Building Our Data a Home in the Clouds
The Keller Cloud is a very specific cloud service ecosystem that leverages the collective power of the largest real estate sales force in the world – Keller Williams agents. By putting to work its massive collection of agent, transaction and client data, Keller Williams has an incredible competitive advantage above anyone else entering the space and can ultimately create new consumer experiences at lightning speed.
“Everything we do is about reaching the consumer,” says Team.
This platform is the result of a process called Labs – a program where Keller Williams invites its 180,000+ agents to help build the next generation of software that will power their business.
“We’re trying to solve real-world business problems that agents are facing every day by asking them to come sit in a room with us and solve them,” explains Josh Team, KW’s chief innovation officer.
Anyone who wants to build the most powerful technology solution for their business possible – and outstrip the competition – first has to build an innovation engine. In technology, an innovation engine in its simplest form is a cloud service with artificial intelligence built on top of it.
“The development of the Keller Cloud began 2 ½ years ago after we realized that there would be no way for us to deploy the consumer experience of the future. We didn’t have a platform.”
For years, Keller Williams had affiliated itself with technology companies who offered “bolt-on” products to their agents. This resulted in silos of data, multiple systems that didn’t speak with one another, and an inability to access important insights that would move an agent’s business forward and allow the company to develop world-class experiences for consumers.
With the industry going through a period of rapid modernization, time was of the essence. Keller Williams could no longer stick to the conventional product development route of deciding to go build something, disappearing for long stretches at a time, and then releasing a product with fingers crossed. Instead, they would have to bring a product to life in 90 days – a milestone that was successfully reached with Referrals.
A Courageous Decision Is Made
Keller Williams abandoned the traditional product development model and decided to pivot. Leaders were confident that there was a better way – a route that would allow the company to move with the shifting landscape of technology and engage their user base.
“It was uncomfortable. There was frustration, but we knew the model had to change. We could no longer be accountable by the dates if we wanted to be agile and innovative,” reflects Adi Pavlovic, director of innovation. “Gmail was in beta for 10 years. Amazon put out the Fire and Facebook rolled out a phone. That’s when we realized that all of the companies we look up to have done courageous things that didn’t work out at first. Why not do that in real estate? Why not release products and get the ball rolling forward?”
Going Back to the Roots
The same conversations that occurred in 1983 when Gary Keller launched the company were happening in market centers across the country. Agents were engaged, excited and open to sharing their business challenges.
“As we spent more time with top teams, we saw that the feedback we were receiving was direct, honest and nonbiased,” says Pavlovic.
They showed a genuine interest in being co-creators of their technology. The model became clear – in order to be successful, Keller Williams could no longer build products for their agents, but WITH their agents. At the same time, they would build a collective of data together.
So, the team reorganized and refined the model of Labs, day after day. And today, Keller Williams has evolved into a technology company with a vision to redefine the real estate experience. Paramount to this vision is keeping the agent, with their hyper-local knowledge and expertise, at the center of the real estate transaction.
A Competitive Edge
The Labs methodology is proving to be superior to others for many reasons:
- Fast Failure: Usually, you have user testing with a focus group after a product is developed. With Labs, however, we are able to brainstorm ideas, quickly validate them to see if agents find them valuable, and, if not, can catch red flags at the incubation level and avoid failure. A majority of companies would figure that out way later in the process after spending a significant amount of money on resources.
- Big Ideas: The process allows anyone to throw out a BIG idea that may not prove valuable today, but it could redefine how real estate is done tomorrow.
- Immediate Feedback: We can get feedback immediately from core users that other companies would die to have.
- Scale: At Family Reunion, the technology team was able to host several labs on-site. Within 72 hours, and with the feedback of 400 agents, the team was able to design three products agents would find useful. That’s powerful. No tech company would be able to do this. But with our army of 170,000-plus technology partners, we can.
The Innovation Engine Roars
The core of the innovation engine has been built with Keller Cloud and the innovation within it is powered through Labs. Now, with allied partners like Dua and the company’s large agent base, development cycles will become even shorter, products will become smarter, and Keller Williams is primed to respond rapidly to the evolving needs of agents and their consumers.
With this remarkable leverage, Keller Williams can move past companies who are pouring billions of dollars into technology designed to dis-intermediate the agent from the consumer.
“If our innovation engine allows us to build anything we want in 90 days, that means there is a race any time a disrupter comes into the market,” emphasizes Team. “Be confident that as these disrupters come to take your market share, you have the largest, strongest platform behind you pivoting. In order to be successful, they would have to get more market share than you and your 170,000 fellow agents have combined in less than 90 days. This is our greatest strength.”
And, because KW operates with only the best interests of the agent in mind, the company has made a data pledge to its people: We will always respect your data as your business and we will always allow you to take your data with you.
Source: KW Blog