhances existing processes. For example, unit inspectors are used to filling out a variety of forms using their own categories and terminology. Our mobile inspection apps replicate all that, but instead of making users sorting through a stack of papers and keep track of written notes, it enables users to do that all from customized templates in the mobile device. Property inspectors are then used to bringing all that information back to their office to fill out their reports, so we designed our apps to let them do that electronically. So it's all the same things they're used to doing anyway, using the same terms and language they're used to, but faster, easier, and less prone to human error.
Adam: At the end of the day, having technology that uses familiar processes and language helps with onboarding. On the other hand, if you give them a tool and it starts with a blank page and makes them search for the items they need to add, that's going to hurt adoption because it will cause frustration.
Elik: For example, we had a customer who preferred to use the term "washbasins" instead of "sinks" and they couldn't find it in their mobile inspection checklist. Once they customized it to their way of doing things, it became a lot easier to use. And that's why the design of products like SuiteSpot is so important – it's about giving professionals something familiar that helps them do their job that much better.
What about those who trust pen and paper files over the 'cloud'?
Adam: We hear that a lot. There are people who are concerned that they won't be able to find their documents if they upload them into the cloud, or that their records could one disappear. In those situations, it usually takes them trying the system out a few times before they start seeing that they can not only trust their information to the cloud, but that doing things digitally is a more secure and streamlined way of managing your documents than what they've been used to.
And there's the accessibility aspect as well...
Elik: Exactly. Often times, the people who are reluctant to use cloud simply don't realize how much easier it makes their jobs. So when they begin to use our mobile applications to inspect units, issue work orders, or generally track the progress of unit turnovers, they quickly begin to appreciate how easily they can access their records anytime from anywhere and the value of being able to search them easier by property, timeline or other keywords. More importantly, though, they realize very quickly that their documents are secure.
How do you keep employees engaged in using new technology and not slip back into their old methods?
Adam: Ideally, the way that it works is that they start to use it and they like it. That's been our experience, anyways. Once people start to use SuiteSpot's mobile property apps, more often than not they say, "This makes my life easier so I'm going to keep doing it." Even if it only makes their lives marginally easier, that keeps them engaged.
Elik: You can't force people to use technology they don't want to use. You can try, but they are either going to get frustrated, or you aren't going to get full value from that new technology over the long term. That's why it's important to go through that onboarding process, get employee engaged, and show them the benefits right from the start.
What about professionals who feel as though they are being 'tracked' and monitored by mobile technology?
Adam: That's a legitimate concern. SuiteSpot software can feed a lot of critical data back to the office, which can be used to track a project's progress, perform valuable analytics, or gather key stats over a large number of portfolios. That kind of monitoring helps a company tremendously, but the employees carrying around these phones can feel as though they're being 'babysat' on the job when that really isn't the case.
Elik: If anything, employees are gaining the ability to do their jobs better and with less constant oversight. I remember one client who was really against using SuiteSpot because they didn't want to be micro-managed or have 'Big Brother' watching over them all the time. Then they started using it and realized that what the app actually enabled them to know exactly what they needed to do and how to do it, so they were always informed and on track. They didn't fear getting in trouble because they had everything they needed to do their job properly right there on their device.
Even if you get employees on board, how do you get decision-makers to invest in new technology?
Adam: There needs to be a strong business case. What we like to tell multifamily operators is that while this app isn't going to make you money, it will save the company a lot in terms of time and labor that translate to large operational savings.
We actually conducted our own study with data collected from over 50,000 turnover projects which showed that jobs, where purchase orders weren't generated until after the resident moved out, had 60% more delays than other projects. So we know giving customers the ability to create and send purchase and work orders from our app will save money, but the trick is making the business case to our multifamily owners and operators. That's why we also let potential customers plug in their own numbers and values to see what kind of savings they'll unlock.
Elik: With a lot of technology, including ours, it really is more about the money you save rather than the money you'll make. For example, SuiteSpot is designed to streamline and perfect that critical planning phase of a unit turnover which, if done inefficiently, can leave money on the table. It's also designed to help property inspectors do more in less time. And when you can go from one person managing five properties to giving that person the ability to manage thousands of units at the same time, you're saving money.
Adam: Ultimately, a big part of convincing company leaders to invest in technology is making the case that it's going to generate savings the moment you put in their employees' hands.
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