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The pandemic has required builders to either adopt digital operations new to their business model or rely on and improve existing techniques at a faster pace than they had in the past. This shift opens a new realm of possibilities for customer engagement and product development—including ideas tried and true in other industries.

Thomas Holt held creative roles at a number of video game developers and distribution companies before moving into the home building industry as a co-founder of Higharc, a digital floor plan customization service currently in early access. At his upcoming IBSx session—"Gamification: How Video Games are Shaping the New Home Buying Experience," available on demand starting Feb. 9—Holt will examine the consumer engagement lessons builders can learn from the digital operations strategies adopted by other industries.

BUILDER recently spoke with Holt about his view for the future of digital operations in home building.

BUILDER: What are the strongest trends right now in home building tech, operationally or otherwise? Which do you believe have staying power?

Holt: The three trends we’re seeing are customers’ growing demands and expectations around customization, the larger cultural shift to more online and digital services, and the critical need to have a data-driven business model. We believe these shifts in the industry will not only have staying power, but also have a transformative effect on how we design, build, and sell houses.

BUILDER: How has COVID-19 affected tech trends in the industry, and within your own company?

Holt: The pandemic has had an enormous impact on schedules, labor, and supply chains in addition to new priorities and feature requests from customers. For builders, that has highlighted how inflexible and painfully slow their current systems and processes are, which has rapidly escalated the technology advancements we’re currently seeing in the market.

As customers are spending more time online and many other industries have been able to quickly pivot and provide more personalized and complete digital services, they expect the same from our industry. For Higharc, it has led to a lot of requests to expand our early access program to let in more builders and to accelerate the scale of use for those already in the programs.

BUILDER: How has your work contributed to builders’ success?

Holt: One of the best parts of working with our builders is seeing how much of an impact our platform can have on their business and the transformative potential it offers. It simplifies and connects each step of the design, construction, and sales process, providing a level of visibility and control over their business and their home plans that they’ve never had before. Builders are able to reduce the amount of time spent across the entire design and configuration process, allowing them to accomplish more work with the same amount of people and ultimately helping to open new communities faster as a result.

BUILDER: How can builders take cues from the game industry in their tech applications?

Holt: In addition to the customer-facing examples around visualization and crafting engaging experiences, the gaming industry can provide the home building industry with lessons around harnessing technology to maximize efficiency and empower our teams.

Game development has successfully gone through the technical transitions that are in front of us now. The solutions the sector developed to approach the demand for customization, to shift to an online marketplace, and to adopt a data-based approach in product development and sales can serve as a guide for how we can do the same.