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Making Tech Work for Master Planned Communities

Published on November 18, 2019

By Cecilian Partners

The problem facing builders and developers

Twenty years ago, a company named OpenTable noticed a problem. Making a restaurant reservation was exceptionally hard. It was a literal game of telephone – customers were on their own, blindly calling restaurants hoping for an opening.

The problem actually started at the restaurants. Turns out, restaurants were struggling in managing reservations and space. Paper, pencil, and the host’s “gut feel” governed the process. And, of course, none of that “data” was available to customers.

OpenTable solved that operational issue first, building a digital platform to manage restaurants. With that foundation, and access to data no one else had, OpenTable was able to offer potential customers a live view into availability at thousands of restaurants. That fundamentally changed the game.

New home construction and master planned communities face an analogous set of issues – an opaque, confusing customer experience driven by manual, disconnected operations.

It’s not that builders and developers don’t have digital systems or data, it’s that none of those systems talk to each other and none of that data is in the same place. Customers visit multiple builder and developer websites, get dozens of emails, and then wait weeks for architectural approvals. Meanwhile builders and developers are using note cards to capture data while communicating across multiple file sharing sites (at best).

So where do we go from here?

How to drive value now AND position for the future

Two fundamental issues need to be addressed for builders and developers.

The first is that current systems and investments aren’t actually addressing some of the most pressing issues. There is no shortage of ERPs, CRMs, CDPs and a thousand other acronyms, but the truth is that the vast majority of builder-developer interaction is still manual. The industry is filled with 5×7 note cards with customer information, paper maps to manage anti-monotony, and an intensive monthly reporting process done by an analyst cleansing and chasing data.

The second is that even when existing systems work well, they still don’t talk to each other. Those systems may be helping in spots, but they are also creating more data silos.

That manual interaction and lack of connectivity is driving bad data, lots of unnecessary cost and complexity, a prolonged and painful customer experience, and ultimately it’s hamstringing the investment in larger technology platforms.

Addressing this challenge requires a tailored solution that is specific to this industry. It should link developers and builders, automate the manual processes, and be the connective tissue between customer, marketing, and operations data and systems.

That’s why Cecilian created The XO. It brings three key capabilities, built for developers and builders:

  • A single place to manage the community – where builders enter plans and sales information, developers manage approvals and actions, and all data is captured and used.
  • An automation & reporting engine – a layer that accesses that data and runs, in real-time, the manual processes around approvals and reporting that used to take weeks.
  • A compelling consumer-facing UX – the ability to take that real-time data and show customers what’s available where, all in one place that puts the power into their hands.

The benefits of a digital platform like this are immediate.

For builders it provides an easier, standard way to report sales, immediate and traceable feedback on approvals that enable a faster sales cycle, and powerful reporting.

For developers it reduces manual work and wasted time aggregating and checking data, drives consistency and clarity of repetition rules, provides real-time, accurate data that drives better and more informed decisions, and can deliver a portfolio-wide view of progress and problems.

For investment partners it provides a real-time way to understand how investments are performing and uncover patterns and opportunities across portfolios.

And most importantly, for customers it gives a transparent look into inventory and options, and enables a faster, less painful sales process.

Longer term, that foundation of real-time sales, consumer, and operational data is critical for getting the most out of CRM, social and consumer insight data, automated marketing, and builder ERPs. It provides the linkage between builder and developer, between prospect, customer, and resident, and acts as a source of truth across the process—supporting the future vision of one interconnected “system.”

The business implications of technology

This isn’t just a tech decision, this is a business strategy that will pay dividends for years to come, changing how developers and builders market, sell, operate, and deliver a fantastic customer experience.

Across all industries, a deliberate and aggressive approach to technology is what drives real business results. A recent study across 8300 companies in 20 industries by the consulting firm Accenture found that technology leaders were driving more than 2x the revenue growth of technology laggards. Check out the full study here.

Those “leaders” were characterized by a unique combination – they invest and experiment with new tech that solves practical business issues AND they do so within the context of a broader plan of how that technology will work together in an integrated “system”.

THAT is both the opportunity and prescription for developers and builders.

About Cecilian Partners

Cecilian Partners is a Philadelphia-based start-up specializing in customer experience for real estate. Founded in 2019 by John Cecilian Jr., Philip Worland, and Vaclav Shatillo, Cecilian Partners draws inspiration from retail, technology, travel and hospitality to create customer-centric and data-driven solutions for the real estate industry. Cecilian Partners’ first platform, The XO, is designed to transform the home buying journey for developers, home builders, and consumers. For more information, please visit

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