In the Trenches with CenterPoint’s Scott Zimmerman

Source: Reposted from: In the Trenches with CenterPoint’s Scott Zimmerman
As you know Scott, we use “In the Trenches” to discuss the day-to-day issues we all deal with delivering technology and innovation to our companies. What pain point have you been overcoming lately?
We struggle with having so much information that exists in a fairly unstructured format – excel spreadsheets, pdfs, leases, contracts – you name it. We weren’t formalized. Different groups would do things differently. We wanted to create some kind of lite taxonomy that would not be a barrier to cataloging and storing but would insure enough quality and consistency so that those who needed to find the information could. Also, we’ve been in growth mode lately, and whereas we used to be able to run down the hall and ask someone where a particular document was, we are now too distributed to do that. So we’ve used technology to mitigate distance.
Join the club. This is a real challenge for many of us.  How did you tackle it?
Well, from a technical standpoint, we’ve used SharePoint, Outlook and an Outlook Add-On we created to allow our people to drag an email and attachment to an Outlook folder and synchronize those folders with SharePoint sites, network drives, and local drives – whichever is appropriate. Behind that we’ve built our enterprise taxonomy for how we handle projects so that when we take on a new property, the manager can make one click and establish a site with all of the appropriate folders.
How does your business view the benefits of such a system?
First, it makes turnover/takeover of properties and people a lot less painful. We have greatly reduced lag time on sensitive projects. When someone leaves, no one wonders where his files are.  When we take on a new property, a manager simply runs through a transition checklist which tells them what specific documents need to be in what specific places. When we dispose of a property, we don’t need to have 30 people boxing documents for due diligence.
Second, we have found it helps us, when we are looking for partners on various ventures and when we show them our processes. We are relatively small and showing that we are good stewards of capital and can well govern what we are responsible for has helped win confidence and given would-be partners comfort that we have our operation under control.
And finally, it makes us much more efficient in our day-to-day operation. We’re not wasting time looking for things.
Sounds like you have really delivered value for your organization.  I have to say, the first thing that comes to my mind is how do you govern this platform and insure it is being used and maintained as designed. Often, when you build it, they do not always come.
Yes, that is the key.  When I came on board 13 years ago I kept failing to deliver the solutions I was striving for and came to realize governance was the key.
Fortunately we have a lot of executive support. Our President and CEO are very involved, not in the nitty-gritty details, but in creating a corporate culture where efficient business processes are valued and embraced.
Yeh, but how does that “culture” translate into people’s daily activity? How do you motivate someone to store the right document in the right place?
A couple of ways.  First, included in our quarterly audits is business processes compliance. We hire auditors to come in and review our processes and how well we are complying with them. They will look at a property, see if all the leases are in the right place and tie that to who is responsible for putting them there.  In some cases, they’ll visit a building, and if our data says there are 72 parking spaces, they’ll count to see if it has 72 parking spaces.
I have to say, I’m impressed.  Who reviews the audit?
Everyone. Compliance is measured from the top down and the results are published for the whole company to review.
So, you might say you shame people into compliance.
To some extent. No one likes to see their name with a low score. But we use the carrot too. A percent of our bonus is tied to process compliance as well. It works quite well. We now average about 96% compliance. It took a little time to build this, but now the new people, who have known no other way, put the pressure on the old timers and the cowboys get painted into a corner. There is a snowball effect.  The more people see the fruit of a well-maintained system, the more people demand that it be kept that way.
Scott, you have really solved a problem that plagues many of us, from both the technical and business aspects.  Thanks so much for your time and for letting us in to see the mechanics of how you have done this.
Glad to do it, Chris.  I receive a lot of benefit from the Realcomm community and I’m glad to give back when I can.