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JLL's journey of change - a conversation with Rose Hayes

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy June 7, 2019
JLL's Rose Hayes talks process change, digital transformation and fluid teamwork.

rose hayes all
Rose Hayes - VP at JLL

This week, I met with Rose Hayes, VP program management at real estate giant JLL. We were attending the Workfront Leap2019 London event.

Ms. Hayes is one of those rare people who brings a fresh and authentic voice to topics that are otherwise tainted with overhype. In this case the dreaded DT moniker - or digital transformation to the rest of us. 

As background, JLL is a global real estate services firm with fee and consolidated revenues north of $16 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $953 million as reported in 2018. 

During our conversation, Ms Hayes described an entrepreneurial environment where autonomy and accountability go hand in hand and where project teams are created on an as-needed basis rather than by reference to a traditional hierarchy. Describing what sounds like the idyllic working environment, she said:

I get to live on the Hawaiian Islands. Nobody is looking over my shoulder or telling me what I should do with my time.

She went on to caveat by saying that the 3am (her time) conference calls are not much fun but hey, I guess you can't have everything. 

JLL has been implementing Workfront - a work and project management solution - for some time. From talking with other customers, Workfront is extraordinarily flexible and among the Workfront related projects JLL has undertaken, Ms Hayes was tasked with setting it up to act as a proxy for where meetings take place. When tasked with this Ms Hayes told her CIO:

This can replace meetings. Notifications and conversations related to project topics can live here. 

That saves time but I wondered how that is fundamentally different to email. According to Ms Hayes, this has not only saved time but introduced her to people she would not have otherwise met. 

I can tag people who might be relevant to a particular project or task, or they can see what's going on related ot their jobs and come into relevant conversations. There was a situation where a French person I didn't know - I guess they were searching for 'France' - came across a proposed project, it wasn't even a project at the time, and asked who in the French team was involved. 

I was especially interested in discovering what digital transformation means to JLL beyond digitizing paperwork. 

We've been working on this a couple of years now and I would say it's about taking thingsa that were manual, taking the data and using that as a way of helping us make more informed decisions. We're doing a lot of things so we're taking machine learning, internet of things and other new technologies. But we have so much data that we have to decide what data is meaningful to us. We're taking a job and evolving that, putting the data and proicesses into a single tool so I can (for example) spend my time coming up with (say) better allows me to think more intelligently about the work that's in front of me. 

Ms Hayes acknowledged that change is hard. As always, no-one likes change but JLL's approach has been one of taking a series of steps that progressively introduce functionality that improves the quality of work. She attributes the relative success of these implementation projects to JLL's entrepreneurial culture. I commented that in my experience, this is rare. 

Really? I've never known it any different. This is a 250-year-old business. I've been there about nine years now. I can't imagine it became that way overnight...It allows us to mentor people with ideas...It's like a toddler where they're starting to walk so you put soft cushions around them. When they fall, they get a bit frightened but they don't hurt themselves. That's kind of how I like to think of encouraging people to learn and grow.

During our conversation, Ms. Hayes made an interesting observation about the skills coming into the workplace:

Being a technologist is at the core of who we are. Many of us are technologists or are feeling that we are becoming technologists. 

My take

Our conversation meandered between what Workfront brings to the table, change, transformation and the impact on the workplace that new tools are enabling. Later, it struck me that what I was seeing represents a fluid way of creating the new workplace. We didn't get to explore that aspect in depth but it struck me as essential that JLL has a data and process bound environment that does not constrain the individual in the exercise of creativity.

In that sense, JLL is using technology to organically develop a loosely coupled organization that optimizes itself around work that's valuable while incrementally eliminating busywork.

It will be interesting to revisit this at a future time. 

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