“The system has detected no errors other than the type is was programmed to detect”

It is not uncommon for systems to return an “All Normal” status even while things are going down flames all around it. Just because a system reports 100% success for the things that it was taught to track doesn’t mean that the real success rate is anywhere near 100%.

This is because a system can only do what it was taught to do. If you build a system to count the number of lines of data submitted, it will count the number of lines of data that it receives. However, it cannot count the number of lines of data that it never receives. If the process fails due to an external cause, the system cannot report it. The system will believe that it has successfully processed all data but in reality, it has only processed the data which is actually received. Somewhere in a room far removed some poor user is screaming at their computer for not doing what it is supposed to do.

As a rule, I have limited trust for any automatically generated system reports. I’ve seen systems which don’t correctly log user log-ins because it had an incorrect handling of usernames. I’ve seen systems with audit reports that multi-counted everything because it tried to audit itself recursively. I’ve seen processes that were highly manual but the reporting only covered the system side of things.

(Most) Systems can only do what they are told to do. That doesn’t mean that we actually understand what the system is doing. Sometimes the code is incorrect. Sometimes the handling of a situation is executed differently than planned. Sometimes the process has evolved to no longer align with what the system was designed for.


Choose to learn from everyone and everything.

One of the best lessons I ever had beat into my thick head was:

No one is ever wrong 100% of the time; no one is ever right 100% of the time.

In my career, I have learned more from people who are generally wrong. Not just from their mistakes but also from their skills. A manager with easily identifiable flaws rose to their position for some reason, usually a particular strength. Do not simply write anyone off.

Most things in life are not binary (yes or no), most things exist on a spectrum.

I’ve been spending the last couple of weeks watching the cryptocurrency markets seemingly lose their mind. Bitcoin went from a high of almost $20,000 per coin to a low of $8,300 as I write this on February 2nd. This may seem like a bubble that popped (and I believe that it is) but that doesn’t mean that all original value suddenly disappeared.

Bitcoin first passed the $8,300 mark on November 24th – a grand total of 10 weeks ago. I remember it distinctly because I was surprised it had continued to rise to $8,300 at all. Somewhere in the last 90 days a grand delusion set in (or market manipulation which I’m giving a lot of credence to) that caused prices to rise like a rocket through December.

This isn’t meant to be a post on cryptocurrency, but it is what got me thinking. Just because there has been a short-term bubble, doesn’t mean that there is a fundamental problem. Just as when the housing bubble burst, it wasn’t a sign that houses had suddenly become a bad bet generally. It was an opportunity to step back and understand what the value should be based on.

Most things in life are not a simple yes or no, good or bad. Most things are on a spectrum with answers usually existing somewhere in the middle. This is what is known as nuance.

Any given 10-word answer may be right in substance but wrong in particulars. Any given 100,000-word treatise may be right in particulars but wrong in philosophy.

Thinking about the User Experience of CRE #ux

CRE is a complex area, trying to identify the user or customer in the decisions we make is not always simple. The most obvious users of a workplace environment are the employees that sit there. However, the reality is that it is designed based on the theories to increase productivity based on business definitions. The employees aren’t actually the customers of the design even though they are the ones who occupy it.

Similarly to building location decisions. One would think that the location is determined based on the employees who will occupy it, but here again, the business is the actual customer as they are trying to target a pool of potential labor. The commute of any given employee is a byproduct of the business’ selection rather than something that is being optimized for.

This may sound a bit anti-employee but in reality, it’s about balancing the needs of the many. The target user isn’t actually any given individual, it’s the ideal target which may be a combination of several different types of people.

Now, designing for the average and not the actual comes with many drawbacks. No one will ever have that “perfect” commute in. No one will ever find every aspect of their workstation right for them. No one has ever gotten everything they wanted from a system. The goal is to actually fit the needs, requirements, and wishlist of most while creating a degree of flexibility to allow as many as possible to make it work.

The user experience in real estate isn’t simple or straightforward. It takes a lot of thought and balancing of needs.

If data improves but the technology doesn’t, what’s the impact?

I’ve been in this industry for over a decade now (yes, saying that does make me feel a bit old). In 2007, the hardest part of solving real estate problems was getting all of the data necessary to make a well-founded decision. In 2018, the hardest part of solving real estate problems is getting all of the data necessary to make a well-founded decision.

Ironically, there is more data available for making decisions than ever before but it is still extremely difficult to aggregate and validate. The problem is that the technology that is collecting this data is largely the same as existed 10 years ago. CRE technology has evolved not at all but the extreme demand for data has led to a significant growth in data that is available.

Here’s the thing, CRE technology has no definition. It’s either too big or too little. The Goldilocks Principle is in full effect in this space.¬†Do you design a system for a specific use case that meets the needs of 10% of organizations or do you design a system that meets the broad needs of organizations but is rarely perfectly applicable?

The single biggest issue with CRE is the lack of global standard processes. What information should be kept as part of Lease Administration? What is the connection between CRE and corporate finance? How are CRE costs allocated back to the business? How are transaction/projects managed and controlled?

Until there are standards, it will be hard for any evolution of technology to happen in this area.

The moon this morning was spectacular.

I wandered into my office especially early this morning for a call and the first thing I saw was a spectacular view of the moon shining straight through the window. The blinds happened to be open and I hadn’t turned on the lights yet. Looking out, I was simply stunned by the view.

I paused for a while to just look out. It was quite the way to get the day started.

It’s important to realize the little things around us from time to time. Sunrises and sunsets are epic in our culture because of the emotions that they can inspire. The difficulty is remembering to take the time to be at the right place at the right time and then following through on the effort.

The follow-through is worth it.

Building out technology is like nothing else in an organization.

It’s said often enough that it has become a bit of a catch-phrase but technology development/implementation is different. You cannot simply take someone who understands an operational process and have them run a technology implementation project – let alone lead a development effort. Technology has certain requirements and needs that you have to really understand at the start of the effort.

There’s a reason that a good Product Managers make good money. Being able to talk to both the technology side and the operations side is a very, very, very difficult skill. Not everyone can do it and even those that can do it may not have the organizational skills to pull it off successfully.

If you have a technologist running an implementation project, you typically end up missing the operational nuances that are necessary for the business-as-usual operations. They either end up including too much, not enough, or the wrong things entirely because they don’t understand the interplay between the people, systems, and processes.

If you have an operational expert running an implementation project, you typically end up delaying the technology implementation because the hand-off of requirements is imprecise or unclear. Someone who understands a process intuitively often has difficulty explaining the steps in a way that can be implemented in a system.

Bridging the gap between this either requires someone that can live in both worlds or a strong project management approach that connects owners from both sides with clear inter-operational goals. Technology is hard.