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Grubb Properties: Navigating the Journey of Data Integration

Grubb Properties, a leading real estate company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, has embarked on a transformative journey to revolutionize their data management and reporting capabilities. We recently caught up with the Grubb Properties team—Shawn Cardner, Chief Operating Officer; Phil Hughston, Senior Director of IT; and Stacy McCuen, Yardi Administrator—to learn more about their plans to implement Yardi Data Connect (YDC).

While they are in the early days of this YDC journey, they shared their excitement for what’s ahead and how it all fits into their mission for greater efficiency. They also looked back on how they’ve built the Grubb Properties IT team to be well-positioned to tackle complex and multi-year projects like this.

Constructing a Customer Service-Oriented IT Team

Grubb Properties’ story is rooted in how they’ve constructed their team, with deliberation and intention. Cardner reflects on the company’s evolution, stating, “We’ve always tried to prioritize customer service out of the IT team, and so the idea of having a pure data specialist or a full-time database administrator or programmer was never really anything that fit well with how we wanted to construct an IT team.”

Instead, Grubb Properties has focused on building a team with versatility in mind, as Cardner explains, “We have a lot of generalists. Phil and the support team who report to him are sort of jacks of all trades. They handle support issues for a phone system one day and server or storage another day.”

The addition of Stacy McCuen has been instrumental in driving the company’s success in getting the most out of their Yardi investment. She is the company’s liaison for all the stakeholders and users. From daily operations to big projects and initiatives, she keeps Yardi humming and harmonious for all. With Yardi Administrator in her title and as an alum of Gelbgroup Academy, this makes her the rare specialist on an IT team of generalists and part of an emerging class of PropTech professionals. Carving out this role is a strong signal about their commitment to strategically steer their Yardi ship, which Cardner described was once “rudderless.”

Grubb Properties Team talking around business table
Grubb Properties’ technology leaders (left to right): Stacy McCuen, Yardi Administrator; Shawn Cardner, Chief Operating Officer;
and Phil Hughston, Senior Director of IT.

A Pragmatic Approach to Innovation

Grubb Properties’ approach to innovation is grounded in practicality and a focus on solving real-world challenges. While they enthusiastically participate as beta testers when appropriate, innovation in-and-of itself is not the goal. This measured and steady approach informed their methodical decision to implement YDC and Power BI—de-risking it along the way.

“The truth is, Power BI has been around a fair bit, so the Microsoft portion of it is quite stable,” Cardner explains. “I think it’s inevitable that a project of this enormity will have a driving effect. While we welcome that, we’re not necessarily framing the project around moving the needle. It’s around improving efficiency and increasing access to information.”

The Decision to Implement Yardi Data Connect

As Grubb Properties navigated the complexities of the real estate industry, they recognized the need for a more efficient and integrated approach to data management. Their team noticed the symptoms: the manual gathering of data from disparate sources was painstaking and whenever something changed in one of the data sources, they had to start all over again. The decision to implement YDC was a strategic move aimed at streamlining their operations and unlocking the full potential of their data.

“Yardi has been at the heart of our operations, but as we evolve, it’s become clear that we need to integrate data from a growing number of sources, both internal and external,” Cardner shared. “Our data ecosystem is expanding, encompassing a wider range of information from various systems and platforms.”

Getting hands-on experience with Power BI, a powerful data visualization and analytics tool, was the first step. They ran instances of Power BI to simply experiment with it. Hughston shared, “Playing with Power BI on our own helped to determine that turning it on would be pretty seamless, also because we’re already heavy users of Microsoft products.” This familiarity with Power BI and its potential to transform data into actionable insights further solidified the case for adopting YDC. Its ability to integrate data from various sources and its seamless compatibility with Microsoft Power BI made it an attractive option.

From there, the natural next step was to reach out to a trusted partner, Geoffrey Gelb, President and Founder of Gelbgroup Consulting. Cardner expressed the challenge around the limitations of their existing data management processes to him. Gelb, with his deep expertise in Yardi systems and real estate technology, fully supported their decision to explore YDC as a potential solution.

Then this sparked a collaborative process, involving key stakeholders from various departments. The Grubb Properties core IT team worked closely with Gelbgroup to assess the feasibility and potential impact of implementing YDC. Together, they evaluated the company’s readiness, identified potential challenges, and developed a roadmap for successful implementation. By leveraging YDC’s capabilities, the company aimed to break down data silos, streamline reporting processes, and empower their teams with actionable insights.

According to Hughston, they’re starting small in this endeavor by automating some reports and eventually will use dashboards to help make decisions or just to visualize the data on the property side to guide and inform conversations with the regional heads. The aim is that instead of going into the myriad reports in Yardi they can drill down within Power BI.

Cardner emphasizes the significance of this decision, stating, “It’s the broader goal of being more efficient with a vast amount of data. We’re a smaller company compared to some of our peers in the industry, and we still have tons of data that we use internally. In addition, we have huge swaths of data that we get from other sources, and historically, we’ve not been very efficient at using that.”

Finding the Right Partners: Gelbgroup as a Trusted Advisor

Grubb Properties’ long-standing relationship with Gelbgroup Consulting is a testament to the power of trust and partnership. “It started when Geoffrey got us out of a bind when we were doing some acquisitions back in 2009,” Cardner recalls. Hughston added, “They’re very helpful as far as thinking outside the box coming up with different strategies, recommendations and options.”

As for McCuen who has been with Grubb Properties for 14 years and seven of those as Yardi Administrator, she expressed “I value the relationship that Shawn started with Geoffrey years ago and I’ve just been able to build on that. It’s been instrumental to have a consultant I can lean on to discover what’s possible.”

Trust-Based Change Management

Implementing YDC and Power BI is a multi-year process that involves change management and user adoption. Grubb Properties has taken a phased approach to ensure a smooth transition.

“We know that trust in the new system is key. We’re working closely with our teams to build that trust and show them the value of the new tools.”

Stacy McCuen, Yardi Administrator, Grubb Properties

The Grubb Properties model for how to manage technological change is having the discipline to put the right pieces in place. Adoption and alignment simply become by-products. Their recipe for increasing efficiency are components that build trust so that the whole organization can buy into the change:

  • A versatile team – assembled with intention
  • A stable tech stack
  • A pragmatic approach to innovation
  • A reliable sounding board and partner

Grubb Properties has not yet reached its ultimate YDC destination, so the journey of data integration continues. Stay tuned for a future installment of Stacy, Phil, and Shawn’s story when they share lessons learned, what they tracked and monitored, and how they measured success.