Troubleshooting isn’t only for technology things

One of the hardest parts of any project is getting the Quality Assurance aspects right. How do you really QA a consulting report or check a research report? Troubleshooting non-procedural activities is a fundamental issue.

The problem is, troubleshooting non-technology activities is more important than doing so in technology. Once a system is set up, it usually has controls in place to keep it between the rails. Non-technology can go wrong in any number of ways. Sometimes those ways are subtle and unobvious. Errors can creep in and take up shop for years before anyone notices an issue.

This softer side of QA is where good managers differentiate themselves. Sometimes knowing the right questions to ask and then asking them goes further than anything else. A report that no one cares enough about to challenge probably doesn’t have enough value to continue being run.

Step one is stopping to ask questions. It doesn’t matter whether the process is online or offline, automated or manual, data-based or a manual process. Stopping to think is what troubleshooting and QA are all about.


3 layers of #CRE data. Who is your real customer? Who is your partner’s real customer?

The internet has made the service provider world very different. An amazing number of new business models have come to life that can provide an amazing amount of value if you think through your needs correctly. Being in the commercial real estate industry, this is particularly true.

Data has taken over most industries as the primary coin of the realm. They who possess the most timely and accurate data can name their price. This leads to my biggest concern when working with new companies or tools – understanding their real target customer can be difficult.

In CRE, data is largely generated through three different and distinct parties:

  1. End users. The companies that actually use and operate the space. They know how many people there are and what they are doing in the space.
  2. Building owners. They operate the core building services and control the building financials.
  3. Real Estate service providers/brokers. They market the building and negotiate lease terms.

Only through all three groups can you get a full picture of what is happening. Depending on where you exist in the real estate ecosystem, you have more or less access to the information from these three layers. New technology groups are popping up trying to more clearly paint the picture in each. They often offer tools to the groups in category 1 and 2 with the goal of selling it to category 2 or 3.

End users are the target with some of the most valuable data. Knowing this, it’s worthwhile to watch out for anyone offering you tools to “help solve your problem” while in reality, they are building a tool predominately to leverage your data for someone else entirely. If they can charge both sides of the equation, the technology company becomes the biggest winner.

It’s much like how the general user of Facebook is not their primary customer, the advertisers are.

You cannot build something you do not understand.

Architects need to be more than just creative people. They need to understand form and function, structural and material engineering, thermodynamics, and many more things to succeed. An architect must understand these areas because without the understanding they are likely to introduce some fundamental flaw.

This thought came after watching Ready Player One on a flight. It was a good book (not great, but good). But the movie stripped out everything that made the book good in a vain effort to give the movie mass appeal. Why bother understanding what made the book popular when you can strip the story down and use it as another boy meets girl teen save the day movie.

If you do not understand something, you can’t hope to build it. A few examples:

  • You can’t build an ERP system without understanding all of the ways a large business needs to run.
  • You can’t design a distribution network if you don’t understand the mechanics of moving products from manufacturing to customers.
  • You can’t take on Facebook without understanding why people keep coming back to it.

This is why pure technologists fail to build ground-breaking apps. Understanding technology is not enough, you need to understand your target subject matter as well. Similarly, no one in real estate can build tech for the industry without understanding how tech works. You also can’t take two separate people with two separate knowledge sets and hope that they can blend it successfully.

It’s easy to collect new ideas, it’s hard to take them through implementation.

It’s really simple to put out a suggestion box to get the ideas from your customers. This is a visible way of showing that you care about their perspective. People see a suggestion box and think to themselves about all the things that will be coming from their thoughts.

Most suggestion boxes lead to stacks of ideas with no visible impact. It’s really difficult to take a group of random ideas and drive them through to implementation. Even once you do push it out, how do you let the world know that you’ve done it? Was that idea actually important to a large portion of your customers or did only that one person care about it just enough to write it down?

The intake process is always easier to create than the output process. Delivery is harder than idea generation. Ideas are sexy but delivery pays the bills. Which should you be investing more into?

I see a lot of headlines that say something like “technology is upending Commercial Real Estate”….misleading?

Commercial real estate and Corporate real estate should be considered two different industries.

Full stop. Mixing the two is very misleading.

I was reading through the attendees and speakers at a few conferences the other day. 80% of them are from service providers. Another 15% are usually there at the invite of service providers. The final 5% are trying to learn something new.

I’ve been working from the corporate side of the fence for going on two years now. Many of the advancements that enhance the Commercial side of real estate are not useful and may even be negative to the typical Corporate side. A few examples:

  • BIM. Great for the construction industry and for owners of large buildings. However, if you are a company that leases all or most of your space, what does it get you? Yes, buildings that are well planned are better for you. But are you going to know which those are during your leasing process? Unlikely.
  • CRM. Complete negative to the corporate side. As soon as you are identified as the leasing decision maker, expect to be bombarded.
  • Mapping/Visualization. Great sales tools for the Commercial side but most of them use it as sizzle to get you in but then don’t know how to actually use it to improve your decision.

Sure, there are plenty of tools that would help the corporate side. We’re in the process of implementing several but all of them are early stage and not getting the sexy press of tools targeting brokers and brokerage firms.

Welcome to the weird world of CRE/CRE.

3 surefire steps for creating a technology plan

Creating a technology plan is an important part of any system strategy. The steps to do it are simple:

  1. Figure out who the users are.
  2. Figure out what matters to users.
  3. Figure out what the users are wrong about.

The hard part is actually completing each step without making a critical error in decision making.

The best recommendation I can give @geteero is that I never have to think about my wifi router.

I pre-ordered 3 Eeros for my house when they were announced. I installed them as soon as I got them in early 2016. A bit over 2 years in, it’s like a good Facebook friend: it pops up when you need but you don’t communicate for the most part and you are both comfortable with the relationship.

I haven’t had to reset my wifi router since they were installed. I haven’t had to update anything with my wifi router since they were installed. Coverage in my house is no longer questionable anywhere even though most rooms have something wifi related in them.

I just upgraded to the Eero plus security plan because everything I read said that it improved the web experience. One day I turned it on, the next minute pop-ups and ads were minimized and I had access to pro tools. Simple and seamless. I don’t have to think or worry about it.

Technology that disappears into the background may not seem sexy, but it’s a challenging feat. Too many tools and systems want to push out notifications and make you see its value. The best tools are confident enough in what they do to not need to announce themselves all the time.