New building technologies can slash your energy spend and increase tenant comfort - but only if people are actually using them. Vetting technology investments properly is vital, and so is careful integration that gets every person in the building invested in using the new tool.
A panel on how to implement new commercial real estate technologies
at the 2018 BOMA International Conference & Expo.
From left, Erica Eaton, Vice President of Business Development for Comfy;
Lindsay Baker, Vice President and Head of Sustainability and Wellbeing for WeWork;
Deborah Boyer, Executive Vice President and Director of Asset Management for the Swig Company;
and Sara Shank, Managing Director of Beacon Capital Partners.
“The first and foremost thing is to figure out how you’re going to frame a new technology to leapfrog into a world where you’re not only increasing the value of your building, but also reducing the cost of running the portfolio,” says Lindsay Baker, Vice President of Sustainability and Wellbeing for global networking platform WeWork, during a panel at the 2018 BOMA International Conference & Expo. “It’s a means to an end. Technology is not the goal. The goal is a great portfolio that runs well with people who love being there.”
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In your excitement to implement the latest and greatest, beware of “death by dashboard,” warns Deborah Boyer, Executive Vice President and Director of Asset Management for the Swig Company, a privately owned real estate investor operator. Don’t get so invested in bells and whistles that you accidentally create more work for yourself. Technology is supposed to solve problems, not create new ones. Boyer recommends questioning your motivations to determine whether a new technology would be truly useful for your building:
- Does this technology solve a problem for me? Does it fill a specific need?
- Is it a must-have or a nice-to-have?
- What data can this technology measure for me? What will I do with that data and how will knowing it improve my bottom line or the tenant experience?
- If I have to log in to see the data and take action on it, am I likely to do that every day? Will the rest of my facilities management team do that, or will they ignore it?
- Does this technology integrate with something else we’re already using or does it require double input because it’s a standalone system? “Maybe it’s better if it’s integratable,” Boyer says. “There are some applications where a standalone system is OK and that’s worth looking at if there’s a simple system that answers a specific need.”
- Could this technology create unintended consequences? “This would be a great system, but if you think it through enough, when you implement it, suddenly it creates some other issue,” Boyer says. “Be aware of that.”
Choosing important features and determining how new technology will fit into your building is only the beginning, adds Sara Shank, Managing Director of Beacon Capital Partners. Actual implementation is a make-or-break step in gaining value from new technology. Shank oversaw two initiatives to implement Honest Buildings, a project management software package for commercial real estate, in her portfolio, and the difference between the two was night and day.
“We had senior support from the president of our company and a lot of help from Honest Buildings, but we just sent out one email and a follow-up. That was not the right approach,” Shank says.
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Two years later, Honest Buildings worked with Beacon property managers to walk them through how the software works, what kinds of data they needed to enter and how the software would save them time. Teams pre-populated as much information as possible so there would be no duplication of entry going forward.
“It took about a month for people to start getting comfortable with it, but then they really started to embrace it when they realized they could put away their Excel spreadsheets and run operations meetings directly through Honest Buildings,” Shank says. “All of a sudden it becomes a visible time-saving exercise. We also had all the property managers get on a call together and share the things they’ve learned to save time with Honest Buildings.”
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