The Demand Solutions Blog

20 for ‘20 - What a Difference a Year Makes!

Posted by Dom Beveridge on Mar 24, 2020 1:56:58 PM

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20for20_MFHAs many of you will already be aware, we recently published the 2020 edition of our 20 for '20 white paper.  Just as we did a year ago, we sat down with another 20 senior executives to get their perspectives on the outlook for the immediate future. Of course, the interviews took place before the coronavirus disrupted our 2020 plans, but the findings tell us a lot about what companies are working on from a technology perspective. As we shall summarize in this post, the industry has experienced a significant year over year shift. 

In our new 2020 paper, we have identified a new set of trends and observations about current projects and priorities, some of which we will highlight on this blog in the coming weeks. But below, we will recap the five big findings from last year and see what's changed in the interim.

1. No more "One Big Project" dynamic

A year ago, we were struck by the number of respondents (a half) who reported having spent 2018 focusing on a single project that had dominated their year, effectively consuming all IT delivery capacity other than business as usual. Seven of the ten had been PMS switches or major upgrades, in itself an anomaly.

In this year's research, nobody reported the dominance of a single project. In fact, we got a much stronger impression of a group of operators who were "back on offense" in 2019, adding capabilities to their technology platforms. That 70% of respondents reported increased tech spending mostly driven by the addition of new technology further underscores the point. There is a more general observation to be made about the pace and the nature of innovation; however that will be the subject of a separate blog (or download the paper to learn more).

2. Priorities and the "Hype Cycle"

Last year's responses showed a disconnect between the technologies that were "top of mind" in the industry and the priorities of the leaders we interviewed. While there was a strong interest in a new breed of multifamily technologies, the likes of smart home, AI and short-term rental platforms were surprisingly peripheral when we got leaders to spell out their priorities.

This year is different. When asking leaders about a list of individual technologies and their relative priority, the new technologies - especially smart home, AI and self-show - are edging closer to the top of the executive priority list. However, it was CRM and Business intelligence (BI - a subject to which we will return later in this series) that scored the highest of all technologies in this year’s interviews.

3. Shifting "People" Priorities

When asked in late 2018 what their biggest people development priority was for 2019, our leaders told us that leasing training was number one. Practically everybody was doing some kind of sales training initiative in 2019. While we did not investigate development priorities in the same way in this year's research, respondents still volunteered an interesting finding. When we asked about the number one priority for 2020, almost half responded with some version of going "back to basics."

Most of our leaders were describing a desire to refocus on team development, talent management, or in some cases, customer service. But in each case, they were articulating a need not to be distracted from core operations. And with ever-increasing distractions from technological innovation (and keep in mind this paper was published just before the coronavirus outbreak), staying focused on people is harder today than it was a year ago.

4. The Curious Adoption Pattern of BI

The progress of BI, as described by our interviewees, surprised us 12 months ago. A few had done BI initiatives, but those who had were relatively unenthusiastic about the projects and their outcomes. We also noted that the pace of implementations of BI had been quite different from other multifamily technologies, with no "big bang" of adoption ever having taken place.

This year we found a substantial change in attitudes. Multiple executives saw BI as their number one priority across their whole business - not just technology. We also learned more about the adoption cycle - one that is characterized by "evolution" rather than "revolution," as we discuss in more detail in this year's paper, and will cover in greater detail on this blog in the next few weeks.

5. Pricing and Revenue Management (PRM) on Autopilot

For an organization as committed to PRM as D2 undoubtedly is, I would love to be able to report that our 2020 findings provided some indication of progress in PRM. A year ago, we were surprised and disappointed at the lack of attention that COOs and CIOs were paying to PRM and the absence of a "next big thing." An attitude of "PRM is doing fine" was pervasive across our 20 interviewees.

Unfortunately, this is one area in which little has changed in the past year. Technology leaders characterized PRM as low-priority. Operations leaders rate it as high-priority, although not in a way that has thus far translated into any tangible initiatives to improve it. It will probably take a disruptive technology innovation to alter this trajectory though several operators did express a desire for shorter-term improvement in how unit amenities are configured and priced.

It is rare that one gets to make a clear and objective year-over-year comparison of attitudes and priorities. While that has been our focus in this blog, the new white paper provides much deeper insights into the forward-looking perspectives of industry leaders.  Download your FREE copy if you haven't done so already!

20 for '20 - 2020 Edition

Photo by Lindsay Henwood on Unsplash

Topics: Multifamily Trends, Technology, Future