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CIO Q&A: JLL Technologies’ Eddy Wagoner on Reopen Strategies

JLL Technologies Executive Director and Chief Digital Information Officer Edward Wagoner has a unique view of  COVID-19 reopen strategies through his work at  JLL, the global real estate company with 4.6 billion square feet managed in property and facilities.

A veteran real estate CIO and frequent peer advisor, Wagoner has spent recent weeks consulting with customers ranging from small tech startups to global companies with multi-national locations about how and when they will return to workspaces. Wagoner spoke with Lambent as part of our CIO & Executive series focused on reopen strategies.

On Buildings & Tenants: “There was a day where if you wanted to inquire about another tenant in your building, anybody would probably tell you to go read the name of the tenants listed in the lobby. That’s all you needed to know, right? Well, COVID doesn’t pay attention to security access. You and your company are going to want to understand what other tenants are in your building are doing, what industry are they in? Does it jeopardize your people or your operations? I had one CIO say ‘We’re going to start looking at the other tenants in the building in a way we never have before because of the risks that they could have to our operations.’ That’s new.”

Contact Tracing: “I think we could use some of the existing real estate technologies to do this. Wouldn’t you like your company to be able to say that you were with someone yesterday who tested positive? Then your company could say ‘Let’s get you home. Let’s get you to your doctor, and we’ll let other people know they don’t have to worry. And by the way, we’ve taken immediate cleaning steps.’’ It’s fast, it’s automated. Or would you rather wait until your company does the manual tracing? That takes a longer time. It exposes you to more people. But I’ve heard people say ‘I’m never doing that [automated tracing]’. In everyday life, we let Uber track us. Why? Because we understand the benefit. If we perceive that we are getting a benefit, we will willingly give up some of our information. Now, on the other hand, I do get people’s hesitations. I think, especially in the U.S., there needs to be stronger laws and regulations around how you’re going to use that information, so people clearly understand it. And if you violate that, there should be significant enough penalties.”

“COVID doesn’t happen on the internet. It happens in the real world. In our office buildings, our industrial warehouses, our shopping malls, our restaurants. That  is the real world.”

Fear and Doubt: ‘We’re either fearful that we’re going to get it [COVID-19], or fearful that we’re going to bring it home to loved ones. Or we are fearful, wondering ‘Am I going to have my job?’ And even for those die-hard people that say they are not afraid of this—well, they actually are. They’re afraid our economy won’t rebound quickly. Afraid of social disorder. This has created a lot of fear in a lot of people, in ways that we’ve not seen in our lifetimes. A big part of what we’ve got to do is ask ‘How do we help transform that fear into trust?’  And to do that, we tell people, ‘Look, here’s how we’re going to use technology. Here’s how we’re going to use capabilities to keep you safe.’ And in the event someone is exposed or someone else’s exposed, we would understand all the actions needed to mitigate that situation.”

On Technology : “There’s going to be a technology role to play in redesigning whatever the future workplace will be. I heard a CIO make the statement that they were thinking about completely redoing the badge access to buildings so that if you weren’t scheduled to be in the office that day, you couldn’t get in. There absolutely is a role to play for the workplace utilization technologies. Another CIO said he has teams that are saying when they come to the office, they want to work together, but that means they want to be six feet apart from other team members. Whereas before they were two feet apart. What does that do to the departments that are laid out in continuous spacing?

In many cases, companies have big IWMS (Integrated Workplace Management Systems) already in place for their real estate. They don’t even realize they have some existing functionality in those systems, that works perfectly to enable our post-COVID world. There are a lot of potential opportunities and I think the companies that figure out how to use technology to create these healthier workplaces will get their employees from fear to trust faster. That means that their top talent will be focused on the business of the company—and that puts them at a competitive advantage.

COVID doesn’t happen on the internet. It happens in the real world. In our office buildings, our industrial warehouses, our shopping malls, our restaurants. That is the real world. Some companies are going to get competitive advantage; they’re going to survive and then they’re going to thrive—depending on what they do now. Our real-world situation is that we need to crate these healthier, safer, more trustworthy workplaces.”

“You’ve got to come up with that strategy before rushing out and buying something, in my opinion. The CEOs I talk to, especially the big, global CEOs, they’re trying to avoid snap decisions like that.”

On Thermal Cameras: “Before you buy a thermal camera—what’s your strategy? We’ve got an example of a company that was using thermal temperature screeners, and they used the security guards to do it. Well, first of all, they aren’t trained healthcare professionals. So, they are standing near the doors, and every time the doors would open from the parking lot, a blast of cold air would come in, causing misreads. The process hadn’t been thought out completely. If you’ve got it [thermal technology] how will you operate it? What will you do with the information? Are you going to put that on every possible entrance and exit? What do you do about visitors that come in? What happens in the middle of the day? If someone gets a temperature, are you going to take readings throughout the entire workplace?

You’ve got to come up with that strategy before rushing out and buying something, in my opinion. The CEOs I talk to, especially the big, global CEOs, they’re trying to avoid snap decisions like that.  They have come together, and they may have one leader from the executive committee who is driving things, but there’s a collaboration across all of the various disciplines about how it would work. Who should take the lead on it? What will we do with the data? How will that change our operations? There’s also change involved in the process. And that’s where things break down. So often you can have the best technology in the world and if you don’t have the right people, the right processes, and the right change management, it’s not going to work.”

On Trust: “I think it’s beyond the CIO. It’s the company and everybody in the company that makes the decisions. It’s going to be right down to some of the line managers. Do you understand the precautions that you need to take? If someone reports to you that they don’t feel well, do you need to report to facilities? If the company says we want to enforce social distancing in the office, but we’ve still got the pre-workspace floor plan—are you going to cordon off every other desk to do that social distancing? What are you going to do if you walk up and see two coworkers two feet of each other talking? I think that trust not only extends within the corporations, but between individuals. It’s cultural, it’s personal, it’s corporate, it’s all of those. And I struggle to think of another situation where we’ve had all of those come together before.”

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