Shopping Center Business

MAY 2017

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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BIG DATA 246 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • May 2017 more people. We found that technology was a valuable tool in creating efficiencies for our associates. We see that first in the parts of our business that use the most data — accounting, mainly — which are driven by volumes of transactions. We are also driven by accuracy. It was that com- bination that warranted an investment. The cost of technology has come down dramatically. That allows us to use it in an efficient way. The part of the investment on the data analytics has been us looking at how other industries are using data in their decision process. We have that data; we want to start using it to influence our business. We started with leasing and acquisitions — two areas that are critical to the success of our company. At least once a year, we hold our Innovation Labs, where we bring a cross-functional group of our associates in the company and have them look at a specific problem that the company has. We haven't done that on big data, but it has been mentioned in all of the Innovation Labs that we've done as an area that would help us make better de- cisions about those issues that they have been tasked to resolve. It has been driven by a number of issues in the organization. We have tried to focus it so that we would get results in two areas. We will see where we can take it from there. SCB : How are you pushing your technolo- gy and data efforts to the employee level? How are they embracing it and applying it to their day-to-day job duties? EDISON : For each of our initiatives, we have set up a cross-functional team to implement a specific plan of what we are going to do. That team continues to help evolve the programs on the leasing and ac- quisitions side. These teams include our head of information technology as well as associates from acquisition underwriting and leasing. We are not using a third party to give us an answer; we want someone in your department to do that and help inte- grate these initiatives inside the business. We don't want this to be a report you put on the shelf and never use. We want to integrate these plans into our DNA. We have been pushing on this for the past three years. I have been focused on the adoption of these initiatives because that is what will create the changes. Younger people tend to adopt things quicker than older people. We have had a university inside the company for many years called PECO U. For the past two years, we have taken almost 75 percent of the curriculum and applied it to our information technol- ogy training. We brought in an associate to help with that. The adoption is always the toughest part and the most critical piece. The technology is there and avail- able. Making a decision about what pieces of data you want to use and how to use them is the issue. We have learned a lot during this process about what works and what doesn't work. SCB : What are your expectations for a re- turn on this investment? EDISON : Each business leader has applied for a project as part of this. We set a bud- get for each of the parts. As part of the scopes, they have to tell us what the pay- back will be on each part of the project. Sometimes they tell us that the investment is critical to our business, but there will be no payback. Each project has to be approved. Each project has a targeted ROI, but we don't have a total ROI for the initiative. We have a phenomenal IT department. Like most IT departments, they would love to have the entire capital improvements budget for their use. We prioritize the projects and do them over time so that we spend reasonably. SCB : Aside from big data, Phillips Edison has started an initiative to push social me- dia throughout its organization. Can you tell our readers about that? EDISON : Social media is a source of con- nectivity, marketing and branding that we think is critical to our business. There's also a part that is reputation management. We know a new contractor for us is go- ing to do an internet search to see if we pay our bills on time. We have set up a team with each of our departments to see how social media affects their particular group. Whether that is leasing, finance, construction or human resources, there is a piece of social media today that is af- fecting them. We want the outside world to have a clear view of who Phillips Edison is and what we are doing. There's clearly a marketing and branding side to it too. Social media is just a part of that. It has also helped each business unit think about how social media affects them. It's a tool that, if you don't use it and don't think about it, can be more harmful than help- ful. SCB Inside the information technology department at Phillips Edison.

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