Marketing & Sales

Changemaker Phil Worland Remaps A Homebuilding Tech Pathway

In a new episode of The Builder's Daily's videocast series, TBD Player, Phil candidly explores the industry community's critical challenge to rethink its relationship with customers.

Marketing & Sales

Changemaker Phil Worland Remaps A Homebuilding Tech Pathway

In a new episode of The Builder's Daily's videocast series, TBD Player, Phil candidly explores the industry community's critical challenge to rethink its relationship with customers.

June 12th, 2024
Changemaker Phil Worland Remaps A Homebuilding Tech Pathway
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Is the future of housing stuck in the beyond? Is it forever inevitable but never quite actual?

The present – Fed rate policy, inflation and cost-of-living challenges, and a slew of daily operational spinning wheels – leaves so many homebuilding organizations and their leaders so little time to commit to and invest in that future.

Such a hurley-burley present, intertwined with a cyclicality that echoes the past, seems to conspire constantly against the future of housing. This has become a persistent challenge – and a growing risk – that demands a fresh perspective.

Imagine a future where one's economic and career stability is the starting point for homebuilding design, development, construction, marketing, sales, etc. Then, a digital map is created, tailored to your living needs, preferences, and desires, and used to construct your ideal home.

Is that future the future or a fantasy?

Bob Ghafouri, a managing director at global consultancy Alvarez & Marsal, asserts it's the future, not just a mumbo-jumbo pipedream.

Ghafouri writes of such a future this way, as a trend arriving as soon as just around the next corner, one Ghafouri calls "phygital everywhere."

Phygital Everywhere represents the fusion of digital and physical experiences through technologies like augmented reality and AI. This trend is poised to transform traditional retail, real estate, and hospitality sectors by turning every interaction into a potential storefront. By leveraging these technologies, organizations can enhance customer experiences and streamline operations in a seamless manner." – The Consulting Report

Before he moved to A&M Ghafouri worked as a senior managing director at Accenture for a decade, and for a lot of that time – working on a global hospitality brand reposition and a transformative initiative for a major player in the air conditioning and room comfort business – he had a rising-star protege there named Phillip Worland. Phil, having eaten, slept, and breathed residential development, homebuilding, and placemaking for the past five years, counts Ghafouri among his formative professional sherpas. You see, Phil wasn't content to research his clients' business and turn over a dossier and Powerpoint of strategic recommendations.

I was part of a team that was focused on identifying opportunities to do different things with technology, and then actually help clients bring that to life, whether it's a pilot or actually building software for them. That was I really started to understand what I loved about business: Doing."

To listen to Worland today, the future of housing is far from stuck. It's arriving, like it or not.

Phil, who co-founded Cecilian Partners with another of his professional life's guiding lights, John Cecilian, stepped up recently to a role as Chief Product Officer – having led the firm's revenue group and strategic planning during those prior five years – is right on the same page as Ghafouri when looks at that present and the future. It's now.

What if we change that relationship with customers? What does it allow us to do?"

In a new episode of The Builder's Daily's videocast series, TBD Player, Phil candidly explores the industry community's critical challenge to rethink its relationship with customers, moving beyond traditional transactional interactions to a more holistic, experience-driven approach. This shift, Phil asserts, can unlock new opportunities for engagement and value creation throughout the customer journey.

And here's why that future in housing is not stuck. In an era where technological advancements and consumer expectations are evolving at an unprecedented pace, the homebuilding industry stands at a crossroads. The imperative for business leaders is clear, Worland says: Embrace a change management approach that places consumer experience at the forefront of their strategy. Basically, or else.

Homebuilders can create lasting value and loyalty by focusing on the entire customer journey — from land acquisition to post-purchase engagement. He illustrates this with an example from the hospitality industry:

How does that change the relationship that you have with customers, and what does that mean about your place in the broader ecosystem?"

The capability to make that pivot, Worland says, is one homebuilders and their partners rarely avail of as they try to adapt in turbulent times and catch up to the pace of accelerated operating conditions: Change management.

Here's one definition of that term, and it applies:

Organizational change refers broadly to the actions a business takes to change or adjust a significant component of its organization. This may include company culture, internal processes, underlying technology or infrastructure, corporate hierarchy, or another critical aspect." - Harvard Business School

Our conversation explores the role this solution can play within homebuilding enterprises and in the industry as a whole, but because businesses have been hesitant to adopt it, Worland tells me, it's important to recognize several reasons for the reluctance and push-back:

Inherent Characteristics of the Industry

It's a really unique industry. It's a durable good that lasts a really long time. People don't purchase that many homes in their lifetime."

Context: The nature of the product—homes—means they are long-lasting and people buy them infrequently. This reduces the immediate pressure for rapid change compared to industries with more frequent consumer interactions.

Absence of Significant External Competition

Homebuilding doesn't really have the external competition issue. It's a really unique industry. Unlike a luxury watch or something like that, there's always a need for homes, right? We're underbuilt as a nation in terms of homes."

Context: The consistent demand for homes and lack of direct competition like that seen in other industries (e.g., tech or consumer goods) reduces the urgency for homebuilders to innovate and adopt new technologies quickly.

Complexity and Long-Term Nature of Homebuilding

Homes live for years, and technologies, the technology and innovation cycle is very slow. You have to see how things live over the years and whether they live up to what their promises are."

Context: The long-term nature of homes means that any technological innovation must be tested and proven over many years, making the adoption process slower and more cautious.

Cyclical Nature of the Industry

The cyclical process that repeats – goes up and up and up and then comes crashing down – is so historically consistent that there's an almost intrinsic belief that change is not going to be kind of transformative; it's going to be relative to that cycle."

Context: The homebuilding industry's cyclical nature, with its predictable patterns of booms and busts, fosters a belief that change will always be relative to these cycles rather than transformative. This mindset can discourage long-term investments in innovation.

Discomfort with Disruption

Change is hard. It's disruptive. We say disruptive like it's a good thing, but for the people experiencing disruption, it's usually painful."

Context: Change inherently involves disruption, which can be uncomfortable and challenging for individuals and organizations. This discomfort can lead to resistance to adopting new technologies and processes.

Still, Worland asserts, housing's future – from the standpoint of consumers' new and evolving leverage in the value stream of residential development and construction – has basically arrived.

Here are some highlights of our conversation:

On the Role of Technology in Enhancing CX

Technology can change quickly, so it's easy to get commoditized if you don't surround your offering with high-value services."

Phil emphasizes integrating technology to stay competitive and enhance the overall value proposition. He suggests that simply offering a product is no longer enough; it must be complemented with superior services that technology can enable.

On Data Utilization and Its Strategic Importance

We generate a huge amount of data — whether it's data on the house or data on humans — but we don't store it in places where we can access it again. We don't have good control over the quality of that data."

Here, Phil highlights a critical gap in the industry’s approach to data management. He underscores the need for better data storage and quality control to leverage data effectively for strategic decision-making and enhancing customer interactions.

A Holistic Approach to Technology Adoption

How do we bring some of this thinking and experience to help set the foundation for leading a company focused on helping developers and builders do that?"

Phil stresses the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach to technology that addresses current needs and sets a strong foundation for future growth. This involves integrating technology into all aspects of the business, from development to customer engagement.

On Leadership Commitment to Driving Change

Sheryl Palmer [Chairman and CEO] at Taylor Morrison combines performance and delivery with a focus on customer experience, backed by real investment in people and technology."

Phil points to Sheryl Palmer as an exemplary leader who effectively combines operational excellence with a strong focus on customer experience. Her approach underscores the need for leadership to invest in both people and technology to drive meaningful change.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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"Investing in your brand doesn't give you a direct return on investment immediately. It takes a long time, but over time, branding successfully does increase financial value." -- Alex Akel, President, Akel Homes


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