By Lisa Stanley
My last post, Big Data: Big Opportunities For CRE, looked at how data analytics can align the CRE function with the company’s business goals. In global corporate real estate, outsourcing strategies and management information (MI) strategies are being solved together. Here are five questions to ask your service partners about how they approach information management as part of their business relationship with you.
1. What’s your information management strategy and how does it specifically benefit us? This starting point of the conversation allows you to immediately ask the pivotal question, “what’s in it for our company?” In this phase, you are looking at the data model employed, who owns the data and the technology strategy of the service provider. It’s focusing on what you can gain from their technology strategy—the value proposition for you working with them. The differentiators they present should provide real value to your company in a way that translates directly to improved performance.
2. How do you make sure your systems talk to our systems? This should be a straightforward and specific conversation. It’s critical to have an effective systems integration if the information transfer is going to provide accurate and timely information that you can use to make better business decisions. This integrated approach to collecting information also improves transparency and data governance. (More on that in Question 5.) If the topic of implementing a standardized approach to collecting information hasn’t been addressed yet, it should happen here. Find out which standards are deployed in their systems (or not) and clarify the ability to transfer data outside the existing system in the future. Be specific and expect a detailed response.
3. How do you integrate information from all your service lines and other providers? This question probes specifically into how they integrate systems and end-to-end lifecycle management, as well as the capabilities of their systems. It’s about the details including the repairs, maintenance and remaining expected life of the HVAC system and roof, energy efficiency of the current lighting systems, space classification and utilization, lease management and administration, and much more.
4. What high priority actions do you focus on when taking over from another service provider? This question helps you determine whether your priorities line up with your prospective business partner’s. It addresses transition practices including data transfer, data governance, and systems mobilization on a new account. It should also address timelines for specific milestones and the key account contacts that will be your primary contacts during the transition and beyond. Their response should include the importance of scheduled communication each step of the way.
5. How do you build data governance into the way you would serve us? This question provides them the opportunity to use their previous responses as building blocks for the data governance conversation. It should be a summary of their integrated approach to data collection, transfer, and analytics. Their approach to data governance should include a framework of common terms and definitions, their detailed approach to the collection of data to ensure consistency and transparency, secure and accurate data transfer, and business analytics that tell you what you need to know to make better business decisions. Effective data governance should address your business needs and compliance with internal audit requirements.
This foundation for the business relationship between you and your service provider addresses outsourced services strategies and MI strategies in a collaborative partnership that optimizes company performance. It starts with clear communication and realistic expectations for the partnership to thrive.
Stanley is the CEO of Open Standards Consortium for Real Estate (OSCRE International), a membership-based, not-for-profit organization committed to the collaborative development and implementation of global real estate data standards.