Today there is a technology solution for everything. Need to pay your bills? There’s an app for that. A dog walker? Rover and Wag have you covered. There are apps for tracking fitness activity, dating, commuting and transit, flight trackers, and even home security. And that’s just scraping the surface.  

Whether it’s your personal or professional life, the amount of technology available today is remarkable. However, it is also overwhelming to industries that are notoriously slow to adopt technology, like commercial real estate. The challenge CRE faces today isn’t finding technology to help solve problems, it’s getting teams to effectively use the technology available to them.  

The common industry response has been to publish user adoption guides, maybe you have even seen one. They are usually titled something like “A Guide to Improve Technology User Adoption.” We have even written one ourselves. They all sing the same tune – deploy strategically, gamify the implementation process, structure and enforce training programs. But are these tips really the magic button to solving the ongoing challenge of user adoption? Although they may be helpful to some teams, they aren’t a viable solution as we look to the future of CRE technology. The real issue lies within technology companies, their software developers, and the technology design and user experience it provides.  

In fact, Forbes found that in working with large Fortune 500 companies, poor user interface design and a confusing user experience are part of the problem. In a study they conducted they found that only 8.4% of software errors are system-related and an astonishing 91.6% of errors are related to the user, software design, or process.  

The fix? To put it simply, technology companies must start putting design at the forefront of their strategy. This may seem obvious, but many times we see system updates, bug fixes, and other unavoidable challenges push design to the backburner. A shift in focus to designing with the end user in mind will alleviate many of the pain points typical user adoption guides cover such as ineffective onboarding, mundane training programs, poor communication and feedback processes, and complicated and time-consuming ways to get started doing what you quickly need to get done.  

Painful onboarding processes tend to take a long time to complete and may even make solutions look unattractive to end users because they can’t start using software as soon as they’d like to. In a perfect world, commercial real estate technology would be ‘plug and play’, meaning users would easily be able to onboard themselves by following simple set up instructions. For example, one could log into a property management solution for the first time and a wizard would come up and walk them through the set-up process. First, the wizard would ask what company they work for and then have them select their building. Like Google does, the wizard would autocomplete your building address based on your location. Lastly, it would ask a few questions about the style of building operations such as certain standards you have in place. By using the answers to these questions, the software would be able to quickly set up accounts with the correct settings to support their specific business. This would eliminate much of the cumbersome processes that are involved with onboarding companies and buildings.  

Mundane training programs are frustrating for everyone involved in large part because they are typically forced upon people. If software providers focused on the end user, they could create in-app or in-technology training by using prompts. Instead of sitting through training courses where much of the critical information is lost shortly after users walk out the door, CRE software could show how to create a work order, for example, by using cues and notifications. Users could also turn these on and off, when and if they need refreshers on how to do something in the app. Many times, users don’t want or need training until they need to do a specific task. This way of training users encourages them to learn when they need to – on their terms. On-demand, in-app training would help users learn by interacting with the software instead of sitting in a room, sometimes for hours on end, listening to someone talk about how to use the software.

Poor communication and feedback processes are also a common challenge that impacts user adoption. Improved user experience and design can fix this by asking feedback questions in the appropriate place at the appropriate time. For example, a good place to ask for feedback is right after a work order is completed. Once a work order is marked as closed or complete by a vendor or an engineer, a simple satisfaction question could be sent to the requestor. This helps property teams gather real time feedback from tenants instead of manually putting out annual surveys.  

Complicated and time-consuming ways to get started working on what you quickly need to get done can be the result of clunky and counterintuitive user interfaces. One way to fix this problem is to have a user view set up that is based on what that specific person needs or wants to see. For example, a property manager may be focused on goals such as monitoring work order completion targets. On their home screen, they would see a dashboard that clearly highlights priority tasks approaching (or missing) target completion targets. Their dashboard would also show workload broken down by engineer which would allow them to check in on important tasks or rebalance workloads when necessary. On the other hand, an engineer’s dashboard would look different because it would be defaulted by persona and configured by user type. An engineer’s dashboard would be set up with the high priority or nearby work orders clearly identified so they can get started working on those right away. Being able to identify what needs to be done and get started working quickly, will enable your team to be more productive when using software.  

While these frustrations are still very real and CRE software companies may not be able to resolve them right this moment, the brightest future of CRE tech will be realized through thoughtful design for each specific user. As our CPO, Daniel Cozza, mentioned in a recent blog, we are committed to tackling this challenge with our building operations software. Our product team is now changing the way we design, and hopefully, user adoption guides will soon be a thing of the past.

To learn the main drivers behind low user adoption of commercial real estate software and additional advice to the CRE tech industry, read this insightful eBook.