Lisa Stanley 2017-11-21 12:50:15
building data governance to support disruptive tech Emerging technology such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and blockchain are already having a profound impact on how organizations do business. In an August 2017 Wall Street Journal article, author Sarah Castellanos reported there are now approximately 2,000 emerging technologies being tracked by technology research firm, Gartner. For facility managers, these emerging applications are likely to have an impact in the not-too-distant future — supporting the gamut of business decisions from power saving strategies to finding the optimum co-working balance for employers and their employees. Blockchain is emerging as a frontrunner in the disruptive technologies field. It’s an application that will create a foundational change in every aspect of the commercial real estate industry. The combination of developing a data governance program and implementing blockchain technology creates new challenges and opportunities for FMs, and raises two important questions: Where do you start to evaluate emerging technologies and their impact on business operations? How can FMs prepare for technologies, including blockchain, and use them to gain a competitive advantage? To answer these questions, it helps to define how blockchain works. WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN? Blockchain is a cloud-based, permanent, distributed digital ledger of activities between parties. Let’s break that down. Cloud-based means it doesn’t sit on a company’s private server; it exists on a vendor’s server and is accessed through the web. The permanence of this ledger means it lives as a permanent record of activities between parties, such as recording property transfers, HVAC system activities, occupancy of cubicles or security access. Over time, the historical perspective provided by the system improves decision making and can be shared with other emerging technologies, like artificial intelligence. The distributed digital ledger means information is distributed among a designated group of participants. This can be a large group, like a public blockchain accessible to anyone who holds real property transfer records (think public records), or a private blockchain shared between a company and its vendor, software developer, a consultancy, or a benchmarking firm. Blockchain enables information to be shared among the group of participants in real time. Changes to the blockchain occur in plain view of all participants, improving transparency. The most recognized application of blockchain is Bitcoin, a form of cryptocurrency, or digital money, that can reduce financial settlement time from days to mere seconds. For FM applications, Ethereum is a platform that combines smart contracts and currency, and Ripple is an enterprise-based platform for global payments that can be private or permissioned. These are just a few of the hundreds of blockchain platforms in operation today. The growth of interest in smart buildings and smart cities will continue to fuel exploration and development of blockchain initiatives. We are entering a new age of workplace solutions that harness a variety of technologies at virtually every level of the organization. While blockchain and other emerging technologies focus on process, embedded in these technologies is a focus on improving workforce productivity. How does an organization move forward in this digital world? The focus should be on bringing people together in a collaborative environment from every business unit to examine what the needs are, how they overlap and what resources are available to devote to a blockchain initiative. These resources include not only financial, but also human capital and the skill sets needed to execute. Data governance is not just an IT-owned issue; the responsibility rests in every business unit. GET READY FOR DATA GOVERNANCE If there’s not already a formalized data governance plan integrated in an organization, start with training team members to connect the dots for the bigger picture. Develop internal use cases based on where the greatest need is, and target some quick wins that will demonstrate the relevance of blockchain initiatives. Putting an understanding of emerging technologies together with improved data governance practices will be worth the effort now and in the future. An effective data governance program is built on six core competencies: • Building an information-enabled business is at the core of FM • Linking your information management and sourcing strategies • Learning the fundamentals of information architecture, data integration and business intelligence • Developing an information standards strategy • Raising awareness and capabilities to drive data quality and data governance • Building change leadership into implementation efforts BUILDING TRUST If the information that drives the business sits on multiple platforms that don’t communicate with each other, there’s some serious work to do. It’s a matter of trust. Sharing information involves a measure of trust between people and organizations and in the data collected. Implementing trusted data standards is part of the informational DNA that helps establish a single source of truth. This raises trust in the integrity of the data and the people who provide it. Ensuring the system uses established data protocols that meet standardized security settings is an improved approach to data governance that’s key to preparing the way for implementing blockchain platforms. LEVERAGE INFORMATION Data is the framework for innovation and competitive advantage in an organization. Let’s look at an example: A work order is issued for maintenance on a chiller system and entered in a blockchain platform. Participants include the initiator of the work order — either a person or machine — as well as the property manager, the project accountant for the property, the vendor who is contracted to provide the service, the vendor’s accounting department … and the list could go on. The information is collected and shared among the relevant parties who analyze the transaction, determine whether it is consistent with the current maintenance schedule or falls outside the scope of normal maintenance, requests payment, processes payment and contributes information to the blockchain platform for this specific piece of equipment and other similar chillers to identify and track performance. This entire process can be built on a blockchain platform with a smart contract that provides for automated payments for scheduled maintenance and tracks unscheduled repairs — with cash flow management tied in for both, and a provision for initiating the three-bid process for capital repairs and replacement automatically to pre-approved vendors. This is just one example of how blockchain technology can provide real benefits in FM. A blockchain application can provide valuable information on its own, or it can be part of a bigger initiative that uses a variety of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence. The efficiency and reliability of these technologies eclipse paper-driven, time consuming manual processes. DATA GOVERNANCE MEETS BLOCKCHAIN Planning for the future calls for a technology and information strategy that extends beyond what’s expected from existing software applications. Preparing for new technologies is an important and proactive step to build data governance maturity in your organization. There are predictable steps to climb the ladder towards applying emerging technologies and fully leveraging information. No matter where the company is in its data governance progression, there are steps that can be taken today. Maturity models have been around for years and are often applied to business process improvement, technology advances and in this case, data governance. Most FMs can say they are at least on the first or second rung of the ladder, as noted on the diagram. Assessing where the organization is today and what next steps are needed calls for asking the hard questions about awareness of data governance, how far along the organization is in building capabilities, the current level of integration of the critical components and the organization’s commitment of needed resources. Once the assessment is complete, it’ll be clear where to concentrate efforts to advance on the data governance maturity scale. OPTIMIZE THE DATA LANDSCAPE To unlock the real value of emerging technologies, including blockchain, data must be optimized. Managed data must align with enterprise business processes and business partner integration as noted in the diagram. This is where the single source of truth is established. Only then will some of the higher value capabilities, such as business intelligence, become possible. This is also where the real value of technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and blockchain become business as usual. These technologies are already here and expanding rapidly. Spend some time learning more about emerging technologies and how they impact the organization. Look for training in data governance that provides team members with the capabilities needed to take FM to the next level. Together, data governance and emerging technologies enable FM organizations to gain a competitive advantage that won’t be possible any other way. WHY IS BLOCKCHAIN IMPORTANT? Transparency and more efficient digital processes are two of the immediate wins with blockchain, but there are other benefits. Transparency has been described, and blockchain also streamlines processes by reducing manual operations and reducing processing time. This creates a lower cost of transactions compared to traditional processing. It also provides higher security than current platforms because there’s no single failure point, and it uses encryption that makes it more di_ cult to hack than traditional platforms. Blockchain improves data governance using a standards-based focus that can manage simple and complex transactions alike. It’s regulator-friendly in an increasingly regulated world, providing more effective risk management while reducing fraud. WHERE DO YOU START? Start with the data. Take a hard look at the existing data and data collection processes that provide the information driving business decisions at every level. Successful implementation of blockchain – or any technology application – requires a standardized approach to data collection, organization and analysis across platforms and business units. Standardized data serves as the cornerstone for building an effective data governance program for emerging technologies. If a company hasn’t conducted a data assessment in recent years, it’s time to get that in order. The process of looking at collected data and each business unit’s needs will also help identify which emerging technologies have the greatest value in the organization. Once this has been determined, a systemized set of procedures for managing the data — or data governance — can be defined to ensure data is accurate and there’s system integrity. HOW DO YOU PREPARE? Look at use cases. They’re a simple way of understanding how a business can use technology for specific applications. Use cases become particularly helpful when thinking ahead for emerging technologies in a data-driven FM world. Examples include how companies are authenticating identity and managing access to facilities, utilities usage, HVAC adjustments based on occupancy, preventive maintenance schedules and associated payments. These use cases provide major benefits to controlling and improving operations. Developing a better understanding of how and when people utilize space can pay dividends for the future and help organizations improve the user experience while providing better cost controls. The shift in FM to the employee experience is another win for these technologies with improved services in the workplace, access to amenities, and other benefits that help attract and retain the best talent LISA STANLEY is CEO of OSCRE International, a member-based organization focused on transforming the way digital information drives real estate businesses. Connect with Lisa via LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/lisastanley128 or email@example.com. Interested in learning more about blockchain? Contact OSCRE to find out how organizations can participate in OSCRE’s Blockchain Initiative.
Published by International Facility Management Association . View All Articles.
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