Tech Tuesday: Interview With Camden CIO Kristy Simonette

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Kristy SimonetteThis week's Tech Tuesday brings a "virtual" guest by the MultifamilyExecutive.com offices. Kristy Simonette, vice president of information technology and chief information officer for Houston-based Camden Property Trust stopped by to share her thoughts on multifamily technology as part of our special state of the industry report on multifamily tech, arriving along with the regular issue of Multifamily Executive later this month.

MFE: What was one of the more notable technology initiatives that Camden completed in 2008?
KS:  We launched our Camden Living Web site in early December. It's a big departure from the old frame technology that we had been living in since 2002 and incorporates a powerful set of analytic tools for the Web site to monitor, track, and qualify our Internet traffic—it was significant progress.

MFE: What are you turning your attention to technology-wise for 2009?
KS: We’ve been upgrading our infrastructure and getting our core systems in place over the past five years, so we are positioned well to leverage and tap into what we have in place. Our top three priorities for 2009 include a records retention document management enterprise search initiative that piggy backs on our core J.D. Edwards and Oracle-driven financial management systems. We are also centralizing our accounts payable function and introducing imaging components to eliminate much of the back-end paperwork and paper consumption, which, of course, is big on the green side.

MFE: Where does Camden stand on outsourcing versus having in-house technology, particularly with call centers?
KS: When it comes to call centers, we’ve ultimately decided to go with a hybrid approach. Our Camden Contact Center is set to roll out in May. We are partnering with a software provider using their telephone switching and CRM software but using Camden associates in our Houston corporate office to respond to sales and also provide the level of culture and customer service that we are used to providing to our residents and clients. We always had a problem philosophically with outsourced call centers. Servicing our customers, building rapport, and owning customer relationship form first contact throughout the lease cycle is our essence.

MFE: Any back-end tech initiatives for this year?
KS: On the hardcore technology side, we are completing our virtualized environment using blade servers in 2009. Again it is big on the green side, involving lower power consumption but better utilization of our processors. 

MFE: Will your technology budget be stressed given the economy?
KS: Technology has always been expensive, but Camden has always been prudent with technology investments. We are always held responsible to a measurable ROI. If it makes sense—increases productivity, process efficiency, saves the company money, or generates sales—we are always willing to take a look. And we are also well-positioned in that the big network infrastructure and systems platforms are already in place.

MFE: Speaking of the economy, what’s your take on the effectiveness of revenue management in the current climate?
KS: We’re committed, and we think it is the right way to go, but we’ve always been blowing the revenue management horn. Still, we think it has minimized our bleeding because there are so many benefits beyond just daily pricing. There’s lease expiration management based on supply and demand, and the technology does a much better job leasing units based on floor plan demand. It is very surgical. You are able to surgically adjust prices and not react to poor market fundamentals by taking drastic, emotion-driven, across-the-board measures.

For more multifamily technology executive Q&As, new articles on the best multifamily technology strategies, and a best-of-the-best collection of 2008's Tech Specs coverage in Multifamily Executive, check out the special technology issue online at MultifamilyExecutive.com and in mailboxes later this month.

 
 

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