By Venkat Kandru, Chief Digital and Information Officer
The impact of technology on the commercial real estate (CRE) industry is a vast subject. With over 28 years of IT and leadership experience, Venkat Kandru, Stream’s Chief Digital and Information Officer shares his insights on technology and the importance of agility.
PREPARING FOR DISRUPTION
Needless to say, 2020 was a demanding year in which we’ve all had to learn to adapt, accept and work in new and different ways. Technology has served business like ours well, and by extension has allowed us to support our customer base effectively.
At Stream, we keep the customer in the center of everything we do. As a privately held CRE firm, we have a significant advantage—we don’t need to convince 25 different departments to take an action that we believe is advantageous to our customers. We see an opportunity, we evaluate it quickly, then we act on it. We have demonstrated that this agile approach yields great gains for our clients. Not many other CRE organizations can claim the same.
And because of our agility, we haven’t missed a beat when serving our clients throughout the various business disruptions of 2020. We have been nimble and decisive in implementing technology to enable each of our professionals to provide full and consistent support, value and service to all of our clients, without any disruption this year.
As early as February 2020 we held an internal discussion around how COVID was affecting China and how we needed to be prepared to provide continuity of service. No one really knew how to “prepare” for a pandemic of course, but it was evident to our infrastructure team that technology would play a big role, and that it had to be delivered quickly.
By the beginning of March, I was asked “are we ready?” We were already a technologically well-equipped company. We have invested in our infrastructure, not for any black swan event like this, but so that our business would run efficiently with the capacity to expand—as that’s what we believed was going to happen. For any organization to work well, network and communications infrastructure and user support are the essential components to allow everybody to be productive.
One deceptively simple challenge we identified was a shortage of 60 laptops for our professionals. If we were to suddenly ask our professionals to work from home because of COVID, we had a shortfall we needed to fill. The problem of course was the supply chain constraint, with everyone trying to prepare at the same time. So, we thought a little differently and found a leasing opportunity which provided economy—but more importantly—speed of delivery. Being quick to develop alternate solutions and bring all the options together made it all possible: when we transitioned to work from home, we had the means to collaborate and communicate with every team member. We remained connected and continued to do our jobs well and seamlessly served our client’s needs.
Stream + Teams
Stream had initiated a transition to Microsoft Teams (Teams) in August of 2019 and, as with change, some questioned the decision. “What is Teams? We have email why do we even need this?” I believe if people are asking why, we must be able to explain and educate them to the importance of the decision, otherwise it’s a failure on our part as technologists.
After the initial round of training and communication, most people leaned toward adopting the new tools. Because of COVID and the resulting remote work requirements, Teams has proven to be a necessity and a great solution for collaboration and business continuity. It provides an easy way to make calls, schedule meetings and collaborate on projects. No matter the location you simply click a button to launch your meeting. If key people can’t make the meeting, Teams also offers the benefits of being able to record the meeting and to generate a full transcription. Collaboration with people outside of the organization is also supported.
For Stream, the adoption of Teams has been a phenomenal success. Within a few weeks of implementation, IT had a minimal amount of trouble shooting, with very few questions after the initial set up and support provided at launch.
COVID has accelerated the need for technology. The ability of our professionals to adopt and maximize the necessary technology clearly demonstrates their agile and flexible mindset to changing circumstances. Providing the right tools at the right time has certainly enabled employee productivity. Maintaining consistency in our duties and responsibilities has allowed us to continue to serve our customers in every service area—without disruption.
Venkat Kandru is the Chief Digital & Information Officer for Stream Realty Partners. Venkat joined the firm in 2019 bringing to Stream over 28+ years of information technology and leadership experience. He is currently responsible for providing oversight, management, and direction to the firm’s digital transformation across the various segments of Stream’s service lines nationally.