Property Australia

Unlocking the potential of digital solutions

Karen Jamal Karen Jamal September 28, 2021

“Property leaders are looking to leverage their data, expertise and intellectual property in new ways – and commercialising their digital solutions is a smart step,” says Stantec’s digital client leader, Grant Holman.

Commercialising data is not new, Holman observes. But property companies, awash with granular digital information, are now diving head-first into high tech solutions that “add another layer of value” to their own businesses, to their customers and even to their competitors.

Holman’s role with Stantec is to connect his firm’s technologies and capabilities with its clients’ needs to develop creative, technology-forward solutions, he says.

Until recently, the property industry’s focus on data, technology and automation was firmly fixed on “internal efficiencies,” Holman says. These efficiencies are sometimes “eyewatering”, as EY recently noted. For example, trust distributions that once took weeks for real estate companies to complete can now be finalised in just 28 seconds.

These are truly impressive savings. But internal efficiencies are now transitioning to outside the organisation, Holman adds. “The leaders who externalise their data and tools can create efficiencies for the whole industry.”

One of Stantec’s major Australian-based development clients, through its property lifecycle platform, is a case in point. An end-to-end digital platform supports data-driven decisions and a suite of digital products and services that can be used by suppliers, clients and competitors.

“By externalising our digital efforts, it is no longer about fixing our own challenges, but about fixing the industry’s challenges,” Holman adds. Such solutions not only make life easier but create new revenue streams. “Whether it’s royalties or clickthrough revenues, it takes us away from the traditional fee-for-hour service model.”

Of course, commercialising digital applications is easier said than done, but the obstacles are quite often cultural more than technical, Holman notes. “The property industry is in many ways progressive, but in other ways people are reluctant to change or reconfigure the ecosystem. The risk transfer or contractual paradigm often limits an organisation’s ability to change, or they don’t have the profit margin to invest in change.”

The many moving parts of the property ecosystem makes large-scale change a daunting but not impossible task. The biggest obstacle to overcome is often the “human change management component”. One success story is Mirvac’s BuildAI, which was developed by the Hatch innovation team and has since spun out to its own start-up.

There is another “layer” to the challenge of commercialisation. “It’s one thing to build a new digital tool, but there’s the danger that it will be like those second-tier apps on your phone – cool but rarely used. It’s easy to get caught up in developing a piece of digital technology that is really shiny but doesn’t make a massive difference to people.”

Holman doesn’t suggest the property industry start a large-scale pivot towards app development. But they don’t need to turn to the tech titans either. Many companies across Australia’s property industry – including Stantec – are already developing that in-house capability. “Augmenting your business model by commercialising digital solutions is an ‘and’ conversation – one which Stantec is keen to have.”

Learn more about Stantec’s impressive and growing collection of technology-forward solutions at Stantec.io.