In The Trenches With Robert “RJ” Juliano, CIO, Brandywine Realty Trust

Our next few In the Trenches will focus on Realcomm 2013 Co-Chairs Scott Morey and Robert Juliano. We’ll be talking about their personal challenges and successes as well as their vision for our industry and conference. Scott has been on the road this week so our conversation begins with Robert and his work at Brandywine Realty Trust.
CS: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today and congratulations on your appointment to co-chair Realcomm 2013. 
Juliano: My pleasure. I’ve had some great conversations with Jim and Scott and I’m really looking forward to building on the energy and enthusiasm of the past several years.
CS: Well first, I’d like to talk about Brandywine and the issues you’ve been focusing on there. Tell us about some of the challenges and successes you’ve had. 
Juliano: The recurring theme of my life and now my Realcomm life is: I’m not only our CIO but I am also head of our media group, which makes me responsible for our marketing efforts. So much of my time is involved with the integration of the marketing and media functions along with the IT functions. I’ve had both responsibilities for about five years. So, in a blocking and tackling sense, I have the same responsibilities everyone else has. I’m worried about my MRI and all of those core systems, and we are doing a lot with building management and building automation. However, I also have this external focus, so I am always asking, “How is that serving the tenants and how is that attracting new tenants?” So even from a visionary standpoint I’m questioning the ways we are making and enabling decisions internally; and also, how is it improving our dialogue with our customers and prospects? (Those are actually the two biggest things written on my white board.)
We’ve accomplished a lot over the past six years regarding operational excellence: AR, AP, LockBox. We’ve gone cloud with them; we’ve integrated them with our core systems, and have had a lot of success gaining significant operational efficiency in those areas. We’ve eliminated much of the commodity work and that’s been a major accomplishment for us.
Workflow is another area where we’ve focused. Because we’re a publically traded REIT, the audits are easier and better and require significantly less effort. So we’ve eliminated a lot of the friction around the audit and compliance process.
So, with these foundational, operational issues addressed we’ve been even more focused over the last two years on ways we can move content out to the tenants and prospects and make it easier for them to do business with us. One of the things we’re known for is being easy to do business with, but we want to make it even easier!
CS: Clearly these accomplishments have removed the operational friction, as you said, and improved your service delivery to your tenants. Here’s my follow-up question for you: Was the business looking for and were you able to deliver any hard cost savings as a result of these innovations? 
Juliano: Yes. We actually did a year-to-year comparison and we were able to reduce costs by a million dollars.
CS: Well done! Where were these savings? Staff? Supplies and expenses? 
Juliano: Sure, we were able to reduce some of our AP staff, but we were also able to document a million dollars in annual savings in hard costs such as paper, toner, postage, envelopes, and FEDEX!
CS: Very significant. Tell us about the search engine you’ve created. 
Juliano: We’ve created a Google-like interface which we call Search which allows all employees to easily search tenant, vendor, building, and employee information from one simple screen and find all of the linked information. Additionally, if I am a property manager, it knows that, and all of my buildings would come up on the home screen. From any role I can search on any entity in the company quickly from one screen.
The underlying concept here is that no one should be in MRI without having a functional reason to be in it. So, we had some situations where people had to create 10-12 reports and massage the data themselves to get the information they needed; we’ve eliminated that.
As a practical example, we have accelerated simple, but important stuff like when you get a call at the front desk that says I’m a tenant in building X and I’m having a problem and I need to contact my property management office. Now our person on the phone simply searches that building and pulls up all of the relevant information on that building.
CS: : I can see why you embrace the tag line that you’re easy to do business with. You’ve really delivered additional value to the business. Now I’d like to start talking about your vision for Realcomm 2013 but we’ve already run out of space. Let’s continue our discussion next time and bring Scott into the discussion as well.