The following post was originally featured on Bell’s Blog and was authored by Michael Bell. Michael originally defined IWMS while at Gartner and is currently senior advisor to Visual Lease.
Advances in technology and changes in user behavior are driving significant transformation in Integrated Workplace Management Systems (IWMS) software architecture and delivery.
IWMS in the Cloud
Cloud-based delivery has the effect of disaggregating the functionality of IWMS solutions from multiple vendors. No longer must users choose one vendor to deliver all the functionality of an IWMS suite. Alternatively, users can choose best-in-breed solutions, and then integrate in the cloud with a common database, performance metrics, and process engines. The user client can join multiple best–in-breed solutions, realizing higher performance, while reducing the cost of configuring and installing the applications.
This approach avoids the “big bang” implementation of a major IWMS solution which can take years to implement and millions in cost. Cloud-based delivery can significantly reduce costs, by eliminating the need for server and storage hardware, data center staffing and facilities and energy costs. An ancillary benefit of moving to the cloud for IWMS delivery is to avoid the accounting effects of leasing hardware for premises-based delivery. In a few years all leases, including IT leases, will be capitalized and put on the balance sheet. Cloud-based delivery avoids this accounting impact.
Growth in User Mobility
IWMS 2.0 is influenced by a rapid growth in user mobility. Most corporate real estate staff, particularly construction, maintenance and real estate project staff, will access IWMS functionality via wireless devices. Lease data, maintenance orders, construction schedules, and other portfolio data will be readily entered and retrieved via mobile technology connected via the internet to cloud-based applications. This trend greatly enhances the productivity of in-field professionals, by minimizing office time and increasing time in the field. It also shortens response time by closing the gap between data input and output. For example, leasing specialists have ready access to lease terms, notices, and other time sensitive data while on site at a company location.
Sharing Data Between Systems
Today, most modern cloud-based software systems (if not all) expose what is called an “API” that allow that system to seamlessly talk with other systems. An API is, by definition, something that defines the way in which two entities communicate.
These APIs are completely invisible to Web-based software users; their job is to run silently in the background, providing a way for applications to work with each other to get the user the information or functionality he needs. The important part of the API in this context is not so much what it is at a technical level, but what it does at a practical level. Simply stated, APIs are the glue that allows all of the great software you leverage today to share data. This has become so commonplace in today’s world that if you use almost any website today, I am sure you have unknowingly been using APIs. APIs are the KEY to building seamless IWMS 2.0 solutions. (More to come on APIs in future discussions.)
IWMS 2.0 represents the natural evolution from large, complex (and expensive) enterprise solutions to small, aggregated solutions that take advantage of cloud-based delivery. Many large companies will continue to acquire large multi-functional applications (and even these are moving to the cloud), but smaller organizations with relatively small to medium sized portfolios will opt for aggregated “best-in-breed” solutions, to achieve lower cost, faster implementation, and more rapid return on investment.