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Jun 28

Key Takeaways from BOMA 2018: Adopting New CRE Tech

The gap between building occupants and buildings is a big one, and more and more leading workplace teams are looking to new tech to close it. But if you’ve ever tried to implement new workplace tech to address that challenge, you know how tricky it can be.

Earlier this week at BOMA 2018 in San Antonio, I listened in on an insightful panel moderated by Comfy’s very own Erica Eaton, VP of Business Development & Strategy, and including panelists Deb Boyer from the Swig Company, Sara Shank of Beacon Capital Partners, and Lindsay Baker of WeWork. The triumphs of these early tech adopters—and even more so their failures—offered a few golden nuggets of advice for real estate leaders looking to adopt new CRE tech.

Know what you’re trying to get to.

Selecting technology can be overwhelming—there’s a sea of options and it’s hard to cut through the noise to understand what each technology can truly deliver. That said, panelists agreed, successful implementations always start with clearly defined objectives—what problem should a selected technology solution solve?  Whatever you adopt, ensure it’s rooted in the right business drivers and outcomes, i.e., does it enhance tenant experience? Does it integrate with existing technology? Is it the right tech to achieve goals (i.e., operational efficiency or other portfolio KPI’s)? Different buyers need different tools to meet their department’s needs. “Ultimately, the goal is a really great portfolio that runs well and that people love to be in,” said Lindsay of WeWork.

But both sides of the coin—buyer and user—are critical: even if you find something that you think contributes to overall building optimization, “if people won’t adopt it, then there isn’t a reason to buy it,” says Deb of the Swig Company, a San Francisco-based real estate company. And ultimately, let the pilot be your friend, she says: “taking the moment to test adoption is key.”

Own your approach to vetting.

Once you’ve got some options, it’s imperative to have your key stakeholders outlined and the approval process clear. Who needs to be involved—IT, facilities, others? Who has sign off authority? As a vendor to enterprise and commercial clients, "it's our responsibility to understand how to prove and measure the success of the tech to multiple stakeholders with different levels of responsibility,” says Lindsay. “We measure it. We show how it is being successful.” To make your case internally, Lindsay says “make sure you have clear use cases specific to YOUR business in order to make the case.”

Ultimately launching a new program can be hard on the project managers championing an initiative. “Your processes aren’t broken,” says Sara of Beacon Capital, “however there might be a better way to do things.” As an example, when Beacon launched a new project management platform last year, they sent out a single email to announce the new tool. It wasn’t enough, as shown by the low adoption numbers. They went on to dedicate more time, training, and resources to demonstrate value to each stakeholder—the property manager, the building engineers, etc.—which in turn helped drive buy-in and higher adoption.

Have a plan for how to scale and how to stay up to speed.

Adoption success often depends on how successful the change management aspect has gone. “It’s up to the vendor to identify and continually report out on value, as relevant to each stakeholder,” says Erica, “so they continue to see the value over time. Having just a high level champion isn’t always enough.”

The panelists commented on the importance of staying up to speed with the rapidly evolving world of tech. What’s the best way to keep up to snuff? “Develop relationships and see what others are doing,” advised Sara, “including your existing vendors and anyone they recommend.” In terms of the top outlets the women use to keep finger on the pulse in CRE tech, blogs, newsletters, journals, and events (like BOMA and Realcomm) topped the list. “You’ve got to understand the landscape through the lens of the occupier,” said Deb. “How do you make the workplace more valuable for the people? How is tech impacting their lives?”

When it comes to employing tech to close the occupant-building gap, explained Deb, it’s not just connectivity, it’s about flexibility. “The tenant experience starts when they leave their house,” concluded  Deb. “Our job is to create a workplace experience that reflects their lives at create a seamless transition from home to the office building.” She laughed. “Has it ever been more interesting or more fun?”

Thanks to BOMA for a terrific event! If you're interested in hearing more from Erica on Comfy’s experience-first approach to the workplace, check out our recent webinar.

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