Reviving Your Legacy (data)

Ever wish you could know more about the future, especially regarding exceptional events that disrupt the supply chain? While we may not have a crystal ball, we do have the ability to leverage the 20/20 vision that hindsight holds. One of the ways to do this is to transport your historic information out of the shadows and back to your fingertips. How? By bringing the components of your Legacy Data into a consolidated analytical environment.

The image below shows the flow of a recent project we completed for a client. While the homebuilder already had a data warehouse with a series of data marts, they had never been able to load the information from the two systems they sunsetted a few years prior, namely QuickBooks and TrueLine.

The client knew our work from the consolidation of their current back office systems and asked us to do the same with their retired solutions. The results were very effective in providing them with additional insights and a more powerful analysis of all their data. So, ready to get started but don’t know how? No worries, we’ve got both the steps you need and the guidance!

Knowing what you have

First, list the old systems that you still have with data on them. Include the type of each system, the location of the raw data, who has access, and any connections or interfaces from the past and/or present.

Next, list the kinds of data in the system. Chances are you don’t want to use all the data. Compare your list with your key reports to identify the types of data you would like to extract and use.

Finally, peek at your report sources to identify if you suffer from “spreadmart” architecture – a flawed concept from the early 2000s that we’ve seen a lot of due to lack of options and/or lack of understanding. A spreadmart (spreadsheet data mart) is running your business data analysis/reporting system  on spreadsheets or other desktop tools, such as Access databases. A spreadmart is typically created by many individuals within a company developing and maintaining their own reports in the way they are most comfortable with, creating a decentralized, fractured view of the enterprise. Take this opportunity to clean up the mess that comes from a spreadmart.

How to bring your data to life (again)

  • Think about the KPIs you don’t currently have and the types of performance and transaction details that you could use from all your systems – old and new – to give you those extra insights that you are lacking.
  • If you don’t have centralized data storage for reporting, create it.
  • Define the priority of each data source and what information is to be captured/utilized.
  • When your centralized data environment is ready, POPULATE IT! Load all the identified data from your retired systems, current systems, and miscellaneous files (spreadmart).
  • Train your team. Once your data is centralized, validated, and readily available, you will need to know how to consume this data. Whether those tools are reports, dashboards, or other analytical tools, your authorized users knowing how to work with your data will make your results more successful.

Hire a reputable developer or consultant

You want your data to be powerful to help you make better business decisions. It’s not enough to dump all your data together in one place, you need to:

  • Understand needs specific to the homebuilding and property management industries
  • Learn what reports and insights other builders are developing and utilizing
  • Review some examples of consolidated data points and correlations that lead to real strategies for change

Whether you just want to talk through your project, you want someone to build your data loads and train your team, or you need some great starter reports – Cornerstone has you covered.

Conclusion

Whether your history is sitting on an old AS/400 system begging to be released back into your hands, scattered amongst files on your network like little lost kittens, or hiding behind an API that you need to leverage, loading this information into an easily accessible environment provides you the opportunity to view where you’ve been in summarized or detailed format.

While retired solutions have reached their end of life, the information they captured is timeless. Grab it, bundle it with your current data, and catch a glimpse of your future in the rearview mirror.

Need help creating or extending your centralized data environment?

Reach out to us and continue your journey of success.

Let’s talk about PropTech

Proptech may be the technology that assists real estate professionals with performing their daily tasks, but there are a wide range of ways this technology has been implemented, and to varying degrees of success.

Some people are concerned that the ever growing technology sector will push humans out of the equation. But according to Forbes, property managers provide superior personalized experiences for tenants, as well as acting as advisors to owners for “opportunities to buy, sell, invest or upgrade properties” and consult on ever-changing regulations and bylaws, thus making them an effective investment for the foreseeable future.

But in addition to that unsurpassed human experience, technology is needed to meet the expectations of savvy consumers and to give property managers back the time they need to build real relationships with their customers.

To train and retain excellent property managers, owners need to ensure that mentors are available to all new hires. Forbes suggests focusing company culture, though their advice on providing growth opportunities may not be feasible in smaller communities.

No doubt property managers are excited to get their hands on all the new technology emerging almost daily. According to cpexecutive.com, instead of a property manager turning on a piece of equipment and just setting the temperature, they’re now able to receive additional analytics that allow for fine-tuning the equipment. ‘Roving engineers’ use predictive technology to monitor from afar and only go onsite if there’s an alerting request.

For commercial buildings, propmodo.com says proptech “should be capable of handling mountains of complex data while providing actionable insights in real time, such as locating a specific worker.” Further, it should be able to report problems in tenant spaces and common areas as well as handle vacancies and contracts.

For more insights into PropTech and the human factor, check out the articles below:

https://www.propmodo.com/how-iot-can-power-scalability-in-office-and-property-management/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2019/10/01/how-property-managers-can-survive-and-thrive-in-the-era-of-proptech/#3e775fe32bd0

https://www.cpexecutive.com/post/how-big-data-is-reshaping-property-management/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesrealestatecouncil/2019/09/12/how-to-keep-talent-in-property-management-its-your-biggest-problem/#14b580fd2ab1

SQL Spring Cleaning: You KNOW You Need it!

Tis the Season of Spring Cleaning! While washing your car and scrubbing the window sills, be sure to include your SQL Server environment in your whirlwind of activity. Yes, much like the base boards, your SQL Server environment needs a little extra ‘maintenance’ attention now again.

Upgrade

Upgrading seems obvious, but we see a significant number of SQL Server installations running on the 2008 and 2012 versions. These SQL Server versions were all reasonably solid, so the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality has created a lag behind. Upgrades do more than solve problems however – they also provide new functionality and address issues that exist, but my not be obvious. Additionally, support for SQL Server 2008 R2 ends July 9, 2019, and SQL Server 2012 is scheduled to reach the end of its lifecycle in only three years. This may seem like a lot of time, but depending upon your other projects and your environment, 36 months can come around quickly. If you are on a SQL Server version below SQL Server 106, we recommend you upgrade to SQL Server 2017. Please review the Supported Version and Edition Upgrades for SQL Server 2017 and the Upgrade to SQL 2017 articles, published by Microsoft, to plan and execute your upgrade.

Since many of our clients leverage SQL Server Reporting Services, we wanted to highlight two items specific to this feature. First, the look and feel of Reporting Services changed significantly in SQL Server 2016, along with adding some long-awaited functionality, such as the ability to control parameter layout, mobile reports, and KPIs in the SSRS Web Portal. Second, the Reporting Services installation is now a separate download and install, rather than a feature component of the SQL Server installation.

Evaluate Licensing

SQL Server 2017 Standard Edition can be licensed on a Server + CAL or a Per Core basis. Your Edition and current license agreement will impact your options. Take a moment to touch base with your Microsoft Software Licensing Provider for a period review of your licensing costs.

Perform an Access Review

Databases move, turnover occurs, leaving orphaned users and old windows accounts straggling as a result. Take a moment to run the sp_validateusers stored procedure to identify an Windows accounts that need attention. SQL orphaned users take a bit more research: the MSSQL Tips article, Different Ways to Find SQL Server Orphaned Users, defines scripts for locating and addressing these.

Review the Basics

The turn of the seasons is a good way to schedule a review of your database health, which should be performed multiple times a year. Review your indexes for fragmentation, your databases for overgrown log files or outdated backups. Schedule and perform a “test drive” of a database restore. It is better to identify problems during a test drive than find out your backups are no good in the middle of a real-life issue. Check your SQL Agent Jobs to make sure they are working as desired and retire any jobs that are no longer needed. Evaluate your Reporting Services Subscriptions and confirm their distribution list is current. Confirm your SQL Server Maintenance Plans are performing tasks against all appropriate databases.

Touch Base with Your Team

Ask the users of the applications that depend upon SQL Server how those applications are performing. Users are the eyes and ears of your back-office system performance, so reach out and solicit their feedback. Team members are often the first to feel the impact of a missing or fragmented index or suffer the delays of a poorly written query. While the performance issue may not be something that can be resolved immediately, often times it can be resolved in time or mitigated. Healthy environments make happy users!

Changing Accounting Standards Will Impact Property Managers

Leasing guidance before the issuance of ASU 2016-02 required lessees to classify leases as either capital or operating leases. Lessees recognized assets and obligations related to capital leases; expenses associated with capital leases were recognized by amortizing the leased asset and recognizing interest expense on the lease obligation. Many lease arrangements were classified as operating leases, under which lessees would not recognize lease assets or liabilities on their balance sheet, but rather would recognize lease payments as expense on a straight line basis over the lease term.

The IASB decided that lessees should apply a single model to all leases, which is reflected in IFRS 16, Leases, released in January 2016. The FASB decided that lessees should apply a dual model. Under the FASB model, lessees will classify a lease as either a finance lease or an operating lease, while a lessor will classify a lease as either a sales-type, direct financing, or operating lease.

Click here to read the article: How Changing Accounting Standards Will Impact Property Managers

Download the guide from PWC (including the differences between ASC 842 and IFRS 16)

 

 

Worker Training: Ramp It Up!

Economists love worker training, but companies are often reluctant to provide it. The benefits of training can walk out the door if newly skilled workers are poached by a competitor.

Near-record-low unemployment is one big reason companies are recommiting to training. With a U.S. jobless rate of just 3.7 percent in September and more than 7 million unfilled positions as of August, employers can’t find the people they need in the ranks of the jobless, and luring them away from other employers has gotten prohibitively expensive in some cases. “Your choice is always make or buy. ‘Buy’ is steal somebody else’s worker…

Read more at Bloomberg.com

 

BIM: What is it and How do I Use it?

What does BIM mean? BIM stands for Building Information Modeling. It is a digital representation of the physical characteristics of a building or home. The BIM file can be used to plan, design and construct a structure in a graphical form or it can simply be a list of the parts and pieces needed for construction. Most people are familiar with two-dimensional CAD drawings that include plans, elevations and sections, such as electrical. With the ongoing advancements in technology, many designers and architects are now using three-dimensional drawings, which eventually will become the industry norm.

One common misconceptions about BIM is that it comes in a box like Microsoft Excel but it doesn’t. Many business professionals use Excel to build cash flow models based on their information reporting needs. Even though it is a common platform, each cash flow is unique and specific to an organization. The same is true with BIM software; it may use a common platform, but each structure is unique and the underlying components of parts and labor vary from project to project.

Today, BIM is used by residential developers to:

  • Generate plans and elevations
  • Develop materials lists (take-offs) and cost estimates
  • Create graphical presentations to support sales and marketing efforts with brochures and online graphics
  • Conduct virtual home tours that offer potential buyers a walk-thru of a plan/elevation in the comfort of their home

During the market downturn, builders eliminated their estimators to reduce overhead and shifted the responsibility and workload to their suppliers. Cornerstone sees a new industry trend (in the past 18 months) of either establishing in-house estimating capabilities or outsourcing to professional firms. Builders focused on bids and take-offs are finding significant savings by taking responsibility for their own plans/elevations, which benefits their bottom line.

 

Click to watch the April 2018 BIM webinar on our YouTube channel