Real Estate Consulting & Client Advisory  

Services

Decision Matrix Process

Enabling decision making

Challenge: 
Identifying the qualitative and quantitative decision elements with relative assessments that could enable meaningful fact-based discussion to reach clear, collaborative decisions. 

The Story: Simplifying the Complex
I went to business school while working full-time at Jersey Bell. I studied feverishly on all the "real-world" case studies and got pretty good at nailing down the "root cause" of the business issue. As my career continued to develop, I had a sharp awakening however when I realized at best I could have a portion of the answer, but collaborating on complex business issues always resulted in a better solution. 

Flash forward to my career managing real estate for Verizon/Bell Atlantic, then starting a consulting engineering practice in Washington, DC for WB Engineers+Consultants, I also realized that business unit decision makers and stakeholders come from all walks of life. However, there was one thing they all had in common – they all had a need to become an educated consumer. This sounds easy enough, but there's actually a lot more to it, particularly when it comes to corporate real estate, for it to be a collaborative process where each stakeholder's voice is heard. 

From business school and my experience trying to gain consensus with senior-level executives, I knew there was merit in developing a strategy to address complex issues while providing the team with the ability to speak in one voice of the customer. There were just a few challenges to making this happen:
  1. The service delivery teams struggled to fully understand the owner's dilemma and the challenges they faced within and without the organization. They were challenged to provide advice and deliver on what they thought was best for the client with a commoditized process that didn't leave room for business objective exploration. Some also wrongfully assume that the client is the decision-maker where corporate governance actually defines financial approvals by the client's senior leadership. 
  2. The corporate client needed information from planning and program development to site selection through acquisition to design and implementation to name a few. All of which can be overwhelming. This, coupled with the career risk of unexamined assumptions, communicating up to senior executives with limited understanding and insight, while ensuring the internal business unit customers and peers are fully communicated with can be daunting. 

After being on both sides several times -  the service provider and the owner - and with the help of some of the best industry professionals, we have developed a tool that offers a balanced perspective so both sides win. Our tool collaboratively identifies all decision criteria (quantitative and qualitative), rates and ranks them against the various options and presents them graphically in an easy to interpret form that helps everyone see the trends and relationships with the decisions at hand.

Service Provider Benefits
  • A seat at the table early on in the planning process to enable decisions and avoid implementation mistakes.
  • Discussion and agreement with the full team on the decision criteria, definitions, and requirements.
  • Concise presentation tool to have a thorough analysis of options to reach team consensus. 
  • A sense of confidence that your voice was heard and issues were well understood and vetted with the client to avoid. change orders and misunderstandings down the road.
  • A better understanding of the client's thought process to improve team productivity and results. 
  • Convergence and agreement on the definition of decision criteria.
       
Corporate Client Benefits 
  • Set expectations and communicate thought process upfront.
  • Ensure all issues are addressed and you fully understand your options, as well as any risks associated with them. 
  • Gain invaluable insight from the service providers to aid in communicating up and reaching internal consensus to avoid costly change orders later. 
  • Proactively answer and address executive questions. Visually present and communicate why and how you reached decisions. 
  • Positive support from senior management and internal stakeholders for process-driven decisions that save time and capital. 

All-in-all, there is a way for both the service provider and the client to win through collaborative upfront processes. Effectively managing this process saves time, money, and in some cases,  jobs. As said by one of our client's "So, all I need to do is pick more greens and yellows than reds in order to move forward correctly?". Yes, that's how easy it can be. 

Plan of Record Process

Keeping Project in Control

The Challenge 
How do you know your projects are under control before it's too late? 

The Story: Numbers at the Water Cooler
One of our retail business unit leaders at Verizon stopped me in the hallway and asked: "You're the real estate guy, right?".  Looking back now, I should have realized then we were in trouble. With all sincerity, she asked what the typical lease and construction costs were for regional call centers. Looking to be part of the solution, and after walking through qualifying solutions, I gave her a range of costs for leasing in two markets under consideration. 

Long story short, two months later a signed business case ended up on my desk to go implement two call centers in two major markets. And nine months later, we were 50% over budget on the originally approved $17M.

There is of course only one number senior leadership remembers – that is, of course, the first one you give them. (Wish someone had told me that back then!)  Luckily the business was committed to quality improvement at the time (although I would venture to say that would not be the case in 2017) and so we were given the chance to develop the "Verizon Gold Standard" by which all projects from then on were required to use by Corporate Finance. 

The Solution
We developed a workflow process and what was called the "Initial Plan of Record (IPOR)" and "Final Plan of Record (FPOR)" tools to manage projects from inception (before they went for executive approval) through implementation. 

In short, the IPOR documented all the high-level program requirements and the estimated scope, schedule, and costs that had to be approved by senior leadership prior to ever seeing a signed business case. This forced us to think through the challenges and exact requirements before making costly assumptions. At each milestone, we provided material change events (scope/schedule) that were reviewed and approved based on governance levels. At the end of the project, the FPOR was completed to show where we ended up on each item so the business could continually learn and become more accurate with like projects.

The Result
Although it was quite a painful career learning experience, it was one that resulted in a process senior leadership recognized as having huge value and utilized throughout the business, not just real estate. Frankly, the process gave the executives confidence as we moved on to building the Global Networks, Inc. portfolio and the FiOS network that the capital spent was being well managed.

The Conclusion 
Project teams have to be very focused to make sure the project approved is the project built. As an owner, or service provider, knowing projects are in-control require bright lines of accountability. Our methodology and tools help to manage program and project development – and they have been put through the most rigorous tests. Remember - the number you give them in the IPOR is the one that they'll remember, so it's important to have the right process to overcome even the biggest hurdles.