Tech Tuesday: Interview With Camden CIO Kristy Simonette
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?
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
MFE: What are you turning your attention to technology-wise for 2009?
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?
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?
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
MFE: Will your technology budget be stressed given the economy?
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?
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.
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.