The role of the chief information officer (CIO) has evolved dramatically over the last decade. It was not too long ago that installing workstation software, managing e-mail and keeping the accounting system working were the top priorities of the IT department. What a difference 10 years can make.
Today, the complexity of functions the CIO team is responsible for is extraordinary. Cloud computing, mobile enterprises, solution integration, social networking, intelligent buildings, digital signage and video conferencing are just a few of the new technical platforms that are part of the daily life of a CIO. That is in addition to accounting, property management, lease management and all the other real estate specific automation projects managed by a real estate company.
To determine which topics would be most valuable in this new paradigm, we created our ‘topic universe’. Over the last five years, we have listed over 400 topics, issues, and technologies that the real estate technology professional must handle proficiently. Combined with multiple levels of integration, added participation and interest by the business units, increased consumer awareness and higher expectations (think iPad), and change that is occurring at an unparalled pace, it is easy to appreciate that some consider it “Mission Impossible”.
To maximize the CIO department’s impact on the business, and minimize the number of mistakes made, there are a number of important steps to be considered. Executive sponsorship, project prioritization, budget synchronization, team selection and management, and an effective and efficient project management protocol are just a few of the things that are needed for the IT team to have a reasonable chance at success.
Certain individuals and organizations are better at keeping pace with technological change than others. Witnessing the different approaches to this problem, it becomes obvious that there are precise skills and methodologies that are required. Experience (measured in years), evolution in skill set (tactical to strategic) and the capacity to manage a team all play into an IT leader’s ability to manage change. Understanding the big shifts (again, think iPad or enhanced mobile computing) and being able to distinguish them from the smaller, more tactical changes will allow the IT team to make the appropriate decisions.
Among all the questions, big and small, to be considered when evaluating hundreds of technology solutions, the decision pertaining to team structure may be the most valuable. Over the past few years, we at Realcomm have discussed in depth the topic of in-sourcing, out-sourcing, right-sourcing and so on.
Once the decision has been made to use another organization to implement a particular solution or technology, it requires a level of management that might be distinctly different than the team may be used to. Consider all the decisions that would go into deploying an iPad enterprise server (finding the unique talent, integrating it into a Microsoft platform) only to discover a year later that the Android is the mobile device du jour. Clearly, a number of tactical and strategic decisions have to be made correctly to best mitigate risk.
The one thing we have clearly seen consensus on is that technology is changing faster than ever before, and the integration/interoperability issues are more complex than ever. Business is engaging more, thus increasing the sophistication of requests and amount of activity from IT.
Jim Young is the CEO and co-founder of Realcomm, a technology education organization based in California.