JLL tech transformation emphasizes value of employee experience

As JLL CIO Eddy Wagoner shifts to a digital leadership role, the commercial real estate market is undergoing a seismic shift toward ‘proptech’ amenities aimed at providing an employee-friendly focus.

JLL tech transformation emphasizes value of employee experience
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Real estate has forever been associated with three things: location, location, location. But as commercial real estate (CRE) providers have learned, amenities that bolster employee satisfaction — such as smart technology fueled by sensors, faster WiFi and a flexible mix of private and open workspaces — are critical selling points for property.

So crucial is the role of technology in augmenting employee experience (EX) that $16.3 billion CRE concern Jones Lang LaSalle has moved CIO Eddy Wagoner to the role of executive director of digital. Wagoner, who had led JLL’s IT department since 1996, says the new role requires him to explain the value of properties to clients seeking offices that cater to their employees.

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Gone are the days when people showed up to work, grabbed a cubicle, and took what the company offered, Wagoner says. The nature of work, particularly its hours and locations, is inherently more flexible — and is being reshaped by digital tools. And in a customer experience (CX) role designed to convey the value of JLL’s tech-driven digs, Wagoner is focused on how clients can deliver better EX.

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“What’s changing is that people are focusing on the human aspect of real estate,” Wagoner tells CIO.com. “If you want to attract and retain talent, you have to give employees the solutions that will make them happy and productive.”

Proptech requires new talent

JLL has evolved to reflect the sector’s gravitation toward “proptech,” in which building operations are governed by software, sensors and data. And it’s ushering in tech-savvy leaders to develop and sell them.

Real estate has forever been associated with three things: location, location, location. But as commercial real estate (CRE) providers have learned, amenities that bolster employee satisfaction — such as smart technology fueled by sensors, faster WiFi and a flexible mix of private and open workspaces — are critical selling points for property.

So crucial is the role of technology in augmenting employee experience (EX) that $16.3 billion CRE concern Jones Lang LaSalle has moved CIO Eddy Wagoner to the role of executive director of digital. Wagoner, who had led JLL’s IT department since 1996, says the new role requires him to explain the value of properties to clients seeking offices that cater to their employees.

Gone are the days when people showed up to work, grabbed a cubicle, and took what the company offered, Wagoner says. The nature of work, particularly its hours and locations, is inherently more flexible — and is being reshaped by digital tools. And in a customer experience (CX) role designed to convey the value of JLL’s tech-driven digs, Wagoner is focused on how clients can deliver better EX.

“What’s changing is that people are focusing on the human aspect of real estate,” Wagoner tells CIO.com. “If you want to attract and retain talent, you have to give employees the solutions that will make them happy and productive.”

Proptech requires new talent

JLL has evolved to reflect the sector’s gravitation toward “proptech,” in which building operations are governed by software, sensors and data. And it’s ushering in tech-savvy leaders to develop and sell them.

Eddy Wagoner, CIO, Jones Lang LaSalle Jones Lang LaSalle

Eddy Wagoner, CIO, Jones Lang LaSalle

In September, JLL formed JLL Technologies, a new business division incorporating all technology functions designed to accelerate digital initiatives. JLL Tech Co-CEO Mihir Shah worked at Yahoo and Groupon while Co-CEO Yishai Lerner founded and sold several tech companies. Shah and Lerner, to whom Wagoner reports, previously led JLL Spark, $100 million venture fund that seeds proptech startups.

JLL Chief Digital Product Officer Vinay Goel joined the company in 2018 after a decade at Google. Among the other notable techie hires are: Liz Van Dyke, who joined JLL from IBM in 2019 to lead JLL’s public institutions tech business; Cynthia Kantor, chief products officer of corporate solutions, who spent more than two decades at General Electric; and Sanjay Rishi, CEO of corporate solutions, who joined JLL from IBM.

JLL’s new blood all have something common, Wagoner says, adding, “They’ve all disintermediated, integrated, and created demand for a product. They’ve all had to think beyond traditional ways to leverage technology and that’s what’s attracted them about JLL.” 

Proptech’s evolution: From iPhones to IoT

The proptech trend traces to the evolution in consumerization of technology, which blurs personal and professional lines in the workplace.

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CIOs who initially opposed iPhones and Android phones in favor of BlackBerry devices eventually “rolled over” to let employees use the smartphones to access email and other productivity apps, Wagoner says. As consumers began to order everything from cars to food deliveries to controlling home heating and electrical systems via mobile phones, they began to expect those on-demand services at work.

That put the onus on CIOs to huddle with HR, operations and other departments on how to accommodate their wishes. “Employees forced our hand and that changed the industry,” Wagoner says. “It caused a sea change in how we approach the tech we make available.”

For example, while JLL has always controlled core building systems for its properties, it’s embraced a range of emerging technologies, including internet of things (IoT), analytics and other tools to automate everything from office room lighting to temperature in open spaces and even cubicles. It uses analytics software to generate data on the most highly trafficked workspace or conference room, which helps JLL better manage space. 

Joining the AI virtual assistant trend, Goel’s group this year developed JiLL, which enables employees to set up meetings, find colleagues, look up lunch menus or shuttle schedules, or find an open desk or conference room via voice or text. And while JLL won’t build a system to procure office supplies, it must at least partner with Amazon or others to provide the service for its tenants, another sign of how on-demand services are driving proptech, Wagoner says.

Amid these shifts, Wagoner embraces his new role of articulating JLL’s proptech capabilities to CIOs, heads of HR and real estate. Just as important is collecting information about client requirements, which will shape future JLL digital products.

The CIO’s guide to longevity

Wagoner advises CIOs looking to extend their careers in a rapidly-changing work world to consider the following:

Don’t be afraid to ‘break glass’ on yourself. Evaluate your strengths and be willing to change — just as Wagoner himself has accepted his new role. “If you want to bring about change, bring about change in yourself,” he says.

Help your staff plug into the new system. Wagoner forged a lot of friendships over his career, so telling his team he would no longer manage them was tough. He helped some staff transition to new roles and told others that their skillsets didn’t match the positions JLL was looking to fill. Some elected to retire. “When you build a high-performing team, they become like family,” he says.

Don’t sleep on EX. The risks of not creating a rock-solid EX impedes the ability to attract and retain top talent. “They have more work and career choices and more mobility at work than any time in human history,” Wagoner says.