At the foundation of any technology’s value are the processes supporting it, the people running those processes and the quality of the data it’s consuming. Your organization may have invested in a technology, but over the course of a few months – sometimes even during implementation - its value may dilute because the people using it aren’t being trained properly, processes aren’t adequately understood and examined for their compatibility with the technology and/or the correct data isn't being collected. It’s human nature to blame the machine, but absent strategies around data, training, continuous process improvement and the tool’s configuration mean you’re doomed to not realize the full benefit of your investment.
Ultimately, you have three options, two of which – augmenting or replacing the system – essentially require starting over. The third option – optimizing the tech you already have – calls for performing a health check on the system, developing and documenting processes around your real estate activities that fit the tech, establishing data governance policies and empowering your people with training and education.
Of these optimization actions, process improvement/alignment is probably the most important. This exercise should begin by documenting existing processes from an individual perspective, independent of any technology solution. Identify how a work order to change a light bulb is created, for instance, or identify the rules for onboarding a new employee from a space management perspective and follow that process as it flows from inception to completion.
This may involve dozens of stakeholder interviews across core CRE processes, from senior leaders to the front-line employees who do the work. Typically, you’ll find you’ve inherited long-standing or ad hoc processes with too many steps, duplicative steps or too much manual intervention, all of which could be solved by leveraging self-service and automated functionality that may already be within the system. The objective is to match needs and processes with technology, perhaps configuring the tech differently. Redesigning processes could also mean educating individuals and teams on how to more effectively exploit the technology.
Data is as much a fuel for technology as gasoline is to a Lamborghini; inferior quality impairs performance. It’s critical to think about data as an organizational asset, as the raw material that provides information and insights driving your organizational strategies. What kind of real estate-related data have you been collecting, and is it the kind of accurate data needed to support the outcomes you’re trying to achieve with your technology across all your critical real estate services, like lease management or space management?
My experience has shown that the majority of issues related to dissatisfaction with technology can be traced back to incorrect data or poor information flow, which points to the importance of data architecture and data governance. Organizations must maintain good data integrity and develop rules around data ownership and data updating. One resource I recommend is OSCRE (Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate), which actually defines data elements (e.g. naming conventions and database rules) should be included as part of your data strategy.
Knowledge leak is a term used to describe the tendency for people to retain only a portion of the information or training they receive. It’s common in any scenario, with serious implications for an organization seeking to optimize its technology, and it’s a strong argument for documenting processes and instituting ongoing education/improvement programs. That argument gets more persuasive when you think downstream - consider that those who’ve gone through initial process training or instruction on the system may train someone else, who, in turn, will retain only a portion of that knowledge. There’s a danger that knowledge leak could expand exponentially, seriously compromising the tech’s value.
Continual improvement from a people perspective - at every level of the organization, from the head of real estate on down - means empowering them with knowledge and helping them recognize the benefits of what they’re doing from a process and system perspective.
In today's world, most of the talk around tech revolves around exciting new concepts, like AI and machine learning. It tempts us to let our attention stray from what we can and should be doing to utilize our existing technology fully and correctly. There is likely tremendous, unrealized value in the tech you already own. Learn to exploit it.
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