Implementing Effective (Not Reactive) Tech Solutions

When a company adopts a tech solution successfully, it can boost efficiency, thwart cyber-threats and spark other positive business breakthroughs.

But too often, companies get mired in a revolving door of half-hearted, half-executed plans that give way to the next splashy sales pitch that comes across their path.

In the “Strategies for Success: Technology Adoption and Implementation” session at CRE.Converge 2017, Jason Muhlstein, Technology Consulting Partner, Wipfli LLP, and Kevin McCloughan, Chief Information Officer, Ryan Companies, covered a host of best practices that emerged, in part, from some missteps they have made and observed along their career paths.

The timing for leveraging new technologies in commercial real estate is upon us – from 2011 to 2016, the investment in CRE tech start-up companies spiked by 1,452 percent. However, global IT spending as a percentage of revenue lags in construction and real estate at 3 percent, compared with categories like healthcare (6.2 percent), financial services (5.7 percent) and infrastructure (5.2 percent).

Looking ahead, they highlighted key areas that companies ought to focus on: cloud computing and solutions, data analytics, technology integrations, internet of things, and cybersecurity.

The nature of how companies invest in IT is also evolving. Ryan Companies makes much of its purchases via software as a subscription amid an ever-increasing cloud-based environment. “It aligns our IT expenses much more closely with how our business is operating,” said McCloughan.

On the topic of cybersecurity, Muhlstein said hackers are far from focused solely on Fortune 500 or other prominent companies. Instead, they are indiscriminately “knocking on doors to see what they can get into.”

“The less sexy organizations still have a lot to worry about … it’s not just getting at your intellectual capital or customer data, but it’s also phishing and ransomware and getting into your network,” added Muhlstein.

Companies should work to recognize potential threats, put a plan in place to assess those vulnerabilities, educate employees on what to do when they get a phishing email or other threat, and have an incident response plan, he said. He also recommended companies consider getting cybersecurity insurance.

“The landscape’s changed and we have to be more diligent,” said McCloughan. “It’s making sure your people have a security awareness and some education.”

In terms of implementation, the problems that arise typically come from the people or the process – not the technology itself. Muhlstein said the factor most responsible for failure is “lack of clearly defined work and/or achievable milestones and objective for progress (37 percent),” followed by poor communications (19 percent); lack of communication by senior management (18 percent); employee resistance (14 percent); and insufficient funding (9 percent).

Rather than focus on the features and functions of a given technology, organizations should start elsewhere, said Muhlstein: “It all starts with identifying what business problem you’re solving.”

Other helpful elements: having an effective IT strategy in place, establishing an ongoing review of projects, soliciting candid (even anonymous) feedback from employees, getting buy-in from users, putting in place a project sponsor who will help shepherd the project from start to finish, and keeping in mind the number of individuals and departments affected by a project.

Setting realistic expectations is another must, as is instilling confidence that the technological benefits, over time, will outweigh the initial disruption and extra work. Those benefits take one to three years to be fully realized, said Muhlstein. Meantime, he concluded, “It’s going to get bad before it gets better.”

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