In The Trenches with COO Innovation Summit Advisory Council Co-Chairs John Gilbert and Kurt Padavano

In this week’s “In the Trenches,” I interviewed COO Innovation Summit Advisory Council Co-Chairmen John Gilbert, Executive Vice President & COO of Rudin Management and Kurt Padavano, COO of Advance Realty Group.

Chris Saah: With IBcon less than four weeks away, I wanted to talk with the two of you about your vision for the industry and your hopes for this year’s conference. First of all, congratulations on being appointed COO Innovation Summit Advisory Council Co-Chairmen and thanks for all you’re doing for our industry. Tell us about what you’re seeing in your own experience and across the industry and how you see us advancing the game at this year’s conference. Kurt, why don’t you start us off. 
Kurt Padavano: Sure. I think Jim Young and Realcomm have historically focused primarily on the Chief Information Officer role and a lot of the technologies related to the built environment. What we’re seeing now is that the Chief Information Officer needs to work very closely with the Chief Operating Officer in making decisions and strategically aligning the organization behind the technology and asking the questions: “How do we leverage the technology; how do we make people more efficient; and how do we make buildings more efficient?”
And so, Jim’s vision is to expand the reach of the conference and bring in the Chief Operating Officers or Chief Administrative Officers to create more of a collaboration in the design and implementation of technologies at the operating company as well as in the buildings themselves.
John Gilbert: Well, I think all of us in the real estate industry are realizing more and more that we’re as much in real estate as we are in the information management business. Everywhere else we’re hearing how big data is impacting industries and businesses, and real estate can’t escape that. The reality for all of us is to ask, “What do we do with this information?” ”What is our responsibility as building owners and managers?” In my mind, the first thing we’ve got to do is collect it, the second thing is to express it; that is create an interface that people can understand and utilize. The third thing we need to do is to remember it and learn from it; the fourth is to utilize it intelligently; and the fifth thing is that we need to share it. We need to turn this data that we’re collecting, that we’ve figured out ways to express and give it to our customers so that they ultimately can influence their own behavior and do things intelligently.
What this conference is about is understanding that the building is the network, and it really is about linking all of the disparate silos that exist within our buildings. We ultimately need to understand that everything we do, from sending out a bill to monitoring HVAC and energy consumption, to what we do in terms of retrofitting our lighting systems, what we do about security (both data and perimeter security), what we do about our elevator systems, what we do about package intercepts, all of that stuff is connected.
Chris Saah: And how do you two see this year’s conference advancing this vision? 
Kurt Padavano: I think as I go back to Jim’s first discussions about his idea to have the COO Summit, it really becomes a ‘super-network’ of industry peers that are willing to share information that accelerates the information and knowledge. As innovative and progressive professionals with similar experiences and similar mindsets listen to what each person is doing, they then go back to their organizations (whether it is their own company or a local industry association) and they start to share that information over and over.
So, it puts together a lot of people that have a similar interest and similar desire to grow and innovate, together with a bunch of ideas, and it lets them connect and create relationships that’ll carry on beyond the conference. It takes all the concepts that John and I have been talking about and makes them happen even faster.
John Gilbert: That’s right. And the reality is nobody has all the answers. You know, everybody comes to the conference with their own set of ‘this is what I know’, ‘this is what I don’t know’, and ‘this is what I want to find out’ questions and answers.
I think the reason this year’s conference is going to be unique, as Kurt said, is that, for the first time—and you know, we’ve been doing this stuff since the mid ’90s when we did 55 Broad Street, which is arguably one of the first smart buildings in North America—you’ve got a COO roundtable. You’ve got people who are at the very top level of companies that are focusing on multiple strategies within the space. And I think what people will leave with is either a validation of what they’re doing already or a modification of that strategy based upon what they’ve learned about what others are doing.
Ultimately all of us have questions that we’re grappling with within our own strategic initiatives, and when we hear what other people are doing and you hear the same thing over and over again, that seems to be the right path to take. So, I’m very excited about really trying to zero in on several items that we’re looking at and see what others are doing.
Kurt Padavano: Just one final comment: The COO is one of the key allocators of resources in an organization, whether that resource is money or people. So this an opportunity for the COO to get more engaged in these discussions and closer to the CIO’s challenges. The COOs can then decide how they want to allocate people and dollars because there’s a lot of demand on those resources in an organization. So, IBcon is going to give that ‘allocator’ a better set of tools and information to make decisions.
Chris Saah: Thanks for your time and insights. We’re going to have to leave it there for now. I look forward to seeing you both in June.