BOMA Magazine July/August 2018 Digital Edition

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ALMOST LIKE to How Make MAGIC CRE Technology Work for You BY JESSICA BATES S cience fiction author Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  When we see what is possible—directions to anywhere we want to go at any time, instant data transfer to anywhere in the world, printers that create three-dimension- al objects, virtual reality headsets that can show us places we’ve never been—we feel the truth of this statement. We can give orders to our phones, and physical objects arrive in the mail shortly thereafter. It’s easy to take these benefits for granted. And yet, technology also can feel very far from magical, particularly in the workplace. Instead, it can seem confusing, fragile, overwhelming and unnecessarily complicated. User errors, system incompatibilities and cybersecurity issues abound. Technological advancements are unquestionably making our lives easier, so why do they sometimes seem to make our jobs harder? Because technology isn’t magic, even in commercial real estate. “Technology is just a tool to achieve something,” says Deborah A. Boyer, executive vice president and director of Asset Management at San Francisco-based Swig Company. “You can’t just place a new piece of tech in your building and expect it to solve all your problems; you need to properly evaluate it and create an implementation plan as you would for any other new initiative.” Boyer acknowledges this has become a little more compli- cated lately. “I think we are all struggling to keep up with tech now because there’s been such a flood of new products into our industry,” she explains. “For a long time, commercial real 16  BOMA MAGAZINE JULY | AUGUST 2018 estate technology wasn’t in the spotlight—it wasn’t a ‘sexy’ industry for tech start-ups—but now, the floodgates are open and there’s something new coming out every day.” The real magic trick is figuring out how to distinguish between the options that will be a good investment for a property and those that will end up just making more work for you and your property team. WHAT PROBLEM ARE YOU SOLVING? Specificity and clarity are key to successfully integrating a new technology into your property or portfolio. Boyer suggests starting by clearly defining the “need.” “What is the problem you’re having? What is the tenant service you want to enhance?” she asks. “Don’t just start acquiring tech for the sake of acquiring tech. You need it to solve a problem for you.” It’s helpful to know what kinds of technology are avail- able right now. Boyer puts commercial real estate technol- ogy, often lumped together under the heading “PropTech,” into three basic categories: building operations solutions that run or monitor the property; tenant-facing technology, such as tenant portals; and administrative tools, such as accounting software. For each of these, options exist that can make property professionals significantly more effec- tive. Rob Teel, senior vice president of Global Solutions for Yardi, says that the Internet of Things is having a truly transformative effect on the first of these three categories, the technology that relates to building operations. “You no longer have to physically check gauges and inspect equip- ment to make sure your property is running smoothly,” he