The Industrial Revolution punctuated the end of the 19th Century with a shockwave of innovation and change. One of its most notable inventions, the spinning jenny, revolutionized the fabric industry by drastically increasing the amount of cloth produced per textile worker. But its arrival was not without upset. A number of spinners, fearing for their jobs, destroyed some of the first spinning jennies in an attempt to halt the technology’s spread. But it was too little too late. Soon enough, the spinning machines became so efficient and so prevalent that they precipitated a second change: a significant drop in the market price of fabric.
Today, the spinning jenny is ancient history. But its adoption, spread, and negative impacts are as potent a reminder as ever. With the PropTech sector’s product offerings exploding to a scale never before seen, ensuring oversight of our PropTech applications is critical, lest it ushers in new downsides for the industry and its workers.
PropTech advancement is an external factor affecting teams around the world, but the foundation of oversight begins internally. Before adopting a new tech platform, teams should perform an internal check to ensure that their members, processes and data are ready to be impacted. According to Amy Millard, Chief Marketing Officer for leasing and asset management platform VTS, one critical step is “starting to actually audit your own data and starting to think about how can I enforce my own policies, how can I demand of my employees that the data that goes [into models and tech applications] is just as good as everything else.”
Other PropTech leaders agree. “I think it’s measuring twice and cutting once,” said Brian Wong, Head of Client Experience at Waypoint, a real estate portfolio management platform. “You have to start with emphasizing the importance of having a data strategy….bring all your stakeholders into the room, folks that’ll actually be using that technology day to day, and say ‘what is the problem we are trying to solve?’”
But it takes more than awareness before tech adoption to keep good oversight of PropTech systems. It is also critical to ensure system redundancy throughout your processes, to avoid workflow disruption if a tech provider experiences problems furnishing their service. “We’re in the infancy of PropTech, and it feels a lot like the Dot-Com Boom to me,” said Jay Marling, CEO and Managing Partner of real estate services firm Capright. With over 6000 active PropTech firms active according to Altus Group CEO Bob Courteau, it is unavoidable that the playing field will experience consolidation, meaning plenty of chances for service disruptions to affect PropTech users. The closure of data provider Xceligent is a good example: those professionals who relied on its property data abruptly found themselves needing to find a new source.
The tech powering today’s PropTech platforms couldn’t be farther from the wood and metal of the spinning jenny, but the impacts of that machine are a potent reminder that oversight is needed at every step of the PropTech integration process. By building a culture of preparedness and strategy at the team level and keeping a backup plan in store to mitigate the challenges of service disruptions, we can take the first steps to dodging the negative externalities of tech-enabled property industry change.