In the Trenches with Boston Properties’ Jim Whalen

Source: Reposted from: In the Trenches with Boston Properties’ Jim Whalen
In this week’s ‘In the Trenches’, Chris Saah, CIO, Transwestern chats with Jim Whalen, SVP & CIO, Boston Properties on both the process of technology adoption and some of the factors that have been key to his success in driving automation strategies that have had significant impact at Boston Properties.
Jim, it was great seeing you at Realcomm.  Your enthusiasm was palpable. In fact, you mentioned that the last two years have been some of the most impactful in your 26 year career. Would you elaborate on that? Well I think there are a number of factors. First, I’m excited about the sheer pace of technology adoption and how consumerization has added energy to what we do as IT professionals.  For instance, look at the creation of the 300,000-plus iPhone apps. When you have ever advancing software toolsets coupled with smart internal, onshore and offshore resources it can really enhance the ability to deliver more with less. This same dynamic is occurring with many of our solution providers. Second, I am seeing a lot more collaboration across our different departments within the Company. It’s a maturation process and I think as people have a better understanding of what can be achieved, combined with a renewed emphasis in seeking operational efficiencies, our employees are willing to invest time in solutions and required process change. Third, I think user involvement and empowerment is at an all time high. We used to do project A and get result B.  Now we find our users taking the delivered solution and also doing C, D, and E, so there are all kinds of unintended positive consequences. So it looks like you are seeing a lot more partnership with business in your development process.
Absolutely. I think the Steve Jobs mantra has caught on. Users expect and developers are delivering more intuitive solutions with fewer clicks. So as we deliver apps with better user interfaces that are easier to use, they are adopted more quickly, which accelerates what is being required of us. It is very dynamic and at times a challenging process.
How does this translate into the relationships with your solution providers?
Well, we are focused on leveraging solutions from our business partners and service providers. We’ve implemented solutions from Microsoft, Angus, Oracle/JD Edwards, Argus, Nexus, Open Box and Cisco and have tried to align ourselves with their R&D cycles by providing direct feedback, opening up our business processes and influencing their product roadmaps where possible. It takes a commitment of time, but we invest in partnerships that create mutual business benefit for both parties and this approach has paid off.
And finding business sponsors is easier?
Definitely.  We have established a track record of delivering practical and impactful solutions by taking a ‘walk before you run’ strategy and continually leveraging our solution partners. Again, I think an emphasis on operational efficiencies is an underlying driver given the current climate and our various departments are pushing us to help achieve their intended results. We see application owners stepping up and becoming sponsors who drive participation in development and adoption. Within the real estate industry, we sometimes tend to overlook that Property Management is an area of the business that drives a lot of what we do and where there are many opportunities for innovation. Ten years ago, we brought someone into IT from Property Management to serve as a dedicated project lead/analyst for this critical function and we have greatly benefited from this approach. In addition, our network team has broken down the traditional barriers in supporting facility based systems. I get excited when ‘infrastructure’ investments – not just applications – facilitate our business.
Well, Jim, your energy is contagious and your points are well taken. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us and share your insights.
My pleasure.  Great speaking with you.