Voices of Digital Transformation: Expert Insights Series

Jess Caire, Executive Director, Property Council of Australia Queensland

Our expert insights series is based on outreach conducted by MRI Software for its national research report for the commercial property sector – Voices of Digital Transformation Report.

In this instalment of our Insight Series, Jess Caire from the Property Council of Australia shares observations from her position as Executive Director of the Queensland Division, inaugural councillor of Proptech BNE and former role as Executive Manager of Stakeholder Engagement at PEXA.

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Navigating business challenges

The Property Council’s large and diverse membership base means that Jess is uniquely positioned to appreciate the multitude of challenges that selecting, evaluating and implementing proptech solutions can pose.

When asked to expand on some of those challenges, she observed that “The property sector is vast, and understanding your particular needs at an organisational level is key before seeking to embed new technology.”

Members opt for digital innovations for many reasons, including the drive to boost efficiency, the aspiration to simplify customers’ experiences, a growing recognition of the importance of advancing ESG goals, and the effort to keep up with the transformative changes triggered by the impact of COVID. In addition to this, we are seeing a growing number of members embrace digital offerings, as it sets them apart with customers and stakeholders. Digital and innovative solutions are increasingly becoming an expected service offering from consumers and clients.

– Jess Caire, Property Council of Australia.

Implementing new solutions

Essentially, successful technology implementation is about offering strong leadership, managing change effectively and maintaining a steadfast message.

– Jess Caire, Property Council of Australia.

Jess believes that successful technology implementation boils down to having clear and determined leadership that can articulately communicate the purpose behind the change – the “why” of it all.

“From a project management perspective,” she pointed out, “It’s crucial to understand that risks arise if you ignore the ‘psychology of change’ and the impact that change will have on your workforce. Recognising that not everyone will immediately jump on board as an early adopter is key here.”

“Equally important is the consideration of the customer experience. Ensuring a smooth customer journey is vital. The focus should always be on solving a problem, and not creating ten more in the process, and that’s where a thoughtful deployment strategy comes in.”

“Doing thorough research and investing time in the planning phase is essential to ensure a successful rollout. It’s not a set and forget process; it requires ongoing reinforcement and consistency of messaging throughout the organisation.”

Managing change and measuring success

It’s vital to integrate technology right from the start of your organisational planning, not tack it on later as an optional extra, according to Jess. “Build it into the foundation of your business, and make it a fundamental pillar that aligns with the organisational values,” she advised.

Be considerate when adding systems or tools. Timing is everything and new solutions should be introduced strategically, when they fit naturally with the existing flow, not just because it feels like they will create efficiency. Of equal importance is ensuring you’re bringing everyone along on the journey – key stakeholders and early adopters of the system – and make sure they’re a part of the feedback loop!

– Jess Caire, Property Council of Australia.

“As outlined, employee experience is as important as the customers. Make sure your team’s experiences, as valuable employees, are also improved by any innovations you introduce.”

We quizzed Jess about the challenge of measuring success. “Speaking from an industry association point of view, I know that our members adopt diverse approaches, but I’d definitely emphasise the central importance of assessing metrics and KPIs when it comes to implementing digital solutions,” she said.

Some of the key things are gauging productivity, along with factors like employee satisfaction and engagement. Given that one of the overall objectives of proptech is to alleviate routine tasks and enable more meaningful work, it stands to reason that tracking employee sentiment is likely to serve as an indicator of the effectiveness of your digital implementation strategy.

– Jess Caire, Property Council of Australia.

“Other metrics extend across a range of areas such as proptech’s role in implementing ESG strategies, and measuring the tangible outcomes it produces for environmental and social goals.”

Dealing with data security

Jess acknowledged that data security is a huge concern that the entire industry is facing today.

“We’ve seen some high profile data breaches over recent years,” she pointed out. “It’s something that we’re grappling with as a society. Technology moves at a faster rate than policy, so we need to be super mindful of the data we’re capturing.”

In fact, if you’re not actually using certain data, you should think twice about collecting it in the first place. And with the data you do collect, think carefully about how you’re using it.

– Jess Caire, Property Council of Australia.

“This challenge isn’t just a matter for us in the property industry – it’s a broader issue for all sorts of businesses. We’re all figuring out how to keep the data we collect safe from potential breaches.”

Lessons and best practices

“The key takeaway is that technology and proptech are part of an ever evolving landscape,” Jess emphasised.

“When it comes to embracing digital, it’s not simply an add on, it needs to be a core part of your business-as-usual approach and a fundamental pillar of your business. This applies across the board from employee satisfaction to customer engagement.”

As an industry, it’s crucial for us not just to keep up but to stay ahead. Collecting and using data wisely, adopting a holistic approach to change management, maintaining the human element as a core part of processes that impact our workforce and customers – all these things are pivotal.

– Jess Caire, Property Council of Australia.

Proptech trends to watch

Jess believes the trend towards digitisation has made a big impact in various pockets of the property sector, and that the momentum will continue to grow.

“My previous role at PEXA, for example, showed first hand the benefits of digitising a manual, paper-based process that hadn’t evolved since its inception more than 100 years ago. Transforming that process through a digital platform has increased efficiency and security to transacting property,” she said.

“There’s a realm of opportunities for further digitisation in various aspects of property transactions. When it comes to innovation, any tool that enhances productivity and fosters meaningful interactions should be embraced.”

“Chat GPT and generative AI will most certainly reshape not only our industry, but how people everywhere approach their work. It has the potential for both positive and negative outcomes, depending on its application.”

If there’s one takeaway from COVID, it’s the undeniable importance of genuine interactions and building face-to-face relationships that foster connection and trust. These connections are the bedrock for stakeholder engagement, which ultimately drive our ability to achieve goals and make meaningful change.

– Jess Caire, Property Council of Australia.

“So I don’t think humans are going to be replaced in all of this. If anything, smart organisations will make use of technology to really broaden and deepen those relationships and to free up our time so we can ultimately do more meaningful work.”

Download a copy of the Voices of Digital Transformation Report here and learn more about how Australian real estate businesses are embracing proptech best practices to help achieve strategic goals.

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