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Darryll Colthrust, Director of Innovation features in EG Magazine

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Darryll Colthrust joined the property industry almost a year ago with the goal of helping real estate investor Palmer Capital on its digital transformation. Here the former director of business architecture at American Express and now chief innovation officer at Palmer Capital shares what he thinks his three biggest wins and three greatest challenges on the firm’s transformation journey will be in 2019.


Cultivating a ‘digital mindset’

Before we are able to talk about a digitally-fit organisation, there needs to be a digital mindset. A mindset is not made up of opinions in isolation; it’s an entire way of thinking. A person’s mindset is formed by a culmination of experiences throughout life, both professional and personal. No surprise then, that challenging and changing a mindset does not come easily. However, in 2019, one of my greatest goals is to assist every person within Palmer Capital to increasingly think digital instinctively.

This isn’t because we’re implementing any kind of revolutionary technology. The biggest enabler for this mindset will be to simply provide our people with a more flexible way of doing their existing jobs.

We are currently working on 10-year-old software, limited to one device while being shackled to an environment that limits any form of personalisation. Moving from “computer says no” to “what would you like to do today?” will transform how we think about the use of technology in our day-to-day lives.

Embedding descriptive analytics

In the past I have talked about the importance of data and how it is imperative to every company that wants to do business today. One of the biggest reasons for this is the power data holds to inform future business decisions. We are on the journey to become a more data-driven organisation. Before the end of 2019, there won’t be any piece of data on our assets, investors, funds and tenants that isn’t in a structured format ready for analysis. Where that data is inherently unstructured, we will have supporting metadata.

All of this means we will have consciously taken a significant step onto the business intelligence maturity ladder. Once these analytics are embedded within the business, we will be able to instantly report on, examine and monitor any aspect of our operations. “What happened? What’s happening now? Why did it happen?”

Empowering colleagues

To date, any digital change at Palmer Capital has fallen on my shoulders. It’s nice, but it’s not my long-term desire for us. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say it shouldn’t be the desire of anyone implementing any kind of digital transformation. The long-term goal should be to enable an organisation to grow, flex and adapt at all levels instead of having a centralised function that has the only digital skillset.

Within our finance function, I have started to see the embers glowing. They have shed the property-specific accounting incumbent and have embraced a more modern accounting package. This change has afforded

them many new possibilities and options. I have observed a genuine desire within the team to upskill themselves as they approach familiar challenges with newfound tools.


Trials of engagement

The dark side of digital transformation is the emotional and physical toll on anyone trying to find ways to increase true engagement. The inertia, whether in a small or large organisation, is real. There will always be a reason not to change. You must wade through that swamp of despondency to find what truly motivates each individual or archetype. This is a constant challenge.

Persistent perseverance

Linked to the challenge of engagement (or lack thereof), every pioneer of digital transformation needs tenacity by the bucketload. Having engaged colleagues and tapped into their motivation to embrace change, keeping the engagement until a solution is delivered isn’t easy. I struggle with this all the time. Logic should preside but it often doesn’t. But, for every critic, there is potential for conversion. It’s a satisfying moment when you turn a naysayer into a super fan.

More stakeholders

Fiera Capital is a new player on the stakeholder map [Fiera bought an 80% stake in Palmer Capital in December 2018]. This is certainly a positive challenge for 2019. The significant uplift in capital and a more global presence could bring with it an increased need to do things differently.

New stakeholders will mean new requirements and there are many ways in which technology can be an enabler. The easy short-term fix will be additional human capital, but the real question is, will there be an appetite to fill the longer-term gap with technology to meet this and future requirements?

First published February 2019 by EG. For the full article, please visit the EG website or click here.