How to Pinpoint the Key Factors for Evaluating Technology Partnerships – Commercial Observer
No company is an island, and no approach to technology is complete without a roster of partners who can help your company reach its full potential. Partner Insights spoke with Amrit Gill, global head of partnerships for Built Technologies, about how to approach your partnership strategy in order to optimize workflow and results.
Commercial Observer: Why are technology partnerships important?
Amrit Gill: As head of partnerships, I look for collaboration opportunities with other organizations that can help move the dial from a one-to-many approach for clients. In a product-led organization, partnerships can build better solutions that directly fill client needs. And, when a sales or revenue organization has a dedicated one-to-one sales motion to try to solve for a client’s needs, it’s crucial to take a broader view by understanding the market landscape and how we can leverage strategic key partnerships to provide the best experience for the end user.
There must be a lot you need to take into account when determining potential partners.
Yes, absolutely. There are some key factors. How engaged is the partner? What are their goals in trying to solve for the end-user client, and how can we do that together? Rather than trying to be a one-stop shop for everything, how do we partner with best-in-class across the industry to provide the best experience for our clients?
Why should commercial real estate lenders seek technology solutions with partner programs?
The construction industry has not necessarily leveraged technology well to enhance productivity. As lenders think about how to evolve in this dynamic, technology-driven marketplace, we want to be able to offer lenders a full-cycle solution, and that might be with partners. We want to foster strong collaboration to provide solutions to the problems our customers face, meeting clients where they are with the systems they’re already using. If you have a platform to help you understand what your underwriting risk might be, then maybe we partner with that. Or perhaps we can leverage referrals to make sure they’re equipped with all the tools they need to get the job done. As a specific example, by developing integrations with core systems, Built is able to ensure flow of accurate information and eliminate duplicative data entry to streamline the processes for the day-to-day users — that’s adding value. We want to help you leverage data to allow you to make better-educated, data-driven decisions within your lending platform.
According to a 2017 McKinsey report, construction has been slower to adopt technology than other industries. How does that affect the importance of technology partnerships in the industry?
Within finance, there’s been this construct of, you’ve got your book of ledger, your accounting platform, and your loan origination system, among others. All of these workflows have become modernized with technology. But the challenge is that they’re all very disparate sometimes. There’s a solution for everything, but where partners will come in handy is that they could help you bring that package together. I’ll use Built as an example. If we think about how some of our clients leverage our platform today, there are areas we expanded with partners to make that workflow easier. So, a partnership with Sage will help from an ERP accounting platform. It will bring in data and manage invoices. That’s just one piece of the puzzle. You still have to think about inspections, the draw management process, data, and analytics. That’s one of the areas least utilized in this industry — accurate, up-to-date data to provide data and analytic insights. With partnerships, you can bring in some of that data and help paint the full picture, giving you a better understanding of your organization.
How can technology partnerships improve workflows for commercial construction lenders?
If we think about pre-construction, construction and permanent construction as three categories, there are separate workflows for each stage of the process. Together, they build a layered ecosystem. There’s a layer of payments. There’s a layer of reporting. These layers are all intertwined and play a key role in facilitating construction projects of all sizes. When we think about workflows, it’s essential to also make sure we have a comprehensive understanding of how all of those pieces fit together. If we’re seeking out vendors and potential partnerships in general, those are the areas you have to understand about your business — or where there’s opportunity to improve those pieces. Then you have to find a partner that will allow you to collaborate and work in a consultative way to get the end result you need.
When companies are seeking potential vendor partnerships in the tech space, how can they evaluate a potential technology partner to ensure that they best serve that company’s needs?
There are a couple of key items and triggers that can help. One is, does this partner understand, and have the ability to support you from, a technology perspective? Do they have a modern technology infrastructure? Will your partner support you the way you need to be supported, from being able to answer and address client questions or queries, to getting legal or marketing documents to resolve problems quickly? Two other areas that are always top of mind are, does your partner understand your market landscape, and can they collaborate with you in a way that they can see industry trends and where your business is going?
Construction as an industry is plagued with challenges, like any industry that was built on the importance of people interaction. How do you see technology, partners, and construction meeting the needs of users?
The construction industry is going through its digital transformation now because it is an industry that has been driven by relationships, shaking hands, emails, phone calls — the opposite of technology. It’s a relationship-based business and has been for a very long time. Naturally, there can be hesitations about moving into a more automated process. It’s essential to automate where you can so that your team is then freed up to focus on what matters most: building relationships. Technology or transformation is not going to slow your business down. It’s actually meant to increase your business and allow you to have deeper personal interactions with your clients. Partnerships are the secret ingredient to getting the best of everything and being the most efficient, effective and productive you can be. They can help you understand the industry, reduce risk and cost, improve profitability, and generate new ideas. The challenge we’ve had historically is bringing along people who have been in the construction industry for decades, and now they have this new wave of tech. As new waves of technology enter the industry, we want to maintain some of the old standards and ways of doing business, and marry that with better technology and better infrastructure so we can have a better output. Technology should enable stronger interpersonal relationships by eliminating extraneous workflows, and technology partnerships aim to facilitate just that.