Avoiding Mistakes in Technology Adoption
Whether apartment companies want to add technology to become more efficient or improve the resident experience, they need to be aware of potential pitfalls.
Scott Wesson, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at UDR, says apartment companies make one big mistake they implement when smart-home technology: they neglect to choose a primary approach between making their try implement technologies that make their operations more efficient or providing a superior customer experience..
The problem with that, Wesson says, is that it is hard to get both things right.
“A lot of companies get it wrong by doing a little both,” Wesson said at the NMHC Apartment Strategies Conference in January in Orlando, Fla.
Instead, he says they need to decide whether their focus is on operations or the customer and go full force. The problem is that there are a lot of technology choices available for apartment operators to wade through.
As companies plan for the future, they need to be careful, according to Cristina Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at Gables Residential.
“For example, we have a lot of iPod docking stations in our apartments,” she says. “We need to be careful with the technology’s we choose to install.”
"As companies plan for the future, they need to take into consideration the rapid evolution of technology," shared Cristina Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer at Gables Residential. “For example, when iPod docking stations were the trend, we installed them in our apartments, Today, they are all but obsolete. Removing them or replacing that space on the wall is a challenge and an unforeseen cost. We need to plan to be able to be as nimble as possible when implementing technological advances to ensure minimum disruption and cost as we change with the times."
Marcie Williams, CAPS, CPM, President of Rivergate KW Residential says, “The challenge is making today’s decisions for the future.”
Right now, Williams says residents expect technology conveniences such as USB ports to be in each apartment.
“We need to adapt to what the residents want,” Williams says, “whether it is locks or speakers or something else.”
And down the road, their tastes may be even more elaborate.
“Instead of pet parks, we will need drone parks [on the roof where drones can land],” Williams says.
With technology’s absorption into all aspects of the apartment business, Jay Hiemenz, President and COO of Alliance Residential, says owners have to try to predict what’s next when they are looking at WiFi, smart locks, video and other tech products.
“We have to think into the future and plan for changes,” he says.
But if owners do not pay attention to the building envelope and how wireless waves travel, none of the other bells and whistles will matter.
“As we learn more about top priorities for renters, we know that cell phone service always ranks in the top three as a must have when choosing their next home,” Sullivan said. "Very often when people tour our communities, they pull up their cell phones and check to see if they have a signal.”
For companies that want to focus on operational technologies, Alliance’s adaptation of a Business Intelligence system can serve as a model.
“Our industry is at the beginning stages of using all of its data,” Hiemenz says.
And as Wesson says, everything is producing data now. It could be the smart-home products that residents use or the key fob they wave to get into the gym.
“Instead of asking somebody how often the gym is used, we now have access to that data,” Wesson says. “We need to stop asking for opinions when we can know the truth of how our buildings are being used.”
But is there too much data? “Data is the buzz word and is invaluable information if relevant, as the amount of data available is overwhelming,” Sullivan said. "“You can give the onsite teams a lot of information but is it actionable and is it truly relevant?"
To make sure Gables is effectively using its data, Sullivan wants to know if it adds value, and if so, how and ultimately, does it help the company drive future decisions to be more efficient and effective.