The New Normal

– Achieving a True North Star(s) Strategy

Protests, global unrest, COVID19/Corona, Pandemics, and then we have the new normal for real estate. This article will focus on the new normal and offer a snapshot perspective on what needs to be done. And some ideas on where to get started.

“It’s not the data that companies have that will mean the world to them.

It’s the data that companies don’t have that will change their life.

Building the future on yesterdays data and technology

I see this all the time. Companies are trying to use the data that they have to make better decisions. The information that they have collected and stored for ages on how they have been performing. However, utilizing this data inside the silos where it was formed can unfortunately be quite useless. I fear that these companies will meet their demise even faster and continue on with their path dependency and thus move more quickly towards their end.

Change before you have to

Companies need to realize that the future is changing and that they, as well as buildings, have to pass the test of time. Leaders and decision-makers need to be looking ahead. If companies don’t change anything, nothing will change.

Yes, companies need to make data-driven decisions based on the data they do have. But they need to do it in a different context, not utilizing it in silos; and not with the same people that are part of the problem. Decision-makers need to boldly go where they have not gone before and bring their people with them. They need to invite other perspectives, more perspectives and promote curiosity and viewing problems in more ways than one.

How to start

A great way to start is by looking at the horizontal process and inviting all stakeholders relevant to a specific process to discuss the end2end process together. Using a round table approach where new input is allowed and debated from a lifecycle perspective. Because it’s the data they don’t have, that will change their life. And that data comes from communicating with other people.

The two things for companies that want to get started, get going, and succeed with digitalization.

  • The first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one. And by understanding there is a problem, there is hopefully room for some problem-solving. On the road to industry leadership, companies should start by doing two things.
  1. What is the organizational strategy, mission, vision?
  2. What are the top four problems today?

Number one – re-aligning corporate strategy to the true north star.

This might seem “fluffy” as hell to be honest, and you might be thinking that it does not have anything to do with you, or anything practical.

You could not be more wrong, and I will tell you why.

Have you seen that companies have a hard time justifying new IT investments? That sometimes industries have a hard time changing? Why is that?

If we go to the building segment, let’s investigate what value real estate owners deliver to their tenants? For housing, it is probably offering a sense of security for people in the comfort of their own homes. And for commercial tenants, it could be that the buildings should help deliver services that lead to increased well-being and profitability for their tenants.

But today these companies probably say that they collect rent, and their strategies, if existing, are all about saving money, and energy efficiency. And most of all if they can somehow increase the rent. Their vision and mission might be inexistent and it’s not always not aligned with what their customers need, and therefore, nor are their buildings. And any investment made, cannot be justified, because they do not have a clue of what value they are failing to provide.  They are using the wrong metrics.

“By getting the strategy right, all investment decisions can now be justified towards the true north star.”

That is number 1. If the strategy is done correctly, everything else will have a more substantial likelihood of taking the company in the right direction. Without it, much-needed technology investments will never happen because they do not provide any justifiable ROI. But if the other option is bankruptcy, and not being relevant, the ROI will find itself rather quickly (hopefully).

If nothing changes, nothing will change.

Number 2. “Dig and pick”

Now that the company understands what they should do/where they want to be in the future, they should see where their pain points are. Is it the people, the processes, the IT-systems, the culture, the hierarchy, or something else that they need? Maybe the assets are not digitally mature enough? Is it possible to get data out, how to do it, and is the juice worth the squeeze? It depends on what you are measuring against.

Whatever it might be, they should get started somewhere. Usually, it’s best to dig where processes stand, shave off 10 minutes on a process, start with the tasks that take the most time, the tedious tasks, or anything else that is a hindrance to the true north star.

The benefits of starting with the low-hanging fruits are that it is easier to create champions of change in the organization and get a momentum going. If companies do not have top management buy-in, this is important. But it could also lead to places where companies do not want to be as summarized in my final words.

Don’t be useless – Conclusion and common pitfalls

The true north star for any company is to provide the value to their customer better, faster, and more efficiently than anyone else. And in today’s world, companies that work with buildings need to make the most of modern tools and technologies.

And it is up to the organization, usually the CEO, the Top Managerial Team, and the Board to lead the way. If companies do not have management buy-in and start doing things on their own, things could backfire. And like Peter Drucker said,

“There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all” – Peter Drucker

Try to get management buy-in, or if that fails, do it anyway. It is better to do something than nothing and then fail fast. The capabilities companies working in the real estate sector needs to have are the same as the building that the tenants are requiring. Companies need to be flexible and to have the ability to adapt and leverage modern technology for themselves as well as for their customers. If companies do not work digitally, whatever that means for the organization or the customers, companies will soon find themselves out of a job, or an asset, or both. The future is based upon adaptability and creating resilient companies and buildings.

Buildings are part of a larger piece in the whole Smart City puzzle where technology is a small but essential piece.  The key is to get to know where the world is moving before it has already gotten there. Achieving digital leadership requires modern tools as well as partners in an ecosystem, leveraging unique skill sets and working with people in the know of what their True North Star is.

Agree or disagree? Maybe want to add some comments? Please do!

Beyond Buildings is here to create a dialogue around what the world is going to do a month, a year, a decade from now. It’s written by Nicolas Waern from the consultant company WINNIIO who’s got a holistic understanding of what is needed to stand out from the competition, advise on pros and cons, and be the strategic partner for both technology and organization-advice in a Smart World Environment (Construction/Industry/Smart Buildings and Cities).

Please reach out if you have any questions on how to get started, get going, or how to succeed in the next decade! And share this article if you think it could be helpful for someone else!


Nicolas Waern
Ecosystem Architect – Helping companies create optimal value in a Smart City Context

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