Digital Transformation and Real Estate with Wilma Gerber

In episode 309, Wilma Gerber, the chief operating officer for project and development services in JLL Asia Pacific, joined us for a conversation on digital transformation in the real estate industry. Starting from her work in building technology before the iPhone turned the smartphone mainstream to building the 4G network in India which becomes Reliance Jio, she offered the important lessons that explained the intersection of business and technology. Moving forward, she offered her perspectives on the why and how for a successful digital transformation and how it can be applied into a traditional industry for real estate.

Here are the interesting show notes and links to the discussion (with time-stamps included):

  • Wilma Gerber (LinkedIn), Chief Operating Officer, Project & Development Services Asia Pacific at Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) [0:18]
    • How did you start your career? [0:40]
    • Given that you have worked on technology ideas before these ideas become fashionable, for example, the instant mobile messaging app leads to whatsapp, the mobile music player becomes the iPod and the mobile app store before Apple App Store and Google Play, what are the major lessons that you have drawn from these experiences? [3:04]
    • So you spent your early a career in South Africa and Europe. What brought you to Asia? [4:35]
    • What is like working with Reliance to build out the 4G network for India that jumpstarted the smartphone market for the next 100-200M users? [6:01]
    • After you have worked in technology companies for more than 20 years, for example, building the network in India that is now the 4G network for Reliance Jio, why have you transitioned into real estate? [7:41]
    • Given that new upstarts such as Wework has entered into the real estate and the complexity of the real estate supply chain, why would it be different this round for you in executing a digital transformation in a traditional industry such as real estate? [9:34]
  • Digital Transformation in Real Estate [10:20]
    • Can you briefly introduce JLL to my audience and describe your current role and coverage with JLL? [10:43]  
    • How do you define digital transformation and what exactly it entails? [11:21]
    • How has your perception of DX changed since you moved from the vendor to client side? [12:12]
    • How do you define the typical objectives/goals for digital transformation? [13:32]
    • Who should be involved in the digital transformation within the company? [15:00]
    • Do you think that digital transformation is a program or a new way of thinking for a company or business? [16:02]
    • In a digital transformation given that it involves people and culture, what is more important, the transition or education for the organization?
    • When you start off on a digital transformation initiative, what are the initial steps? [17:46]
    • You have been working on digital transformation initiatives for over 15 years - can you provide an example of a successful digital transformation initiative from the wider market that you find compelling? Wilma discuss the case of DBS bank as a successful example of digital transformation. [18:50]
    • What sets this example apart from the typical digital transformation initiatives? [21:07]
    • What are the major challenges for digital transformation? [22:00]
      • Organisational 
      • Cultural
      • Financial
      • Strategic
      • Technological
    • In your perspective, how do you think about aligning the different stakeholders in digital transformation? [23:46]
    • What do you mean by leader-led change? [24:38]
    • The importance of culture in digital transformation. [25:35]
    • So now that you’ve been in Real Estate for about 3 years, what are you seeing as some of the industry specific challenges holding back digital transformation? [26:31]
    • If you had to give one piece of advice for someone who is about to undertake a digital transformation initiative from the leadership position, what would it be? [29:00]
    • References: McKinsey article - Why Digital Strategies fail?
  • Closing [29:29]
    • Can you recommend a book or movie or podcast or anything which recently made an impact to your work and personal life? [29:35]
      • Wilma's recommendation: Adam Grant's podcast "Work Life", the Freaknomics podcast and Malcolm Gladwell's "Revisionist History" podcast.
    • How do my audience find you? [30:16]

Podcast Information:

The show is hosted by Bernard Leong (@bernardleong & weibo) until 30 June 2019 and are sponsored by Ideal Workspace (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) with their new Altizen Desk (Twitter, Facebook, Medium). Sound credits for the intro music: Taro Iwashiro, "The Beginning" from Red Cliff Soundtrack and this episode is edited by Carol Yin, and co-produced by Carol Yin and Bernard Leong. This episode is recorded and produced in June 2019.