Monthly Archives: November 2011

BYOT PYT: Dance of the iPhones at Work

By Ken Ashley

November 28th, 2011 (ATLANTA)

At the recent CoreNet Global Summit in Atlanta, one of the issues that came to the fore is not traditionally something in the real estate domain: technology and

One Glove. Easier to Hold an iPhone

One Glove. Easier to Hold an iPhone

the pace of its change. More specifically, in several sessions, discussion revolved around the fact that employees are increasingly bringing their own personal tech tools to the workplace.  Bringing Your Own Technology – Pretty Young Thing – (with apologies to the Gloved One) is and will continue to happen whether corporate America wants it or not. There are a whole host of interesting challenges but also opportunities surrounding this phenomenon.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Back in ancient history, say a year ago, companies could still control access to the Internet via their networks. They provided merely adequate hardware tools that knowledge workers were required to use in order to complete their tasks. Now, thanks to Steve Jobs and many others, machines are getting more personal and far more powerful. I tell friends that my iPhone isn’t necessarily the best business handheld, but it is by far the best all around life machine. It goes with me most everywhere and I bet I’m not alone in this regard.

And oh my, the power is incredible. For comparison,  consider the Apollo Guidance Computer in the 1960’s had a 2048 word (!) erasable memory.  How that

Desktop Computing in 1965

machine took a man to the moon is still a miracle and a testament to the fortitude, smarts and courage of those early NASA engineers and astronauts.

Today’s generation of iPhones are incredibly advanced from even a few years ago. On memory alone, I carry 64 gigabits around in my pocket. What would have happened to Apollo 13 with a dual-core Apple processor on board (iApollo)? My iPhone is nearly 11 million times more powerful than that Apollo unit, and in the memory alone can hold between 3 and 6 million books. Simply amazing! It’s fun to think that, based on sheer computing power, you or I could fly a mission to outer space on the power of the smart phone on which you might be reading this very blog.

I Want My Network

But that’s kind of the point in corporate America. Gen Y  – and increasingly all generations  – are showing up to work with the latest and most powerful devices that slip into any pocket. Whether you use brand Apple, Droid, or any other personal machine, these devices continue to become far more important in the lives of Gen X but are required for life itself in Gen Y.

Now, with the advent of cheap portable Wi-Fi networks and hotspots, employees can download previously banned sites like ESPN, Facebook, and YouTube. The Berlin Wall IT tried to put up, for perfectly good reasons, has fallen. Put another way, knowledge workers have seen the light and will not turn back to technological darkness.

This access and power brings with it challenges, but also great opportunity.  On the challenge side, corporate IT departments are currently going crazy worried about the safety of company data and work product. They are issuing proclamations that suggest they are still in control and begging employees to keep data on the companies’ networks and in their cloud. IT claims to have the ability to inspect any machine that employees bring on campus. In many cases, legal agrees, but this is an emerging area of the law. Besides, many employees simply say “Good luck with inspecting my private device; you can pry my iPhone from my cold dead fingers.” Don’t forget that the best knowledge workers have job portability despite the economy.

On the opportunity side, we anticipate great new ideas and collaboration facilitated by amazing leaps forward in technology. The new platforms enable people to communicate, think, and work in ways that are constantly changing. Besides, the hardware is simply a vehicle for amazing software, including social media platforms, that are both changing rapidly. For example, in my own company, we are experimenting with the social networking platform Yammer to share best practices. Emerging technology in its best usage can affect the Holy Grail; increase employee productivity, and that’s something every executive should be interested in.

Hey Kid, Over Here

We certainly understand the angst that IT, Legal, HR and all the leadership have with technology “gone wild”. There are serious issues that companies need to think about in terms of protection of data from competitive snooping, lawsuits and the like.

But before we put up big chain link fences and tell employees what they absolutely positively can’t do, we should keep in mind iPhones, Droids, and other similar devices will keep coming, and our whole society is adopting them into both work and life. No matter how many memos we send, people will keep using these tools.  Our challenge is to figure out how to embrace this change and work through the security questions, instead of the other way around.

What About The Sticks and Bricks?

So, since this is a real estate space, we will ask what does the personal technology invasion mean for those charged with delivering the space – that envelope in which we conduct business? As Jim Young, CEO of Realcomm suggested at the recent CoreNet Summit, a closer alignment with IT, HR and Legal is in order. This issue will not go away, and all of us in corporate real estate must be prepared to address changing technology issues. Besides, you will certainly be appreciated internally if you are a leader in this area as opposed to a follower.

If you are the real estate executive, call your sister departments and host a lunch.

Don't Forget the Whiteboard!

Invite the CFO if it is appropriate as well. If you are CEO, CFO or in the C-suite, so much the better. Bet folks will accept your lunch invitation either way.

May we suggest that the first topic be how to improve productivity on both an individual and a corporate level with the use of these machines. Appoint an “apps czar” and schedule lunch and learns. Your own employees will likely be happy to lead these, but you have to ask. Ask internal innovators to tell you what they are doing with their machines and apps (see this article on Reverse Mentoring from today’s Wall Street Journal). Challenge the team to work with you, and you might be shocked at the outcome. The machines are, of course, only the on-ramp for this new collaboration.

As to the legal and IT issues, rules are made to help people. These rules can evolve as appropriate, but you should first figure out how to harness the phenomenon of personal technology to help the enterprise. The dance of the iPhones is already happening in your workplace, like it or not.

Besides, if you cant beat ‘em, join ‘em. You and all the PYT’s.

Work is a Verb Not a Noun

November 15th, 2011

By Ken Ashley (ATLANTA)

The 2011 CoreNet Global Summit came to Atlanta, y’all. In meetings that focused on big demographic shifts, amazing changes in technology and increasing connectivity,

Make That Sweet Tea

thousands of real estate executives, service providers and economic developers

came to the Capital of the South. As became clear, grits, sweet tea and commercial real estate really do go together.

Not in Kansas or Oz

At the opening session, a “futurist researcher” shared his view that our society – and by extension our business – is “in the midst of a great realignment…that marks the end of one global era and the beginning of another.” Andrew Zolli continued that we are in transition in terms of communication (much more of it), power (decentralized) and change itself (it will be constant).

Zolli said “we are not quite in Kansas, but not quite in Oz; we are in the whirlwind.”

There is a “normalization of volatility”, Zolli continued. “We’ve gotten used to the fact that the world is a volatile place” and that change is simply part of life.

Work and Grammar

Speaking of change, Ernst & Young’s global real estate head Trex Morris shared his view that “work is a verb not a noun – work is what you do where you are, not

Hard To Tell The Difference

where you are located.” This emerging view will have profound implications for the ever expanding envelope in which workforces perform their daily tasks.

Along the same lines, Mark Gorman, Cienna’s real estate head said, “It’s not about the space any longer…If you want to succeed in commercial real estate, forget the extra space and enable workers with technology.” Allowing connectivity and productivity no matter where employees are located is critical to future success of CRE specifically, and the enterprise more generally. The advent of “cloud computing” will facilitate this rapid change, but we have to be willing to enable our workforces to plug in and sign on from almost any device, anywhere.

Hey Kid, Over Here

Tim Venable and Melissa Securda of CoreNet Global led a session of senior real estate leaders with a free flowing conversation about the future of the corporate work place. Everyone sat up when this comment was made:

“We are building the workplace of the future for kids who are now in junior high school.”

Signing ten  or certainly fifteen year leases guarantees that those pimply faced young wonders will end up in your workforce sooner than you’d like to think. They are amazingly ADD, gaming experts and social media champions in every way. How will corporate real estate directors provide the tools to maximize their productivity and maintain focus? How do you give award plaques to a workforce that has no walls on which to hang them?

Will we hear “I’m bored” retorts from these young hot shots? Maybe by then we start IV’s of Five Hour Energy drinks to keep them going at the normal frenetic pace.

On top of the young guns issue, because Baby Boomers are working longer and longer, more generations will be in the workplace than at anytime in modern history. So we can’t just Tweet and Facebook everything for everyone. The challenge of leading a CRE organization with so many different constituents will grow increasingly difficult.

I Love My CFO, and HR/IT You’re Cool Too

Realcomm CEO Jim Young led a panel of senior real estate leaders in the second general session entitled “The New ReallTy” (look for an upcoming post drilling deeper into this session). The group talked about “smaller and smarter” organizations. They pointed out that we’ve been talking about the workplace of the future for 15 years but technology has finally caught up.

One panelist opined, “People will increasingly bring their own technology to work…Work will serve as a portal.” We are challenged to accommodate not only different work styles but also many varied technology needs. “One sized technology doesn’t actually fit anyone” said Ken Meyer of Deloitte.

Then there is the collaboration challenge. While we were focused on square footage per person and cost reduction, the need to increase productivity is the true Holy Grail.

Jim Young challenged greater partnership with HR and IT to enable workers to have everything they need when they need it. He wondered aloud if leaders from those two other organizations should be coming to our trade show.

Young’s prescription is to take the CFO to lunch as soon as possible and ask how CRE can better help the organization achieve its overall objectives. Better yet, bring HR and IT with you for some serious shoptalk. Shared objectives in this fast changing environment help all to get ahead in their careers.

That’s A Wrap

As our incoming Chairman Matt Fanoe said “Social networks and technologies will change…how business is done as we approach 2020. The role of the ‘connected culture’ continues to grow on a global level…and it is vital for us as an industry to keep pace.”

Couldn’t agree more with Mr. Fanoe. Life is moving fast and we need to our heads up to keep pace and stay relevant.