A company decides to develop a tech product. Developers disappear into a hole to design it, while consumers anxiously await its release. When the first iteration is available, the product is riddled with bugs, requiring a slew of fixes before it can run smoothly.
This is the traditional software development route, and one Keller Williams isn’t taking. Instead, the tech company has broken away from the conventional with “Labs.”
“Labs is a program where we invite our associates to come build software with us,” explains Josh Team, chief innovation officer at Keller Williams Realty International (KWRI). “We ask them fundamental questions like, ‘What do you need to be successful?’ or ‘How can we double your revenue?’ Their answers go into Labs, where agents build products, they play with them, and then they tell our team how to improve.”
Right now, Labs participants are testing and collaborating with KWRI development teams on technology within the Keller Cloud. The platform is comprised of interconnected products that will collect agent, transaction, and client data, allowing agents to effortlessly run and grow their businesses. Essentially, the Labs program is designed to easily build and scale new Keller Cloud technologies and remove any large functional design changes.
Since its inception, several business solutions have traveled through the incubation phase to general availability using the Labs process:
- Kelle – Keller Williams’ award-winning, AI-powered virtual assistant
- Referrals – an intuitive way to send, receive, track and manage referrals within the Keller Cloud
- Market Snaps – a feature which allows users to pull hyperlocal market reports with one voice or text command to Kelle
“The methodology parallels the way Google and Amazon run their innovation labs, but we have tailored it to fit real estate,” shares Adi Pavlovic, director of innovation at KWRI. “What’s unique about what we’re doing is that not only are we implementing it across a business-to-business-to-consumer framework, but we are doing it at a large scale. I can confidently say that no one in real estate is doing this at the scale we are.”
Watch the video below to learn how top teams, like The Loken Group, are shaping KW technology through Labs!
How Labs Works
- An initial Lab group tells us a problem they want solved and describes the experience they expect.
- We take those insights and build a solution, or product.
- Our associates then test that product and provide direct feedback.
- Using this feedback as our guide, we continually refine the product with our associates.
- As the product matures, we add more people to the Lab and continue the process until our associates decide the product is ready for general availability.
Associates are also able to view, in real time, what tools are in the pipeline, key features, and countries of availability on the Labs Dashboard.
The Labs methodology is proving to be superior to others for many reasons, shares Pavlovic:
- 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 associates 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: KW technologists 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 associates, the team was able to design three products agents would find useful. At Mega Camp 2018, we took the opportunity to collaborate with associates to build a new Kelle skill. In 3.5 days, Map My Database was created to help agents visualize their database when they are out and about. That’s powerful. No other tech company would be able to do this. But, with our army of 180,000-plus technology partners, we can.
“With Labs, we can ideate, incubate and validate products at an incredibly fast pace, allowing us to play a large role in the modernization of the industry. It’s also our opportunity to work together with our agents. It’s a true testament to the culture of Keller Williams,” Pavlovic says.
GET INVOLVED IN LABS
Go to KWConnect, an exclusive training and education platform, to learn more about Labs and how to get involved.
This post has been updated from its previous version, published Dec. 11, 2017.