The Evolutionary Role of Today's IT Executives
Posted On November 2, 2017
By TINA DANIELSEN
Robb Napolitano is Managing IT Director for Rose Associates, responsible for Rose's information and technology platforms. Robb contributes to the firm's strategic direction to reduce costs and improve operational efficiencies to maximize profitability. He has close to 20 years' experience in the application of information technology solutions across multiple industries at the international level. Here he shares Rose's goals and strategies for managing the growth of technology.
RC: Tell us about your current technology developments.
Napolitano: When I arrived in 2012, Rose was on a proprietary enterprise system built on COBOL with a SQL backend that was menu-based and clunky. There was no question we needed to upgrade to a more advanced system. We began the selection process by examining the experience of each segment of our customer base which is made up of three distinct groups; our residents, our clients, and our employees. We identified the needs of each segment, and wanted to ensure the best technology solution for each group. After an extensive due diligence period, I am proud to say we are in the final stages of rolling out a comprehensive property management solution designed to enhance both our client and customer experiences. The system really allowed us to take the next step in customer engagement. Integrating with best of breed solutions, we capture the resident information from the moment a prospect contacts one of our properties and then automatically push this data to our property management system and our screening solution. This ensures the accuracy of the data, which allows us to quantitatively analyze multiple aspects of our business including trends in lead generation, renter preferences for product development, potential resident engagement opportunities, increased service needs, and enhanced revenue metrics. Quality content and information is the key to future success because everyone relies on it. If you examine a building and you're viewing it as just glass and steel, then you're looking at it the wrong way-because really it is a million data points that can be analyzed and used to enhance that experience for your residents, clients, and employees.
RC: What technology initiatives came out of analyzing the data your company was now capturing?
Napolitano: When we looked at the data we saw a clear need to find a way to engage with our residents in a manner that was unobtrusive, added value, and provided a unique lifestyle experience to help us stand out in the highly competitive NYC marketplace. We came up with a solution that we think fits all of these criteria by developing a proprietary app called RoseLife. The app facilitates resident engagement with the corporate and property brands while making it easier for residents to manage their lifestyle. Users can submit maintenance requests, reserve amenities, pay rent, communicate with building staff, and more, all within the RoseLife app.
We are getting great feedback from residents about the app and we felt that developing it allowed us to further our corporate mission of continually improving and delivering an exemplary living experience for our residents at every property every day. Rose is a third generation family-owned company with almost 85 years of history. Our reputation rests on the ability to continually look inward and improve, to review processes and systems, and revisit decisions time and time again to continually move the company forward. The RoseLife app is a big part of our next step forward.
RC: How did your company's focus on continual improvement impact your selection of the new property management system you described above?
Napolitano: We know that being able to continually improve the way someone does their job to maximize efficiency is going to be our competitive edge in the future, and that we needed a solution to support this. To find the right solution we carried out a comprehensive RFI, and received a 70% response rate. We had presentations from a number of vendors, and then we did a deep-dive with two in order to determine if they could provide us with the combination of structure and customization that our business requires. The New York market is unique with its wide variety of real estate; we have rent regulations, 421 As, and all the nuances that come with managing these buildings. Meeting the individual needs of customers is a priority, and an institutional client versus a project client may require different parameters. The benefit of our legacy system was the ability to customize this great quality of service. The solution that we chose gives us the same ability while providing enhanced innovation and efficiency-that was key. Additionally, we selected a solution we can host on premise-and allows us to choose who we want to integrate with. That's an incredible freedom that most service providers do not allow, but was necessary for us so that we can offer individual service to our clients.
RC: Are these customizations your focus for 2017, or are there other technology initiatives you are working on
Napolitano: Customizations are part of our strategy in 2017, but we are also working on some other exciting technology initiatives. Our focus is building a dynamic technology solution that can grow with the company and support the increasing need for employees to have the flexibility to work remotely. Our first step was to implement a private cloud allowing employees to access all necessary business applications. This was a priority for us in case of emergencies-for example, if a Hurricane Sandy were to happen again, we need employees to be able to remotely access files and communication tools so that they can continue to provide services to our residents. That was our first goal.
Our second step in this process is to create the ultimate mobile office: virtual desktops and enhancements to our cloud so that anybody can work anywhere, anytime, with the same end user experience. In addition, we're looking at leveraging the Office 365 platform to allow people to seamlessly communicate.
RC: What technology trends do you see affecting your business most in the future?
Napolitano: I think it depends upon communication pathways and Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is the principle that all service providers must treat the traffic of data the same regardless of user, company, content, etc. The FCC, under the current administration has expressed the desire to eliminate Net Neutrality. This will have a big impact on all companies. There's only so much bandwidth, and now they're going to charge (or allow) certain companies to pay more to get more. What happens to access for those who aren't paying more? We're creating this great 'work anywhere, anytime' scenario - but if the speed of your internet connection is reduced because another person/organization has the priority, you're not going to be able to take advantage of the services we are working so hard to provide.
I also see automation affecting all sectors-manual processes will go away. Whether it's leasing a unit, or managing a property-technology's going to offset some responsibilities. For work orders, ticketing, or engagement, there's solutions and apps for everything.
The next four years will determine where we are technically from several aspects: precious resources and minerals, globalization versus isolation, as well as the next gen of mobile computing. Soon we'll all be using our mobile devices as primary PC and phone-put it in a docking station to access your services. My goal is to ensure that Rose has a dynamic infrastructure that will meet the demands of an ever evolving market and an ever evolving world.
About Rose Associates, Inc.
Based in New York, Rose Associates is a developer, owner and operator of premium residential properties. From planning a new development to managing day-to-day property operations, the Rose 360 Platform offers a full range of services designed to maximize the value of real estate. The firm oversees more than 26,000 units across New York, with approximately $2 billion in projects under development. Rose recently opened the historic skyscraper 70 Pine Street, which the firm is transforming into a luxury rental property with 644 residential units, 132 extend-stay apartments and a destination restaurant/lounge occupying the top four floors.