Intelligent Tracking & Integration: Enabling the Digital Office
Just as the industrial revolution did a century and a half ago, the digital revolution is reshaping the way we live our lives and the way we work, forcing a fundamental transformation of business. And two fundamental technology principals are working together to enable the Digital Office.
The digital revolution is moving us quickly toward a fluid state where the workplace, and just about everything in it, can 'talk' to one another, providing seamless access, shared workflow, broad visibility and laser focused analytics from any location. This new 'digital office' is where rising technology trends – from the Internet of Things to read analytics to ambient knowledge – all come to the forefront to fundamentally transform business, and our office environments.
If new networks can link data from products, company assets, and the operating environment, there is real potential to generate better information and analysis, which can greatly enhance decision making. However, the reality is that a fully 'digital office' won’t materialize all at once. Many organizations have existing office hardware, software, and systems that work outside of these new paradigms. Some organizations are starting to deploy these applications in targeted areas, while more radical and demanding uses are still in the conceptual or experimental stages.
Whatever rate of adoption a business chooses, two fundamental components must be in place to enable the digital office of the future:
- Intelligent Tracking: Intelligent tracking allows a dialogue between individual processes, people, transactions and assets and locations. It’s designed to transform historically siloed functions into seamless coordinated actions – within the workplace or across multiple sites. Intelligent tracking follows and connects the behavior, location, and workflow of individual mission-critical items from documents and supplies to employee requests and data. Information is aggregated and easily visible, so performance can be monitored and improved every step of the way. The result is greater control, accountability, and efficiency – making the organization exponentially smarter as it uses new technologies.
Integration: Core systems that drive back, mid and front offices are often decades old, comprising everything from custom systems built to the run the financial services industry in the 1970s, to the ERP reengineering wave of the 1990s. In addition, multiple physical assets and technologies inside and outside the organization have changed at different rates, some becoming obsolete before they are integrated – other legacy systems operating in complete isolation. Today, many roads to digital innovation lead through these 'heart of the business' products and systems. For this reason, organizations are now developing strategies for re-imagining their core systems that involve re-platforming, modernizing, and revitalization; transforming the bedrock of the technology footprint to move data through the organization in whole new ways.
A Digital 'First Step': Transforming Mail Services
Office services – those largely overhead services like mail, supplies, inventory, printing, etc. – are constantly evolving as a result of increasing pressure to deliver good services with fewer resources and less money. For this multi-billion-dollar industry, data that is not tracked, and systems that are not integrated, can dramatically increase operational costs from duplicate and inconsistent data entry, reduced process controls, material loss, and increased labor.
One of the fundamental processes within the Office Service industry is the management of mail, and as early as 2010, Bear River saw that mail services was not well served by standalone, siloed products. We developed an integration architecture to connect mail services equipment, hardware and software seamlessly. Two primary principals drove our development:
- Tracking the Chain of Custody. A key goal for mail services is to capture the record of every action performed on every item handled through the workflow, resulting in a complete chain-of-custody for each item. This large dataset provides visibility into the current state of each item as well as visibility into the office service itself. Using analytics on this dataset enables objective and accurate measurement of service levels and KPIs of complete workflows or of specific workflow phases, something that is simply not possible with a collection of standalone systems.
Integrating Systems. Mail services is peppered with disparate systems. Our integration architecture had to connect with a number of other products including mail sorters, scanning workstations, digital mail software and intelligent lockers. The architecture is implemented using modern web technologies such as Web services, JSON, and message brokers. Scalability, reliability, and security were important in the development and implementation of the architecture.
In 2010, Bear River was awarded a contract to implement a digital mail system for general correspondence for a large federal department. They began by using Bear River’s intelligent tracking solution, BearTracks, for tracking the history of each mail piece, providing reports and analytics for the workflow, and providing a dashboard showing the system status. Additional systems included:
- A mail sorter capable of sorting 10,000 pieces per hour
- Digital mail software that supports both individuals and work groups
- Scanning workstations capable of scanning the contents of each mail piece
The pilot program ran for one year and fully met their objectives, and the system is now being rolled out on a large scale for the people working at the headquarters campus. The digital mail service has enabled quick delivery of mail electronically to customers whether they are physically onsite or not – and delivery times for physical mail was reduced by three hours each day. Today, the integration platform allows for the continuous evolution of both workflow and new data points, growing in-step with the organization.
New technologies, including the Internet of Things, have truly transformative potential. At Bear River, we are presented with the opportunity to develop new and valuable systems right now, that will support and encourage the digital office of the future. Often that starts with a single business process – leveraging data from tracked processes, products and things, and encouraging interoperability by integrating that data to improve operations and gather greater insights for data driven decision making.
This Week’s Sponsor
About Bear River: Bear River’s flagship product, BearTracks, is a fully scalable enterprise software designed to help companies of every size track, report and manage critical office services – from mail & parcels, print & copy, supply & assets – to facilities & hospitality. Whether you have one site or hundreds, BearTracks provides real-time operational insights to help meet and exceed even the most ambitious service goals, turning everyday workplace functions into true competitive advantage. www.bearriver.com
UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS
Controlling a Building from Your Phone – OCCUPANT EXPERIENCE Platforms Arrive - 2/28/2019
The initial focus in mobile technologies was on meeting room reservations; then came lighting, heating and cooling, then access control. Over the last 24 months it has become apparent that there are many more occupant experiences that can be delivered via mobile phone. Managing parking, reporting maintenance issues, ordering coffee, scheduling an exercise class, viewing security cameras, and other applications were quickly added to the list. With so many options and approaches available, what are the best strategies for occupant experience? Build versus buy, functionality selection, solution integration and ongoing support are just some of the topics to be addressed by the industries’ most respected professionals.
Chuck Niswonger has over 30 years of successful leadership experience in technology-related roles that range from operating his own consulting company (www.nicenets.com) to directing the IT strategy of a real estate investment management firm to manufacturing and technology-enabled education. Chuck has also been the chair of the Realcomm Investment Management (IM) Advisory Council for the last ten years, managing content selection for the conference educational sessions, IM forums, workshops and webinars.
Matthew Lennan has been integrating IT and building system technologies for more than 30 years. He has developed and implemented computing infrastructures for global financial firms, major healthcare facilities, manufacturing, entertainment complexes and traditional smart buildings. Most recently, Matthew has been working in software development to refine the customer experience for smart buildings in Office, Retail and Residential environments. He is currently responsible for driving Innovation across Oxford Properties’ portfolio.
Jared Summers is a motivated execution-oriented high performance individual who has extensive experience managing large-scale global programs. He brings a unique ability to understand and articulate complex technologies in a relatable way while rapidly fielding innovative capabilities. Currently Jared is the Data, Analytics & Technology Manager at ExxonMobil, delivering on the promise of transformational change enabled by digital technologies across the entire global real estate portfolio.
Elizabeth Dukes is the Co-Founder and CMO of iOFFICE, the leading workforce-centric IWMS software and the first 100% SaaS platform designed for the Digital Workplace. Dukes drives strategy for iOFFICE and advocates for the confluence of people and technology that unleashes the full potential of the workforce and the workplace.
Matt leads the product development and roadmap strategy for Modo Labs. With broad experience across mobile and audience engagement, along with a customer-centric mindset, he is the company’s product leader for both Workplace and Campus solutions. Matt and his development team continue to enhance the Modo no-code platform, empowering higher education and enterprise organizations to quickly create personalized applications and ensure students and employees have access to the information they need most.
Joshua has over 15 years of successful leadership experience with early-stage disruptive companies. He has an extensive background in property technology, focusing on amenities that drive tenant experience across commercial real estate, multifamily residential and student housing. Josh has lead national sales and support teams with an emphasis on customer success, brand recognition, and occupant experience.
As Head of Sales, Nick is responsible for leading the sales organization including domestic sales, product implementation and customer success. Nick’s 20+ years’ involvement with technology dates to the 90s when Peapod did its best to teach him UNIX. Nick’s IT responsibilities over his various positions have included End User Support, System/Platform Administration, Business Continuity Management and Project, Facilities, Procurement, Contracts & Maintenance. Most recently Nick served as Vice President at Environmental Systems Design (ESD).