With a wave of innovation headed toward our sector, how do IT professionals choose where to invest and how do they make the case to the C-suite to actually invest? The advice from the experts at the 2017 NMHC OPTECH Conference & Exposition was “consider yourself being in the information business, not the technology business.”
Phillip McCorkle, enterprise managing consultant at RealFoundations, summed it up by saying, “More mature organizations realize that they need to develop information strategies first and not technology strategies.” It’s all about the data, he said. “We’ve invested millions with the promise of efficiency, but we lack the information the C-suite wants.”
Todd Butler, chief technology officer at KETTLER Management, agreed, noting that the most important question he asks for any new system he considers is, “how accessible is your data for me to dump into my database?”
IT purchasers are getting bombarded from all levels. Some recommendations come from the C-suite, some from middle managers and some from end users. Butler said he hosts a quarterly roundtable to decide if any are worth vetting. Ultimately, management is looking at whether you are solving a problem or building a capability and usually those are mutually exclusive. Building a capability is usually a strategic initiative that has top-level engagement; solving a problem is usually an incremental change.
Either way, the experts said that technology groups need to take a broader approach to how they organize their departments. It’s important to have subgroups dedicated to core infrastructure, management technology (PMS) and digital marketing technology. With all major projects it’s important to have the 10,000-foot view that the practitioners can bring as well as the technologist who can reality test for cost, complexity and security.
All of the IT experts are looking at the future and considering how technology will dramatically change the way the traditional work at a property will change. Machine learning and the Internet of Things/smart homes are going to streamline how on-site operations work and what skillsets on-site employees will need. It’s all about predictive analytics and what that can replace on a day-to-day basis.
As McCorkle explained “the work we perform isn’t going to change, but the nature of it and who does it will.” He envisions a world in which artificial intelligence and blockchain allow an operating model that doesn’t require an on-site property manager.
Ultimately, millennials have shown the world that they value convenience over human interaction. They would prefer to identify an apartment, apply to lease it, lease it and get a digital token on their phone to release the lock on their new home. No manager needed.
That means the staff that remains will need whole new skillsets to work as your properties evolve. Your concierge will need to be a tech concierge as you deploy smart home technology and your maintenance staff will have to be mini-techs as well.
Butler agreed, saying, “in the future, we’ll be embarrassed that humans were doing these jobs.”
McCorkle looked forward by saying that, in the past, they talked to their clients about getting their back offices in order. Today, everything they talk to the C-suite about is looking forward. It’s about information strategy and improving predictive analytics, which reinforced Butler’s point that it’s all about the data and a firm’s ability to centralize it, put a business information tool on top of it and engage in predictive analytics