An IT team is a vital part to any commercial real estate organization, acting as the backbone for any technological initiatives. But despite the team’s deep knowledge, it doesn’t have a boots-on-the-ground role when it comes to a building’s daily operations.
As real estate owners increasingly adopt CRE technology, including building and energy management systems, lease administration software, and project tracking platforms, it’s important for every professional impacted by these technologies to have a role in evaluating, accepting, and implementing the chosen products—and not just rely on the IT team to make such critical decisions.
Owners can make sure these professionals are represented by building cross-functional technology committees within their organizations. Among the professionals who should have a voice on the committee are not only the IT team, but the owner, property managers, and asset managers.
The latter three would be most impacted by the adoption of platforms like Honest Buildings, VTS, Hightower and Yardi as they’ll want to make sure all of their daily operational needs are covered by the chosen technology. Well-thought-out implementation can result in greater building efficiency, consistency, and economies of scale—which can all positively impact an owner’s bottom line.
The Danger of Leaving All Technology Decisions to the IT Team
It’s easy for a company to grow dependent on the IT team to make decisions about everything tech-related. But while an IT team may seemingly understand everything about technology—such as hardware or networking—that familiarity may not extend to the specific needs and complex workflows of various departments across the organization.
How can you ensure the IT team is picking the right platforms and applications that will make your building operations team more productive? Best-in-class real estate owners are bringing together the tech gurus and the internal end users to collaboratively make the most-informed decisions about new platforms.
What Does a Cross-Functional Technology Committee Do?
The roles of a cross-functional technology committee might include:
• Reviewing and accepting a technology plan, particularly how it relates to the overall building strategy;
• Providing input on and working with the IT department in relation to strategy, initiatives, and priorities;
• Reviewing and endorsing technology budgets, plans, and decisions;
• Putting together building technology policies to be implemented by the IT department; and
• Acting a liaison on the user-related aspects of a technology plan (roll-outs, training, communication, etc.)
Building a Successful Cross-Functional Technology Committee
Given the different personalities who will be involved on the committee, it’s important to have a set of ground rules, and members should have flexibility and a willingness to work together. Kent Brooks, the IT director for Casper College, outlined some of these rules in his blog post, “What Makes an Effective Technology Committee in Education.” While written for higher education, many of these can be easily adopted for the building industry and make a strong argument for the benefit of having a technology committee. Among them:
• All ideas are good. There are no stupid questions.
• It’s easy to be conservative and stay years behind the technology curve.
• Watch each other’s technological backs. Lean on each other for consolidation of knowledge about information technologies. There is simply too much out there for any one person to be able to filter.
• Technology suffers from acronyminitis; explain acronyms when possible.
• There is infinitely more technology available than the IT department has time or resources to make available to the institution. As such, there always seems to be an extensive backlog of projects.
• The “consumerization” of technologies make the previous issue even more challenging with an ever-swelling array of tools and concepts to filter through.
But Avoid Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen
Brooks also argues that there needs to be a delineation as to the committee’s role and what the IT should handle on its own. Among the tasks IT should handle exclusively are: setting technology procedures to implement policies set by the committee; making specific hardware decisions; reviewing technology staffing decisions and running its own department; managing the specifics of technology projects; approving purchases for previously budgeted items; and acting as both the help desk and the first-level escalation path for technology problems.