Jim Whalen, CIO, Boston Properties Weighs In On NextGen CRE Information Management
Technology has vastly changed the way we communicate and interact, and thanks to the development of new platforms, the commercial real estate (CRE) industry has begun to embrace that change. Leasing and asset management platforms have been streamlining and enhancing how CRE professionals exchange data, without undermining the importance of word of mouth communication. We recently sat down with Jim Whalen, SVP & CIO at Boston Properties, to talk about how modern CRE technology is transforming the way brokers, landlords and tenant reps communicate.
Historically, the time and effort required to get the information that leasing agents, owners, and landlords need on a daily basis was daunting. Even with the advent of big data collection, the issue then became how to efficiently analyze that information in a constant, consistent, and actionable way. CIOs faced a daily challenge in managing their pipeline, and increasingly needed a better way to manage the efficiency of the process.
Jim Whalen agrees, “My biggest challenge is working to keep up with the velocity of our business and the cycle we’re in right now. For the past few years, our main focus has been to increase the efficiency of how we process, handle and package the data that supports how we make decisions. We’re not in a position to take a timeout right now. We have a very active development pipeline at the moment—buildings under construction, working to lease out those spaces—there’s a quicker cadence and tempo to the business cycle right now, and we’re working hard to meet it.”
In the past, teams typically communicated around deal flow through a combination of data on tool sets, reinforced by verbal communications and structured reviews such as quarterly business plans. Still, the verbal communication that the teams do was a vital part of the process, and the engagement that goes on internally. (A piece of paper in front of you shows the analytics of a deal, but you still want to talk about it and have that interaction.) In the new era of CRE platforms, that interaction is still vital, but what has changed is there is no longer a need to have the same amount of interactions to have a pulse on data flow and what is happening in the market. Verbal communication is still key – but platforms have streamlined the process and made it more efficient.
Whalen elaborates: “There’s a term related to social media called ‘ambient awareness’. It refers to the ability to have an awareness of everything that’s going on without having to take a deep dive into each space. This is what CRE tech platforms provide us – the ability to have an awareness of everything that’s going on so we can probe deeper into the things that matter most.”
Prior to using the CRE tech platform, Boston Properties utilized a more traditional platform that captured data throughout the quarterly cycle and focused on the forecast process. However, the flow of information wasn’t aligned with the pace of deal flow and activities on the ground; it did not necessarily give the full story of the interactions that occur on a daily basis. While there was a process, it was a somewhat minimalist approach to support the requirements of business without the insight into activity, the insight into the conversations, and negotiations between tenants and landlords.
In 2011, Boston Properties teamed with VTS, a leading leasing and asset management company that offers a real-time approach to leasing CRE portfolios. Their platform technology offered an interactive stacking plan, and a superior way to track performance and identify opportunities, maximizing productivity, expediting communications between brokers and landlords, and offering an efficient solution for leasing agents.
CRE tech has also been used by executives to communicate key portfolio details to Wall Street. Whalen explained that “Boston Properties already had a pretty disciplined process for revenue forecasting before we started using CRE technology. However, this technology enabled us to do two things. First, it allowed for increased sorting and transparency of activity – instead of the senior management team making phone calls every day to really understand the details of a particular deal, they get insight from the minute they get up in the morning when the first update comes up. The second thing is when we are crunching the data every quarter, there is a two, three, four week period where we are going through the details, and the finance team is required to maintain our forecast and revenue models. VTS has contributed to the process by supporting our teams to have all information at their fingertips – they provide the details and real-time updates that are happening on the ground to reinforce what gets baked into our forecast and our guidance.”
As the CRE industry moves forward, modern leasing and asset management platforms are streamlining how landlords, brokers and tenant reps get the information they need to work more efficiently, and communicate more effectively.
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Commercial and Corporate Real Estate Cyber Risk - Developing a Comprehensive Strategy - 10/25/2018
Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about a Cyber breach. The most recent of scale was Equifax, the credit reporting agency in which credit information of 143 million of its clients was breached. While most of the incidents we hear about involve data or financial theft, there is a looming threat…our built infrastructure. This infrastructure includes everything from power plants to dams, but also includes the millions of buildings we use every day to work, shop, learn, recreate, manage our health and more. The threats range from unwanted building access to pirating of video surveillance and everything in between. This webinar will focus on the entire spectrum of Commercial and Corporate Real Estate cyber challenges, solutions and strategies.
Founder of Realcomm Conference Group, an education organization that produces Realcomm, IBcon and CoRE Tech, the world's leading conferences on technology, automated business solutions, intelligent buildings and energy efficiency for the commercial and corporate real estate industry. As CEO, Jim interacts with some of the largest companies globally pertaining to some of the most advanced and progressive next generation real estate projects under development.
Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was started in 2004. Intelligent Buildings provides planning and implementation of next generation strategy for new buildings, existing portfolios and urban communities. Tom is a speaker and collaborator with numerous universities and national laboratories, a gubernatorial appointee for energy strategy and policy and founding Chairman of Envision Charlotte, a Clinton Global Initiative.
As CIO at Meridian Capital, Sandy Jacolow oversees the firm’s nationwide innovation and technology initiatives that support the company’s brokerage, investment sales and retail leasing businesses and growth activities.
Ron Victor is a Silicon Valley based technology entrepreneur with 20 years of experience and expertise launching new ventures at start-ups and fortune 1000 technology companies. To-date he has enabled raising more than $30Million in start-up capital for multiple start-ups in silicon-valley. Ron has founded and led three companies to-date with successful exits. His latest venture is IoTium Inc. – a Silicon Valley start-up that provides a secure, cloud-managed, easy-to-deploy software defined network infrastructure for all IoT verticals.
Coleman Wolf has extensive experience developing enterprise-wide access control and alarm monitoring systems, developing business analyses, and conducting detailed security surveys and assessments of corporate offices, power generation plants, and facilities related to national critical infrastructure. Coleman has also managed numerous security system installation and upgrade projects. He holds a Master of Science, Computer Information Systems degree from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Science, Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Michigan. He is also CPP (Certified Protection Professional) and CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional). Coleman also holds the following Professional / Civic Affiliations: ASIS (Member of American Society for Industrial Security), Chairman of the ASIS Information Technology Security Council, and is an active member of the ASIS Security Architecture and Engineering Council.