• Saqib Jawed, Author |

In my last post, I wrote about how PropTech can support a successful return to work following the COVID-19-related isolation we've all been living with for the past few months. This support includes managing safe access to buildings, ensuring physical distancing guidelines are followed, and maintaining hygiene—because of the primary concern we all share for public health and safety.

While we are sailing through these turbulent times, it is important to keep our eyes on the horizon. Though it's always tempting, and sometimes absolutely necessary to cut costs, this should not come at the expense of investment in technology. Put another way: the one thing we now have all experienced first-hand is technology's incredible ability to help us adapt to new ways of doing business. It may have been out of necessity in this instance, but the fact remains that embracing technology enterprise-wide can be a competitive advantage, regardless of the broader circumstances.

The risks of not moving in this direction for the Canadian real estate industry were spelled out clearly in Canada's PropTech journey: How Canadian real estate companies are faring in the digital age. Consider these highlights:

  • Canadian real estate companies are only a fifth as likely as their global counterparts to have a well-established data strategy, and a third more likely to have no data strategy at all.
  • Of the 36 percent of companies that have some kind of digital strategy in place, for only 8 percent is that strategy company-wide; the rest only have a digital strategy in certain areas.
  • Every Canadian real estate leader, who responded to our survey, said they have a specific person leading their digital transformation, and 67 percent said this is a senior employee at a C-suite level. But only 28 percent of these digital-specific leaders have a background directly in technology. Everyone else comes from real estate operations, finance, strategy, or from other industries.
  • It is significant to note that for each of the 8 percent of companies with a company-wide digital strategy, the person in charge had a clear technology background.


What these numbers tell me is that the time for organizations to integrate data analytics into every part of the real estate business is now. Acting quickly and fully embracing digitization will allow real estate companies to gain a deeper understanding of the needs and behaviours of their tenants, their customers, and their tenants' customers—and not just about health and safety. Plenty of other uses and benefits of digitization remain relevant and important, as they affect all stakeholders.

Beyond the horizon
It is not enough, however, simply to adopt technology; you have to adopt an innovation mindset. Technology is not an end but a means; innovation by its very nature has no end, just a "next."

Why now? Because COVID-19 has broken the force of inertia. There is no going back. Now is the time to re-assess and propel your digital maturity. Now is the time to increase resiliency. Now is the time to enhance your ability to adapt and be ready for whatever happens next. After all, history shows that the future favours those who innovate. Those who take smart risks, failing quickly, but learning just as quickly—if not more so. Those who don't stay down when they fall.

Canadian real estate companies have a real opportunity to become technology leaders. In my opinion, seizing that opportunity is the only way forward, the only way to a true and full recovery, the only path to the new reality.

To learn more about innovations being embraced in Real Estate, read our 5th annual Real Estate Innovations Overview report.

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