‘In the Trenches’ with Tishman’s Joe Rich

Source: Reposted from: ‘In the Trenches’ with Tishman’s Joe Rich
This week, Transwestern’s CIO, Chris Saah, chats with Joe Rich, CIO at Tishman Speyer. Joe was one of the 2009  Realcomm Advisory Council Co-Chairmen and has continued to make significant contributions both to the conference as well as the strategic direction of the industry at large.
It’s been a while since we’ve spoken, Joe – probably since Realcomm Chicago. What kind of success and challenges are you seeing at Tishman?
This year we’ve been putting a lot of our focus on business intelligence. We’ve got a lot of data and we know we could be getting more out of it.
How is that going? It’s been a real challenge for many of us.
For us too. We’ve really come to see our need for data governance.  It’s like they say, garbage in, garbage out.  It just can’t take a week to get the information someone is requesting. We realize we need to establish standard, global naming conventions and enforce them and we need a far greater level of detail in some of the information we collect. Again, this is not just data integrity I’m talking about, but data governance. We are establishing internal processes, and explaining why we need certain data, what is the impact of not having it, and what the data can be potentially used for.
Now you’ve leveraged outsourcing in a big way for your development team, haven’t you?
Yes, we have both in development and in our help desk.  We have a team of about 50 in South Africa that does all of our application development and support and a team of 9 in India that does our help desk.
You’ve been doing that for a while now.  Many people find outsourcing a real challenge.  How have you succeeded with it?
Well, these are long-term relationships for us and we invest in them accordingly.  These teams are not simply “vendors”; we view them as an extension of our staff here. We’ve traveled there and talked with the people working for us directly.  We want to make sure they understand what they are doing and why it is important to our operation.  People are people, and everyone needs to have a good working environment and a sense of ownership in the mission. We try to insure that and I think that has been a big part of our success.
So it sounds like this is not something that happens overnight.
Not at all. It took us 6-12 months to develop our relationship with Genpact, our partner for the help desk. And of course our users were initially skeptical of any change.  But now, our people sing their praises. We’ve come to realize that our India team knows our users around the world better than our New York team does because they are interacting with them on a regular basis and they have developed relationships with them.
And what were the dynamics of building that working relationship?
You have to give regular feedback. You have to discuss what is going well, what needs improvement, and keep the dialogue going.  As you read all the time, you can’t expect to just through a problem over the wall and outsource it and expect it to go away. But if you see outsourcing as an extension of your team, albeit with reduced cost and management effort, it can be a mutually successful relationship.
Back to application development for a minute, tell me about your operation in South Africa.
Our partner for development is Open Box Software based in Cape Town, South Africa. We have a team of about 50 people there – half focused on development and half focused on support. They work with MRI, Angus, Prolog, plus our 30 custom applications. Again this is a relationship we have built for years and is really an extension of our team.  Another benefit of these outsourced relationships is our ability to bill our work to third parties for products and services that benefit properties.
Joe thanks for sharing some of the secret sauce for your outsourcing success and best of luck with your BI efforts.
My pleasure Chris.