Introducing the ‘CDO Stack’ and the Rise of the Chief Digital Officer in CRE

The onset of COVID-19 has put many businesses into a flight or fight battle, with some realizing that to survive and thrive it is critical that they transform their operations to meet the needs of a suddenly prolonged digital work environment.

The onset of COVID-19 has put many businesses into a flight or fight battle, with some realizing that to survive and thrive it is critical that they transform their operations to meet the needs of a suddenly prolonged digital work environment. The real estate industry is perhaps up against the hardest battle to transform because it has historically been such a late adopter of technology—something which I’ve come to call the industry’s inconvenient truth.

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John D'Angelo
John D’Angelo

It’s time for CRE owners and operators to face a new truth, though: regardless of how long the pandemic lingers, the ways companies are adapting for the future—primarily by becoming more digital—will rewrite how business is done from here on out, even after we return to a “normal” operating environment. If they don’t pick up the pace, CRE firms risk falling further behind, or worse, becoming obsolete in the wake of competitors who plunge head-first into all things digital.

Perhaps the most intimidating part of this journey for some CRE executives is determining the right technology environment, data ecosystem, and new skillsets needed to compete today—in other words, the right digital stack. To demystify this, I will be penning a new monthly column called the “CDO Stack” that I hope will help CRE professionals understand and more easily navigate the many technology options available in today’s marketplace so we can collectively grow and make the industry better.

As you may guess, the “CDO Stack” column will be geared toward those professionals in the real estate industry in charge of evaluating and making the decisions on all things related to digital and technology. That includes the obvious Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer, but also usually includes the CEO and other individuals who have responsibilities and a stake in “digital” topics from across an organization. In the not so distant past, this column would have been called the “CTO” or “CIO” Stack but the name is a nod to the rising occurrence of the Chief Digital Officer title in the industry.

As we increasingly see a shift in emphasis and skillset and toward digital or data-related capabilities, the CTO or CIO is now first and foremost a digital, not a technology or information, officer. Further, with the evolution of cloud and software as a service, proliferation of data, changing expectations of colleagues, clients and end-users of space, the nature of the challenges and required skills and activities will increasingly be best described as ‘digital.’ 

Regardless of title, there is so much CRE executives need to know about when it comes to digital and data. I have spent much of the last 30 years with owner/operators, investment managers and the big global service providers, helping them to operate their businesses better by leveraging data in new and exciting ways. More and more, lately, I’ve been talking to CRE firms and others in the industry about how they can do the same, i.e. use data to make better decisions, question orthodoxies, and continue innovating.

Already, we’re seeing a shift in how real estate owners and operators directly engage with end users, an increased understanding and use of data and analytics, and increased adoption of digital operations to power performance. Sensor data, robotic process automation, blockchain, analytics and cognitive, alternate data sets, cloud, data science, machine learning and artificial intelligence will drive innovation in the world of real estate and have the potential to significantly alter what it looks like ten years from now. Much uncertainty remains as we approach the end of 2020, but together we’ll explore digital strategies for all of these topics and more to help weather the storm and innovate for a brighter future. Check back next month for my thoughts on which digital trends I think will (or should) be most popular heading into 2021.

John D’Angelo is a managing director with Deloitte Consulting and leads the real estate industry sector for Deloitte Consulting in the US. With over 33 years of experience as a management consultant to the global real estate industry, John has helped some of the biggest names in real estate leverage technology and use data to optimize and transform their operations.