Fostering a Spirit of Collaboration Between IT and Business Leaders

Sandy Jacolow, CIO, Silverstein Properties
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Sandy Jacolow, CIO, Silverstein Properties

Sandy Jacolow, CIO, Silverstein Properties

How would you describe the role of a CIO today?

In an age where personal computing has redefined the corporate world, today’s CIO embodies multi-dimensional thinking, while possessing “passionate curiosity” and self-awareness. Technology now drives change at a frenetic pace with mobility, social media, cloud computing, big data, internet of things and virtual reality evolving faster than an organization can adapt. Therefore, CIOs must apply strategic intuitiveness when embracing disruptive technologies designed to replace well-established platforms and processes.

Mobility, which has revolutionized technology in the 21st century, spawned a culture that thrives on being always connected, anytime, anywhere. Under the stewardship of today’s CIO, we’ve developed a new untethered digital ecosystem which empowers businesses to drive faster innovation, seamless collaboration, and real-time decision making. As a result, technology has morphed from supporting our business, to being the fabric of our business.

How can the CIOs make their business counterparts think differently about the importance of IT?

Simply put, communication and education are core to fostering a spirit of collaboration between IT and business leaders across a firm. A CIO should tailor a multifaceted message addressing diverse user demographics and functional responsibilities. To build a sustainable consensus, I apply one of the most fundamental life lessons I’ve learned, it is not about how I perceive a message being delivered, but how it lands on others. Additionally, when championing change, we must always consider and be prepared to answer the most fundamental question we will be asked “what’s in it for me?”

  â€‹Technology now drives change at a frenetic pace with mobility, social media, cloud computing, big data, internet of things and virtual reality evolving faster than an organization can adapt   

By way of example, we recently embarked on a major initiative, designed to enhance the firm’s residential leasing process. Our mandate was to provide greater transparency into information while reducing the number of system touch points. Achieving this goal would require overhauling large components of our existing workflows by leveraging new technology platforms and system integration. To help sell our vision we implemented the digital approach of storyboarding. Storyboarding, utilizes illustrations and wireframes, enabling users to visualize a solution, in more familiar and relatable terms. Through this technique we were able to paint a picture of how these changes would enhance their user experience, while producing efficiencies. Beyond these visualizations, we also scheduled a series of meetings, with key stakeholders, to illuminate how our new digital approach would also ease existing pain points.

As the technology sphere evolves with each passing day, what are some of the latest trends that are gripping your mind?

Mobility, the cloud, social media, big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming technology at a frenetic pace beyond the boundaries of Moore’s Law. Brian Solis best described this shift as Digital Darwinism, “The phenomenon that occurs when technology and society evolve faster than an organization can adapt.” I tend to believe it is less about a single emerging trends, and more about the convergence of multiple disruptive technologies. Over the past 18 months these platforms continue to mature, becoming more synergistic and when used in tandem provide both a tangible and intangible Return-on-Investment (ROI). However, the broad ranging implications from a cyber-attack or data-breach along with a general lack of awareness surrounding associated risks and exposures is what keep many CIOs awake at night.

Steeped in architecture and design Real Estate is a very visual asset class. I believe Virtual Reality is destined to have a dramatic impact on our industry. It has the potential to reinvent how we view the entire lifecycle, beginning with a building’s design to how it will provide an immersive experience for existing clients or potential buyers. Allowing a tenant to walk their space before construction even begins will provide a more personalized and customized experience. Ultimately we’ll be able to forecast more accurate development schedule and reduce change orders, resulting in no surprises upon completion and the space is ready for occupancy.

Which growing or future technology innovation are you personally excited about?

Engaging with social video is fast becoming the preeminent method of connecting with your audience. When properly curated, social videos are about authenticity, being personal, conversational and telling a story. Facebook and Snapchat have both surpassed eight billion daily video views and YouTube’s one billion-plus users are watching hundreds of millions of hours of online video every day, hence the potential for engagement is boundless.

At the intersection of knowing your audience, knowing where to find your audience and knowing when your audience is watching, is where you will cultivate your foundation for success. Together these will guide your creative team to produce videos tailored to resonate on each unique social media channel. Being brief in duration they must be clear, concise and deliver a consistent brand message. If well produced, in conjunction with in-depth audience analytics, social videos will be the leading platform to address a broad range of marketing objectives. These include, but are not limited to, heightening brand awareness, developing lead generation, building a sense of community and more intimately connecting with your existing and perspective clients.

How can the evolving technologies help Silverstein Properties to overcome the challenges?

Through the seamless integration of technology and the physical asset, Real Estate owners are reinventing how we deliver services and information to employees, tenants and residents. As reliance on mobility and smart building technology has grown, so has the need for ubiquitous Wi-Fi driving connectivity.

Today a building engineer’s primary tool is their mobile device, with screw drivers or wrenches soon to be relics. Continually receiving predictive updates from core infrastructure systems, engineers can respond proactively in the moment. Facilities managers, who are connected via a mobile device, can efficiently communicate with the operations team resulting in quicker response times, improved service level while driving down operating costs.

Leasing brokers are now equipped with mobile devices for seamless access to stacking plans, floor plan and building information. When showing a space, they can search existing inventory to best match a prospective tenant’s need. Upon completion of the tour, send a personalized thank you e-mail including relevant floor plan and images. Concurrently, each event is automatically updated in our CRM system providing real-time visibility for our asset management and accounting teams.

Through seamless real-time communication and a broad range of system integrations, we’ve leveraged technology to improve process efficiencies, communication and transparency to information.

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