Cloud Use Cases From The CRE Trenches

In our last In The Trenches column, we discussed some basic considerations for cloud computing, as many are looking at including or expanding cloud solutions in their 2013 budget. We’ve received valuable feedback from industry leaders around the country that we wanted to share with you to give you specifics on where and how these solutions are being used in our industry.
Kevin M. Moss, Senior Vice President of Information Technology at DDR, is thrilled with the possibilities that lie ahead for their ever-evolving cloud-based solutions. “Our largest venture into the cloud has been with and it has become a point of convergence and a common interface where we can leverage the power of ERP, ECM, and BI in helping our people be entrepreneurial at the point of customer contact. Cloud applications have definitely improved our time-to-market for new functionality and have greatly contributed to an increased level of engagement between the business and IT.”
Another Salesforce proponent is Stuart Appley, CIO of Shorenstein Properties. “We went live on Salesforce for our Investor Relations and Executive departments and it’s been extremely well received,” reports Stuart, who is embracing a number of SaaS solutions. “We continue to use Cloud services extensively as we have seen very positive results from our use of SaaS over the last 5 years. We migrated the whole company to Office 365 this year, with very little disruption and have been very happy with it. They host our email and Lync services, and we plan on moving our on-prem Sharepoint installation to them next year. We also went live with Chatham, a SaaS Loan Database that is now our system of record for all our Mortgage, Fund and Corporate Debt. We continue to use other SaaS products, including Workspeed, Angus, Nexus, ADP, BCS and other benefit related services.”
Shorenstein’s cloud foot print is not limited to Saas. “We expanded our IaaS services to include Microsoft application testing, using Skytap, in addition to our current GoGrid services which we use for hosting our Nexus test and development environments. We also moved all our offsite long-term data backups to Amazon this year, eliminating our tape backups and Iron Mountain services. In 2013, we will be moving to DRaaS, using a cloud provider for Disaster Recovery. We’re excited about that project, as it will let us remove all internal DR related capital and maintenance.” Having seen the benefits to the business, Stuart has long-term plans to move as much of their systems as possible to the Cloud: “Embracing the Cloud has enabled us to reduce our capital expenditures, while also freeing up internal resources to work on more business critical and value-add projects.”
Luke Lands, Chief Information Officer at ProLogis, has several global cloud rollouts, all of which he would label as successes. “We are significantly expanding our commitment to Salesforce – tearing out two legacy CRM systems (Salesforce and Microsoft) from the pre-merger AMB and Prologis and replacing them with a new global redesigned and repurposed Salesforce CRM. We are also redoing the Salesforce Private Capital install – redesigning and expanding the customer portal. Both of these are multi-phase projects extending into 2013, rolling out full interoperability with mobile devices, among other feature additions. Additionally, we have recently developed and deployed an internal investment tracker app on and just kicked off Phase Two of that project. We’ve also replaced PeopleSoft HRMS with Workday earlier this year.”
Others take a more metered approach to the adoption of cloud solutions. In his blog post, Hey You, Get Off My Cloud, Ryan Allbaugh, CIO at Childress Klein, identifies the need for BI as a key factor for determining cloud fit. Cost is, of course, another key factor: “We have had a good number of successes with SaaS including Angus Anywhere (GREAT company to work with), and some others, but I think more importantly, we have had even more projects where we identified it was not a good fit due to some reason or another. It usually came down to cost of ownership (we are heavily virtualized so additional hardware costs are usually nil or very low).”
For Paul Quinn, collaboration with broader audiences is the criteria he uses for determining which of the applications at Duke Realty he’ll place in the cloud. Paul’s examples include job postings, for greater exposure to applicants (and for interacting with applicants), accepting and processing resumes, for access to subcontractors (and subcontract bidding), vacant space listings, for access to prospects, for utility bill processing, insurance certificates, and for business process expertise.
“I believe putting everything in the cloud does not make business sense for all applications or processes,” says Art McCann, who warns against moving to the cloud just for the sake of doing so. “If I was starting a company and wanted my incremental IT costs to rise with my revenue, I would go this route. For an established company you should evaluate very carefully. For example, if you have terabytes of backup tape storage and you want to move it to the cloud, you could spend around $100,000 monthly and be able to tell your boss ‘we are in the cloud’. On the flip side, you are spending way too much on your backup solution. Don’t get caught up in the hype and marketing buzz of cloud solutions!”
At Highwoods, where Art is CIO, he uses a ‘Selective Cloud’ approach that identifies applications or processes that require frequent software updates, extensive IT time for care and feeding, and frequent hardware upgrades. “One good example is our HR System for payroll and workforce management. The system required extensive IT time (tax and regulatory updates) to keep it up-to-date and the hardware requirements were changing frequently. We decided three years ago to put the application in the cloud with our software provider. We had many discussions about data security and the contract has very strict penalties if there is a data breach.”
McCann’s approach summarizes a truth embraced by all of our contributors: “Bottom line -the ‘Selective Cloud’ approach is more scalpel than hatchet. Find the applications that drain your time and money and consider them for the cloud where mature offerings exist.”