The Codelitt team was pleased to participate in the Re:Connect webinar this past June with a panel describing some foundational concepts in digital transformation in Commercial Real Estate with our presentation entitled “Digital Diagnostics: from Symptom to Solution”

The panel discussion showcases three members of Codelitt’s leadership team speaking about the role of User Experience Research in identifying data driven pain points, the merits of off the shelf, hybrid, and custom solutions, and strategies for converting concepts from the abstract into tangible roadmaps to digital transformation.

Our first section features Vicky Jaime, Codelitt’s Chief of Design, speaking about the role of UXR methodology, user identification, root cause analysis, and more! (transcript below)

Hosted by Unissu, Re:Connect is the world's largest festival of innovation in real estate. Explore 200 sessions led by global thought leaders, all with the mission to inform your innovation and transformation strategies!

Digital Diagnostics: From Symptom to Solution - Part 1

Michael: So let’s start at the beginning. I think the big, looming question overhead for many companies today, Vicky, the elephant in the room so to speak, is “do we even need digital transformation?”

Vicky: That is definitely a big, big question.

Michael: How do we begin the process of answering it?

Vicky: Well first and foremost, the decision to explore digital transformation needs to be a data driven decision, rather than somebody pushing an agenda, or an opinion dominating the room. Basically, you have a very honest look.

In the same way that success metrics are defined and supported by data, we can also use data to identify areas that need improvement. Which could be a gap in an existing process, a piece of obsolete technology, poor communication between systems, or low adoption rates of existing or new platforms- whatever it is, it’s going to be observable in the same way that you can observe success metrics.

Michael: So at the high level, a company may see some negative trends, or something to that effect, are there any CRE specific pain points that jump in your experience?

Vicky: Yeah definitely, we’ve usually found that issues fit into several categories, but specifically problems in targeting, focus, and technology.

Michael: Can you expand on the three categories a bit?

Vicky: Sure! So when we’re talking about a problem in focus, we often see that the solutions generated don’t have the users in mind, so the real issues, the causes for those negative trends, are left without really being addressed. Those solutions lack targeting, they are trying too hard to be everything to everybody, and end up wasting a lot of time, and a lot of money, because- if you don’t target a specific user base, and don’t focus on their specific pain points, how will your solution work for them?

And the other piece I mentioned was technology. And this can be anything from poor integration between existing applications making it hard to access data, supporting obsolete technology which could be costing thousands of dollars, or simply not aligning the technology needs with those of the users, leading to either usability issues or even discoverability issues. And the list goes on and on.

Michael: So how do we take these categories and translate them into some more industry specific pain points for the CRE industry?

Vicky: There are a handful of CRE specific pain points that are relatively common. Pain points of data integrity around properties: as data is input into the systems by different people or coming from different sources, it’s difficult to assess “one single source of truth” and data tends to be questioned which is a problem.

  • Pain points in transaction flows usually have issues in visibility and efficiency
  • There are issues in providing intuitive and contextual access to data specifically to clients
  • Problems in managing vendors: it’s usually hard to see the commitment logs, the invoicing, tracking activity, etc.
  • In the the work order system: we know that the approval processes generally are very long, very unintuitive, and there are few analytics for decision makers to see
  • We have also seen issues in financials, and the ability to see operating expenses, budgets vs actuals etc.
  • In Transaction and lease management: especially when seeing analytics, or being able to be proactive around critical dates which is very important.
  • And then also in Project management: seeing the spend history, the capital plans, being apple to approve projects, to see their status, to see whether they’re on track, who is involved in those projects, etc.

Michael: Great, so how do we go from that identification, and transition into actual problem solving?

Vicky: That’s where the research portion comes in, the first step in solving any problem really is understanding it, and in this case it all begins with User Research, so you would need to understand who your users are, and why they are having these problems.

Michael: That sounds pretty straight forward right. I mean, typically your users are going to be known. You’ve got your customers, and your brokers, or employees within the company right?

Vicky: Yeah and that is actually the first barrier of entry for research, as oftentimes we’ll be like “Ah but I already know my users”. And the truth is, yes, we do already know a lot about our users, so it’s sometimes hard to justify doing the research on a body of people you have been working with for years!

But in research we build an archetype of our user called a “persona” and in these situations, it’s beneficial to think of personas and present them as alignment tools. So everybody knows a lot about the users, this is very true, but when knowledge and assumptions are not aligned, the lack of that common ground causes problems in decision making.

So, the largest benefit of creating and having personas is having this clear picture of specific user types that everybody can focus on and align around, so we can go from designing for ourselves and disagreeing over what “the user” wants, to actually making decisions based on data!

Michael: In addition to building personas, what are some other research methods that you typically employ?

Vicky: So broadly speaking there are 2 types of methodologies. Qualitative and quantitative. Typically we like to see a blend of both to get a better holistic understanding of the problems of users, and potential solutions.

With qualitative research methodologies, we gather insights or observations about users, and the products and the services. And we leverage methods like interviews, qualitative usability tests, and field studies and we would then be able to discover both problems and opportunities in the user experience.We can validate or disprove any assumptions that may have been made about the pain points, and then use those insights to build solutions.

With quantitative research methodologies, instead of gathering insights, we’re gathering metrics, so we gather numbers that describe some aspect of the user experience. And in this case we leverage methods like analytics, A/B testing, surveys, and quantitative usability tests and we generally try to answer questions around comparability, for example how is the current version of a product behaving versus an older version, we can measure the user experience over time, the churn, determine also the scale of a particular problem, to know if it’s statistically significant. As you will find lots and lots of numbers and you will not be able to respond to every single one!

Michael: So after you’ve kind of embarked on this process, and you’ve gathered your data, what are the next steps that you would take?

Vicky: Now you get to build the product! You can also see if there is an off-the-shelf solution out there to fit your needs.

However, we’ve often found with customers that have purchased off-the-shelf solutions that their users generally aren’t using the platform in the way they had hoped, and it’s because those solutions have the problems I mentioned earlier. They have problems with targeting, with focus, and technology. And you know, we find that these solutions are so watered down to try to fit every single scenario, to every potential client out there that they end up not fitting any at all.

We find that solutions that are long lasting, successful, and robust which is what everybody wants. Those solutions have focus, direction and purpose. And it will all come from data into your particular situation.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this webinar series: The Next Step in Digital Transformation: Build vs. Buy