Advisory Banner

ADVISORY

ADVISORY NEWSLETTERS

Art McCann, CIO of Highwoods Discusses Their Smart Digital Transformation Journey

Art McCann is CIO of Highwoods Properties, a fully-integrated REIT specializing in the development, acquisition, leasing and management of quality office space, primarily in BBDs (best business districts) throughout the Southeast. A 25-year business technology veteran, Art is responsible for developing Highwoods’ overall information technology strategy and aligning the company’s technology investments with business objectives.

Tell us about your technology journey at Highwoods Properties.
Seven to ten years ago, everybody focused on core ERP and making sure their budgeting system and work flow for leasing were in good shape. Over the last five years, significant money has been invested in the real estate technology space, with venture capital going into the different point solutions. Real estate can sometimes be a little slow to adopt; during a Realcomm session this year, I heard someone mention that software vendors move at 125 miles per hour while real estate companies’ adoption of technology moves at 25 miles per hour – that comment rang true for me.

At Highwoods, we've been very busy improving our digital touchpoints with customers and trusted suppliers. There are many solutions available and it takes patience and business savvy to make the right decision and investment. A good example is the investment we made in our new work order system with Building Engines. We’ve been using the software to track maintenance requests in real-time. A great feature within that program allows our customers to reserve conference rooms online. We have 30 million square feet with 250 buildings across the company. Given the number of assets, there is a lot of shared conference room space. If one building doesn't have a conference center, we can make one available at another building. They also have a great visitor management system we have deployed as well as an inspections module.

We’ve also started collecting rent via PayLink (CDI SnapPay), our fast and secure online payment portal that improves the customer experience. I think the industry as a whole is finally getting more automated and is fully adopting the online payment model for commercial real estate.

Another customer focused touchpoint example is parking systems. We’re in the process of automating parking across the portfolio to offer better customer service and maximize parking efficiency with SkiData. Often times, pulling into a parking garage is a customer’s first impression of the building, and we are striving to transform that experience with our new automated service, SmartPark by Highwoods Properties. I know the retail sector is studying the parking opportunities constantly, even more than the office sector right now. It's certainly something we're keeping a very close eye on because driverless cars and other trends will change how people consume parking in the future, and we want to be sure we react appropriately.

How much of your work is partnerships and third party and how much is internal, “We're going to build this”? How do you make that decision?
It really depends. We'd just as soon not have a custom app and servers to maintain forever. The cloud certainly offers solutions, but one has to be careful. It’s that old buy versus build decision. You want to pick a winner and not be tied to a solution that’s going to hurt the business. Lately, we've gone more with buy over build.

Right now, there’s somewhat of a functionality gap in the real estate industry: the analysis and feasibility of a development project. Highwoods currently has 10 projects and over $600 million invested in underway development. I think calculations used in the industry are fairly standard; most people use Excel. That's certainly an opportunity where we’d consider buying over building in-house. It's not super complicated; it's just a matter of a technology firm stepping up and saying this would be great for the real estate industry as a whole. We’ve recently looked at MRI’s development feasibility and this has promise.

You mentioned parking system trends earlier. What other technology trends do you see being the most important in the next five years?
Three things come to mind. Cybersecurity is first and obvious, and there are still a lot of emerging security solutions. We certainly utilize them to protect our environment. Also, we test employees to see if they're clicking on something they shouldn't with different social engineering-type e-mail tools. Our IT group also has a network engineer whose sole focus is cybersecurity, with a focus on tasks such as ensuring that connectivity with HVAC and other building systems is secure.

Second, there are a lot of cloud applications for commercial real estate being developed, solutions for any process you can imagine. The Internet of Things (IoT) has a lot of promise, but I think that whole ‘125 mile per hour versus 25 miles per hour’ applies here. I would love IoT sensors in our 250 buildings, but it would be excessively expensive and something we'll phase into new projects over time. There are many operational advantages as you deploy the IoT, but it needs to be done with caution, and with cybersecurity in mind.

The third trend over the next five years is information overload. When you have thousands of Internet of Things devices and other mountains of data, you're going to need something that translates the data into actionable information – to determine the operational action that needs to be taken. I'll give you an example of how we’ve taken the IoT and made it simpler. We have our award-winning LiveMeter program, which uses electricity meters, pulse meters, and others to monitor and track the main electrical service of the building. It's one point in the building; one sensor is sending back the kilowatts per hour to a database, so we can look at trends. Did the building turn on too soon? Did it run too late? Is it running higher than it should be, or colder, based on the temperature outside? But it's just one point in each of our 250 buildings. We have an energy center that monitors that data all the time to make sure we're highly efficient in our consumption of electricity. It's very actionable, and it's one point – not thousands of points – in an individual building. So finding the data points that will maximize efficiency is definitely something we focus on.

What is your advice for other CIOs?
Have a prioritized plan. My team and I sit down several times a year to go over all the requests, and then routinely refine our three-year plan. The first 12 months is always really solid, and then you discuss things that are just ideas for now or possible upgrades you anticipate are coming. Then, we take that plan to executive management to build understanding and consensus. You need to also ask yourself, “What's important to the company?” Development is very important to our company; leasing is very important; asset management is very important. Having the best buildings in the best locations with the best people is most important – technology is just the glue that keeps it all together.

How effectively we can help the building process, the property management process, and enhance our customer experience, is what’s going to get management excited about implementing technology. Be an evangelist of the things you consider important and beneficial for the company. I'm blessed to work with a great technology team and have an executive management team who embraces technology. They see value in having the tools that can make business better.

Tina Danielsen, Sr. Writer, Realcomm
Tina Danielsen is a corporate writer, editor and business owner, specializing on the topics of technology and business management. She is a former executive in the printing industry, with an extensive background in sales management and marketing. Tina has over 20 years of experience in project management and professional outreach in multiple business environments.

This Week’s Sponsor

ESD is a leader in Improving Society Through the Built Environment. It creates solutions that produce economic, environmental and experiential benefits for its clients, many of whom are the biggest names in the worlds of business, technology – and beyond. The company is in the forefront of developing Intelligent Buildings. For more information, please visit www.esdglobal.com.

Realcomm News


UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS

Achieving Optimum Energy Efficiency in Buildings - New Benchmarks Being Set - 7/26/2018

Five years ago, the driving factor for smart buildings was energy costs. While operational efficiency and occupant experience have been added to the discussion, energy savings still play an important role in the smart building strategy. Energy usage in buildings accounts for over 40% of electrical consumption which has ties to coal, natural gas, petroleum and nuclear energy. Energy waste in buildings is easily evident and provides great opportunities when addressed. Advanced energy analytics, enhanced building automation monitoring, new lighting solutions, low voltage infrastructure, micro grids and other technologies are reshaping the building energy landscape. This webinar will bring best practices and new benchmarks into focus.

headshot for Tom Shircliff
Tom Shircliff Intelligent Buildings
Tom Shircliff Co-Founder Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was
headshot for Tom Shircliff
Tom Shircliff
Co-Founder
Intelligent Buildings
LinkedIn

Tom Shircliff is a co-founder and principal of Intelligent Buildings, a nationally recognized smart real estate professional services company that was started in 2004. Intelligent Buildings provides planning and implementation of next generation strategy for new buildings, existing portfolios and urban communities. Tom is a speaker and collaborator with numerous universities and national laboratories, a gubernatorial appointee for energy strategy and policy and founding Chairman of Envision Charlotte, a Clinton Global Initiative.

headshot for Kevin Bates
Kevin Bates Sharp Development
Kevin Bates Owner Kevin Bates is the owner of Sharp Development company. Over the past six years, he has concentrated on retrofitting older generation concrete tilt-u
headshot for Kevin Bates
Kevin Bates
Owner
Sharp Development
LinkedIn

Kevin Bates is the owner of Sharp Development company. Over the past six years, he has concentrated on retrofitting older generation concrete tilt-up buildings that are carbon neutral, have a net zero energy bill as well as a strong emphasis on the health and wellness of the interior environment for the occupants. The driver for Kevin is to demonstrate that this way of repurposing existing building stock can be done in a manner that is more profitable for the ownership than the less expensive way of building to meet minimum code.

headshot for Dana Jennings
Dana Jennings LinkedIn
Dana Jennings Project Manager, Global Sustainability Dana bridges the gap between buildings and their occupants through fun initiatives that drive energy efficiency across LinkedIn’s global portfolio. W
headshot for Dana Jennings
Dana Jennings
Project Manager, Global Sustainability
LinkedIn
LinkedIn

Dana bridges the gap between buildings and their occupants through fun initiatives that drive energy efficiency across LinkedIn’s global portfolio. With over six years of experience in corporate sustainability at both startups and large corporations, Dana understands the crucial role that business plays in addressing climate change. She is excited about how technology is transforming the built environment, and looks for opportunities to scale innovation and to help LinkedIn and others achieve audacious sustainability goals.

headshot for Matt Eggers
Matt Eggers Yardi
Matt Eggers VP, Yardi Energy Matt Eggers is currently VP, Yardi Energy where he leads the development of software for energy management and high performing buildings at Yardi. He
headshot for Matt Eggers
Matt Eggers
VP, Yardi Energy
Yardi

Matt Eggers is currently VP, Yardi Energy where he leads the development of software for energy management and high performing buildings at Yardi. He has extensive experience in leading teams to record sales and growing operations and market share.

headshot for Chris Phillips
Chris Phillips ICONICS
Chris Phillips Strategic Accounts - Building Automation With over 30 years of experience in commercial real estate and IT/Internet-based building services, Chris leverages his deep rooted knowledge of what
headshot for Chris Phillips
Chris Phillips
Strategic Accounts - Building Automation
ICONICS

With over 30 years of experience in commercial real estate and IT/Internet-based building services, Chris leverages his deep rooted knowledge of what is important to building owners and operators. He will discuss how ICONICS advanced building optimization software solutions with real-time Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) help customers by integrating information from all disparate building equipment systems and energy metering into a uniform building automation system. Automated FDD visualizes in a meaningful manner what is critical to achieving energy reduction, operational efficiency and sustainability goals. Chris holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania.

headshot for Ralf VonSosen
Ralf VonSosen Lucid
Ralf VonSosen CMO & VP of Customer Operations Ralf VonSosen has 20 years experience in technology product, marketing and customer operations. He is passionate about transforming data into actionab
headshot for Ralf VonSosen
Ralf VonSosen
CMO & VP of Customer Operations
Lucid

Ralf VonSosen has 20 years experience in technology product, marketing and customer operations. He is passionate about transforming data into actionable insights. Ralf leads Lucid's customer onboarding and professional services.

headshot for Karthik Rao
Karthik Rao EnerNOC
Karthik Rao Director of Energy Management Solutions Karthik is the Director of Energy Management Solutions at EnerNOC. His team works with large energy users in the Commercial and Industrial sectors to
headshot for Karthik Rao
Karthik Rao
Director of Energy Management Solutions
EnerNOC

Karthik is the Director of Energy Management Solutions at EnerNOC. His team works with large energy users in the Commercial and Industrial sectors to deliver outcomes using energy intelligence software, utility bill management, smart building solutions, microgrids, and more. Karthik has over 10 years of experience in the energy industry and holds a Bachelors in Engineering Physics from Queen’s University and a Masters in Systems Engineering from Cornell University.