In the most recent entry in our ‘CRE Tech Talks’ podcast series, Scott Sidman (SVP here at Building Engines) spoke with Brandon Sedloff, the SVP of Corporate Relations at the Urban Land Institute, on the nature of creating meaningful CRE conversations.

The podcast touched on a number of great talking points (pun intended), from the impact of consumer apps like Airbnb and Uber within the CRE industry, to the venture capital community’s perspective on CRE technology, and more.

But what I found really stood out, was when Brandon mentioned how there is a great deal of ambiguity regarding how the commercial real estate industry connects with and adapts to the current trend of “technology, disruption, and change.”


Ambiguity: the biggest hurdle to technology adoption

As someone who self-identifies as an early-adopter of technology, this ambiguity doesn’t come as a total surprise. There have been more times than I can count where I’ve had people asking me what the purpose is for the latest gadget, gizmo, and app that I’m rolling around with. And quite frankly, there are times when I didn’t know how to answer. (I’m looking at you, Snapchat.)

But the problem typically isn’t that the technology isn’t useful, or that the people asking me didn’t know what it was. The problem was that there is a disconnect between the people creating technology and the people the creators intended to use it. A communication breakdown, of sorts.

Brandon experienced this breakdown, while talking with industry leaders, stating:

“..A lot of the executives I was talking to were aware that technology was fundamentally changing our industry or had the ability to do so, but they weren’t entirely clear how, or what that would mean to their business.”

The good news is that CRE technology companies, and CRE leaders have realized that they can fast-track adoption and change through putting developers and users in the same room and having a dialogue. We’re beginning to see these types of discussions taking place more and more in regional events like ULI Tech & Real Estate or Building Engines’ Client Summit, with the rise of the Conversation Conference.


But how can the CRE tech conversation be sparked outside of these events?

  1. Always challenge the status-quo

    It can be difficult to know when your current processes or philosophies are holding you back until someone or something challenges it. Put yourself in situations where this can happen! (Meet-ups, networking with peers, etc.)

  2. Think like your customer

    Keeping your eye on the prize isn’t always easy, but if you think like your customer you can keep a better focus. What problems are they experiencing? What are their wants? Needs? How do your goals align?

  3. Communicate well

    Do you know what your customer is feeling or thinking at any given time? Is there any way that you could glean more information from a series of small conversations over the year? Get on it! There is a lot of actionable data out there, so it is time to capture it!

But the effort doesn’t lie solely on the property owners, managers, or other people who would find a CRE technology of use. CRE tech companies need to rise up and better connect to market needs, and communicate product benefits more effectively. (At Building Engines, we’ve found great success with our Client Summit event, and regular outreach.)


Keeping an open mind

To finish up I’m going to leave you with a quote from French author, Andre Maurois, which I once heard during a presentation to a group looking to incorporate emerging technologies into their workflow:

“Conversation would be vastly improved by the constant use of four simple words: I do not know.”

So don’t be afraid to not know how something works, or applies to your needs. Own up to it! The moment you do, you can help jump-start a conversation where you can obtain new knowledge, and set the table for CRE tech acceptance.