Tech Perspective @ the Edge with Bob Rybak, CIO, Morguard
Bob Rybak is the CIO at Morguard, a leading Real Estate Investment and Property Management firm based in Toronto, Canada. Bob has been a CIO, CTO, entrepreneur and frequent consultant for almost three decades, working in both the public and private sectors. His professional experience has spanned many different companies in a wide range of industries.
Tell us about your technology journey at Morguard. How did it begin?
My initial contact with Morguard was as a consultant to do an IT process and operational review. It rapidly became apparent that there was a disconnect between not just the needs, but the aspirations of the business and the service models that IT was supporting at that time. I presented my recommendations and was contacted to come in as an interim CIO to actually implement them.
The culture as I inherited it in 2013 was very much an IT 1.0 organization: very prescriptive in dealing with user services, top-down, and definitely outward looking towards what others were doing rather than inward looking to the needs and aspirations of the business. We had to go through a cultural transformation to be much more empathetic and responsive to the people we serve. Still acting in a leadership capacity and providing appropriate guidance, but exposing people to the art of the possible. We changed the physical environment to make it brighter and more open, for better communication. It was transformational, because IT is now not only a place where people collaborate very openly, but also the user community drops by to talk – they’re not inhibited in entering the IT space.
In the same way, we changed our approach to delivering services: being more open and saying yes immediately. All of these attributes for an IT 2.0 organization were really driven into the team and they’ve adapted very well.
How did your efforts align with the business goals of the company?
The consistent theme on the business side was that IT needed to be modernized, although if you asked people what that meant, you’d get ten different answers. I spent time consulting with senior managers, stressing that IT can actually contribute not just to the operational side but driving the profitability of the business. Again, demonstrating the art of the possible – that IT can have an inherent and intrinsic role in driving the business as opposed to simply being a cost center and administrative overhead.
The second part was taking all this information we'd collected about modernization in generic terms and clarifying that into a strategy around three very simple concepts: Productivity; Mobility and Information Insight. Those three things were actionable only if we moved everything to the cloud. Our migration to the cloud was quite rapid; we did it in about two years. Ultimately, the cloud strategy was the enabler of everything that would deliver value to the business. On the productivity side we moved to Office 365 and decommissioned a ton of servers. On the mobility side we implemented collaboration tools and moved as an organization from the Blackberry platform to whatever people wanted. We place a lot of emphasis on what I call the workplace outside the office: giving people the ability to work anywhere using any appropriate device. For the third part, Insight, our journey began with the implementation of a new Yardi ERP. Our agenda for the next three years will again push applications and enable new services in the cloud and provide the appropriate interface between systems to make it all work together seamlessly.
What is your highest priority technology initiative in 2018 and what are the drivers behind that decision?
The specific methodology by which we are implementing projects at a tactical level, with the platforms in place (including the ERP to provide data insight) is something called Design Thinking. It allows great responsiveness to the needs of the organization while leveraging the investment that you’ve already made in IT. There are a number of stages, but the first one goes back to our roots in this transformation and that’s to empathize with our user base. Our initiatives are to go out and go deep in terms of understanding not only their requirements, but the experiences that they want to create. We need to devise methods of creating superior experiences by really understanding not only what people are thinking, but what they’re feeling. As an initiative, this kind of approach to the ongoing understanding and collaboration with the business is one of the key things that I want to see embedded within the projects for 2018.
What technological advancements are likely to affect change in the near future?
In a broad sense, we’re going to have experiences everywhere that are much more insightful and immersive. Amazon Echo is one example of the advent of AI devices and services that are getting smarter all the time because of deep learning and the ability to link disparate information. These technologies will simply appear around us, we won’t even notice we’re surrounded by millions of devices listening and responding to our needs. Devices that support direct human-machine interaction like Siri, Cortana, Alexa; these will permeate our environment and be more transformational than they are today – because they’re going to get smarter really fast. We’ll have new versions of Google Glass or the Microsoft HoloLens that will provide visual data and visual cues in a much more immersive way.
Another trend that is going to be very top of mind is security. I don’t want to overstate the nature of the threat, but we already know that new technologies will be extremely pervasive, and the opportunities to exploit them will be much greater. Being aware of cyber threats and taking basic precautions to protect yourself is going to become as obvious and necessary as the precautions you’d take if you were walking down a dark side street in the middle of the night.
So, security awareness, deep learning, immersive experiences, augmented and virtual reality. Those are all things that suddenly people will wake up one day and see all around them. It’s already there in millions of locations. Leveraging that in a positive and productive way is an incredible business opportunity, whether you're in commercial real estate or any other business.
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UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS
Technology and the Impact to a Commercial Real Estate Strategy – Innovators Weigh In - 10/3/2018
For today’s Commercial Real Estate CIO, new technologies continue to emerge that are changing the landscape daily. Long gone are the days where property management, budget and forecasting and e-mail are the only concerns. Today, digital transformation, smart buildings, occupant experiences, automated leasing, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and cyber are just a few of the new technologies impacting the role of CIO. This webinar will discuss the wide-ranging set of technologies changing the commercial real estate industry and more importantly, the types of strategies necessary to navigate at an ever-increasing speed. Hear from some of the industry’s most successful CIO’s regarding this “Age of Acceleration”!
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.
Susan Gerock currently serves as VP, Information Technology and CIO for Washington REIT, a publicly traded REIT based in Washington, DC. She has over 20 years' experience in various technology roles spanning manufacturing, consulting, application service provider, and commercial real estate organizations. Her specialties include ERP selection and implementation, project and change management, and cybersecurity. She is also a proponent of the use of social media and the overlapping relationship between technology and marketing.
Phil Klokis is currently the CIO for the Public Buildings Service (PBS) of the General Services Administration. He is responsible for delivering Information Technology (IT) solutions and services supporting PBS' diverse real estate operations and portfolio management consisting of 1,500 owned assets, 9,000 active leased assets and nearly 350 million square feet of office space.
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.
Marc is a pioneer in leading the Intelligent/Smart Buildings and M2M movements pushing the industry forward and has contributed to transforming and changing the Intelligent Buildings and M2M (now IoT) industries. As Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Lynxspring Marc leads corporate and product marketing, strategy, brand management, public relations and communications that support the company’s strategic and growth initiatives.
Scott Sidman has 14 years of CRE technology experience leading sales and marketing efforts. He is responsible for supporting company growth goals and assuring company and product direction aligns with market needs as well as leads. Scott is CRE tech evangelist and host of a CRE Tech Talks podcast.