43 min read

🎧 #058: Darlene Pope on the history of smart buildings, the 3-30-300 rule, and where we're headed

“So you start seeing this cross pollination, worlds colliding, the traditional digital workplace applications with the traditional smart building solutions.

We started working with our clients on helping them connect the dots on both sides of the house and the value. Not just from an operations standpoint, but from a space management standpoint,and most importantly, from an employee experience standpoint. That's when you start to really get to my definition of a smart building.

My definition of a smart building is everything's connected. It isn't just HVAC and lighting and elevators. It's not just base building and systems, but when you can connect into the workplace and more importantly, start connecting to the occupants, that's really when the smart experience starts to happen. "

—Darlene Pope

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Episode 58 is a conversation with Darlene Pope, President of North America for Planon.


Darlene is a smart building industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in commercial real estate, technology, and smart building consulting.

Most recently, she served as global head of smart buildings and digital workplace at WeWork. And prior to that, she was Executive Vice President / Global Smart Buildings Lead at JLL.

We took a fascinating tour through Darlene's career path and she shared how the definition of a smart building has changed throughout that time and where it's headed in the future.

Without further ado, please enjoy Nexus Podcast, Episode 58.

  1. Planon (0:36)
  2. WeWork (0:48)
  3. JLL (0:55)
  4. Broadband Office Solutions (4:17)
  5. IFMA (7:30)
  6. Crew (7:31)
  7. Realcomm (7:31)
  8. Connected Realcomm Magazine (7:31)
  9. Cor Advisors (8:07)
  10. Women in Prop Tech (53:10)

You can find Darlene Pope on LinkedIn.



  • The first definition of a smart building (3:41)
  • The three early phases of our industry (11:16)
  • Darlene on the 3-30-300 rule and how to quantify the benefits of technology (14:41)
  • What Darlene learned at WeWork and how she pulled people and system silos together (27:14)
  • Why she joined Planon to knock down silos (31:56)
  • Defining IWMS (37:05)
  • What is Women in PropTech and how we can increase diversity in the industry (53:42)

Music credit: Dream Big by Audiobinger—licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License.

Full transcript

Note: transcript was created using an imperfect machine learning tool and lightly edited by a human (so you can get the gist). Please forgive errors!

James Dice: [00:00:03] hello friends, welcome to the nexus podcast. I'm your host James dice each week. I fire questions that the leaders of the smart buildings industry to try to figure out where we're headed and how we can get there faster without all the marketing fluff. I'm pushing my learning to the limit. And I'm so glad to have you here following along.

Episode 58 is a conversation with Darlene Pope, President of North America for Planon.
Darlene is a smart building industry veteran with more than 25 years of experience in commercial real estate, technology, and smart building consulting.
Most recently, she served as global head of smart buildings and digital workplace at WeWork. And prior to that, she was Executive Vice President / Global Smart Buildings Lead at JLL.
We took a fascinating tour through Darlene's career path and she shared how the definition of a smart building has changed throughout that time and where it's headed in the future.
Without further ado, please enjoy Nexus Podcast, Episode 58.
Hello, Darlene. Welcome to the nexus podcast. Thanks for joining me. Can you introduce yourself?
Darlene Pope: [00:01:12] Sure. Thanks for having me, James. So my name is Darlene Pope. I just joined plan on as the president of north America. Prior to plan on, I spent some time at, we work as the global head of smart buildings and digital workplace.
And then immediately prior to rework, I was the global head of smart buildings and digital workplace for JLL.
James Dice: [00:01:32] I've been following your industry thought leadership for a long time. So I'm really excited to sort of unpack your thoughts on the industry. Can you go back even further than that to begin with?
Like, Take us back earlier than JLL. When did you first get into smart buildings or even, you know, your roles that have touched this smart buildings industry
Darlene Pope: [00:01:58] battalion. Now I'm going to date myself. So I first got involved in the real estate industry in the early 1990s. So I'm in the Washington DC area.
I was a property manager for Charlie Smith company com. That was my first entree into commercial real estate. Now my background is in it. So in college I studied computer science and was very much, you know, math and computer science oriented. And so after several years in property management I ended up meeting someone who was launching a company.
It was one of the first companies to put high speed internet access in commercial office buildings. And I was fascinated by that. So I ended up leaving commercial real estate is as my primary role. And I went to work in sales for this company that was putting T1 access in, in office buildings. And it was a phenomenal time.
This was mid 1990s before people even had AOL. They never, you never saw an email address on a business card. So this is back in the early days. And back then a smart building was a building that had high speed broadband services. And so I quickly learned that there's a very large technology gap.
Between the technology companies and the real estate companies. And so I was able to find a niche for myself in selling technology solutions to the commercial real estate industry, because I could explain to them the value of, of that product or that service for their building. And so back then the value was, you know, your tenants need to have access to the internet back then.
People didn't even know what it was and what it was for. Right. And so even, you know, funny story, I remember going down to Atlanta, Georgia and pitching high-speed broadband services. And one of the owners was very adamant about the fact that he didn't want his tenants to have internet access and he especially didn't want his secretary surfing the internet during work hours.
And so that was the philosophy back then. And I was like, no, it's a business tool and in the next couple of years, you won't be able to lease office space in a class A office building without high-speed broadband services. So anyway, I spent about six years in that industry, a variety of different companies from Allegiance, Telecom, On-site Access, Broadband Office.
And these companies focused specifically on providing broadband solutions to the commercial real estate industry. And I built a massive network even back then of basically signing up buildings for broadband. And some of the customers that I'm still working with today are customers that I sold high speed internet service to back in the 90s.
So you'll find that you know, even some of the people at those companies have moved up and have transitioned from the telecom person to now, the smart building person. So that was my first entree into what was then, a smart building. And as you know, it's evolved tremendously since then. Yeah.
James Dice: [00:04:57] So a smart building in the mid nineties was essentially it has internet.
Darlene Pope: [00:05:03] Yeah, exactly. We got broadband. But then what happened is we realized that once you get connectivity to the building, you can pull data out of the building. And so back early two thousands, when you started to realize the value of connectivity, it wasn't just connectivity for the tenants, for the purpose of email and browsing the internet.
But, Hey, you know what? We can connect some of the building systems and we can get data out of the building systems and we can see what's happening with the building systems through the same, you know, internet. And that's really, when I think the, the, the smart building movement started to evolve.
And, and recognizing that we can get data out of the book, we don't have to physically go to the building and log into a server to see what's happening in the VMs, or to see what's happening with the security or access control platform. And so that whole kind of activity that started in the nineties is actually what launched the smart building program that we know today.
James Dice: [00:05:59] Got it. Okay. So when you were done selling broadband, what was your next sort of stuff on there?
Darlene Pope: [00:06:06] Well I'll, if you follow, if you recall back in the late 1990s, all of these companies, you know, the internet bubble burst, and it says 99, 2000, 2001, and everything just kind of poof went out of business and we had a big falling out of that industry.
And so back in 2000 when the internet bubble burst and a lot of those companies went out of business, that's when I first decided to start my own consulting business. So in 2000 I launched a company called CRE Partners. And I spent a lot of time just doing one-on-one consulting with real estate companies that needed to understand telecom.
I started working in in-building wireless and pretty DAS systems and building for wireless communications. And, and it was primarily, still focused on telecom, but as I continued to work with these owners, there was more and more demand for connecting things in the building. And then right around 2004, 2005 got a call from a gentleman named Jimmy and Jim convinced me to to, to roll my business into his business and to move over to real com.
And I spent a tremendous amount of time, even at CRD partners, teaching seminars, right. I, I did a lot of work with BOMA and, and, and bomas all over the country. I taught seminars for if my crew and IRM. And so I took that passion for teaching. And I took it over to real calm and I led all the webinars and seminars the newsletter.
I launched the real comments magazine. I worked with, you know, with the, with the whole real con team on the conference every year and, and really had a strong passion for educating the real estate industry on the value of technology for their buildings. So I spent a tremendous amount of time. Doing that phenomenal roll it real calm and that whole real calm network also, you know, helped continue to build my network and my brand and continued to connect me within the industry.
So back in 2009, I, I, I decided that I wanted to go back to consulting. So I left real calm and I launched a second business and that was called core advisors. And again, very much consulting, helping real estate owners understand value of technology, how to put it all together, what it means to them from a business standpoint.
And I ran that business for about six years and I guess about year five, I started getting phone calls from people that were interested in acquiring the business. And I finally decided in 2009, I sold the business to JLL. Okay. And then I moved over to JLL and I launched a smart building practice for JLL, which was just such a phenomenal opportunity.
Traveled all over the world, meeting with corporate clients. And throughout this whole timeframe between 2009, 2015, or actually probably 2005 to 2015, I think we saw the greatest evolution of the smart building movement where. People started to put dots together, starting to really understand the value of not just that internet connection and not just connecting single systems, but now starting to integrate systems and starting to pull all the building systems together on its own network.
So that we run the building as if it's an it network, as opposed to these individual standalone solutions. So over that 15 year period, I think I saw my, my career. Evolved tremendously as the industry evolved tremendously and continued to see the opportunities for consulting and working with, with companies on developing master plans, writing a roadmap so that they understand what's coming next.
Right? So it's always really having a vision of the future and understanding what the future has to offer and, and, and really helping them shape. The vision of what do you want your workplace to look like in the next three to five years? What do you want your building to look like in the next three to five years and helping them get from point a to point B
James Dice: [00:10:00] super interesting.
Well, I think you and I share a passion for educating people and also learning. Cause you have to learn yourself. To understand what the future holds. sounds like we also share a passion for it. The unique ability to name a new company. As if it's like a bunch of people and a huge thing, when really it's just, you it's like, it sounded like both of your companies that you started were just you and yet they were like plural names.
Darlene Pope: [00:10:26] Oh, it's interesting. Yes. So when I launched CRA partners it was just me. However, I brought two former colleagues into the company. We went to Kinko's and printed up business cards and we went to conferences and you know, we, we ran a company. Back in when I launched core advisors, that was a little bit different, much more mature a lot more experience under my belt and then launching core advisors.
If we got up to about six or eight people at one point and again by that time I had met so many people in the industry. And my goal with core advisors was to bring some of the smartest people that I had met in the industry and bring us all into one roof. And so we were able to do that. We had a phenomenal team you know that, that, you know, we really built a business.
And then to be able to sell that business to JLL at the end of the day, it was just huge, huge win for us. so So it was very exciting time.
James Dice: [00:11:17] So you took us through, I think three phases of like defining a smart building there up until your time at JLL. It was basically connect to the internet, step one.
Step two, it sounds like it was just like remote access for BMS or something like that. And then step three is starting to integrate systems together.
Darlene Pope: [00:11:37] Yeah, the workplace component of it, when I was at JLL and we were working with corporate clients to put together that roadmap of not just, how do you connect the building systems from smart building perspective, but also how do we start to connect the workplace applications? So for example, connecting the visitor management system directly to the access control system. Connecting the room booking platform directly with occupancy sensors. Connecting mobile apps directly to the BMS or connecting the BMS directly to the work order management platform.
So you start seeing this, you know, kind of cross pollination, worlds colliding. The traditional digital workplace applications with the traditional smart building solutions. And we started working with our clients on helping them connect the dots on both sides of the house and the value, not just from an operations standpoint, but from a space management standpoint,
and most importantly, from an employee experience standpoint. That's when you start to really get to my definition of a smart building. My definition of a smart building is everything's connected. It isn't just HVAC and lighting and elevators. It's not just base building and systems, but when then you can connect into the workplace and more importantly, start connecting to the occupants,
that's really when the smart experience starts to happen.
James Dice: [00:13:01] Totally. All right. So I want to continue on that thread a little bit, but I also want to continue your career arc here. So then you went to JLL. And can you tell us a little bit about, more about your time there before heading to rework?
Darlene Pope: [00:13:16] So after JLL acquired the company, we launched the smart building program in north America.
And you know, met with dozens and dozens of corporate clients. The program expanded into EMIA very quickly. When we identified some very large global clients that were based in anemia. And so we expanded the program to EMIA and, and further expanded the program and Asia pack because we work according global clients.
And when you have global clients, they want global representation. So I did a tremendous amount of travel. I think my last year JLL, I did that 180,000 miles, including one trip all the way around the planet in 60 days, which was a phenomenal experience and a ton of jet lag. But The role at JLL, as I mentioned, was really sitting down at the table with clients and understanding their business drivers and working with them to use technology to help them meet those business requirements.
So, what we found was that, you know, the smart building movement from the early days was primarily focused on energy management and supporting the green building movement. And you know, back at JLL, we coined this phrase called the 3-30-300 Principle, and that referred to the average amount of money that clients would pay for energy, which was about $3 a square foot versus space, which is about $30 versus people, which is about $300 a square foot.
So as we were working with clients to define their business objectives what we found is that their primary business driver was employee satisfaction, productivity, health and wellness, employee experience, attract and retain top talent. So when you actually talked to the business, their primary business drivers were around their people.
And how do we use technology to make our people happier and more productive and satisfied, and healthy and all that? And we also found that they were desperately trying to get their arms around space utilization. And how are we using our space? Is it designed properly? Do we have too much space? Do we not have enough space?
So there was also a very, very strong focus on space utilization. So when you look at spatialization employee experience as the 30 and the 300, there's only, you know, you take a look at the $3 a square foot. And while, the Green Building Movement did a tremendous amount of value to helping real estate owners understand you've got to squeeze as much out of that $3 as you possibly can. You know, get it down to $2 a square foot or $1.80 a square foot.
But there's a certain point where you reached diminishing returns, where the more and more you pump into that $3 a square foot, the less you're going to get out the back. But if you start to focus on your space utilization and you've got a 10 million square foot portfolio, and you realize that you're only 62% occupied, right? You've got utilization factor 62%,
you can afford to get rid of 3 million square feet of office space. Which means that you're not paying for energy for 3 million additional square feet space. It kind of, as it has dual benefit there. But then when you get into a worker productivity and health and wellness and satisfaction and all that, if you do that, right,
you're also saving on energy because you give people the ability to control their own temperature and to set their own settings. And you also start to get real-time occupancy and real-time utilization statistics, which also contributes to that space management. But now you can also run your buildings based on exactly how many people are in the facility at any given time, instead of running on a time clock.
So you really do have to look at all three components to determine, what are my business objectives and how am I going to use technology to contribute to the 3, the 30, and the 300? But what we found is that 300 was the most valuable part of that conversation. So if you start there and work backwards, you know, everybody wins.
James Dice: [00:17:14] Really cool.
One of the things that when I teach, when we talk about the 3-30-300 rule in my course is the students are always, they always want to ask me how you quantify and prove the 30 and 300 And because a lot of times people are kind of coming at this from an energy lens. Even though energy, isn't always perfectly quantifiable either.
We'll just set that aside. What's your answer when people talk about quantifying and calculating productivity benefits?
Darlene Pope: [00:17:42] Yeah. So I think the space utilization at 30 is easy to quantify. And nowadays we have the technology to be able to put in sensors or it's some type of device that's able to measure real time occupancy floor by floor, room by room, desk by desk.
Right. There's absolutely no excuse for someone to say, I have no ability to measure my utilization on a real-time basis because the technology's there, the value is definitely there. When you get to the employee experience one of the biggest projects and I think my absolute favorite best project I've ever worked on was the McDonald's headquarters in Chicago.
And one of the measurements that they had from the success of that project was employee satisfaction. After we delivered this smart building and this smart workplace mobile app, which was the first of its kind at the time, the employee satisfaction went up 76%. Right. So they did pre-survey and post-survey, and there was a big article about it and it won a bunch of cornet awards.
And so not only did we improve employee satisfaction by 76%, but they also reduced their space by 50%. So they went from a million square feet to half a million square feet for the same amount of people. So at the same time, they're reducing their space costs by 50%. They're increasing their employee productivity costs by 76%.
So I think that when we used to go in and work with clients to help them quantify the value of productivity is every client's going to have different metrics that they use to define productivity. So for example, a law firm is going to have different metrics than a call center. Right. So a call center their metrics may be number of calls placed, or a number of calls completed.
A law firm may be number of hours worked. A manufacturing facility is going to have a completely different definition of productivity. And so the client themselves needs to tell you what are the metrics that we're going to use to measure productivity for our organization.
We worked with a company that was a large brokerage firm. And one of the biggest complaints was that they had a glare coming in from the windows in the afternoon that prevented the brokers from seeing the screen. And so they couldn't work because they wanted to have some type of smart glass or smart blinds or automated blinds that could automatically, protect their screen from glare.
So they could increase their productivity as a broker. So they had a completely different metric than another firm might. But you can even do something as simple as, if you're measuring hours worked. So if the typical day is people come in at, you know, on average at 9:08 and they leave at 5:04 and all of a sudden, now they're coming in
8:57 and they're leaving at 5:39, you know, you can easily calculate additional hours in the office just based on your occupancy detection. Right? That's an easy number. Now you could assume that if they are spending more time at the office, you could assume that that's productive time, right.
Unless they're playing foosball and, you know, and ping pong and all the other things that have now been added to the office. But there are ways to measure productivity, additional hours, output of work and use those metrics to assume, you know, pre-project and post-project that we increase our productivity by X percent.
So here's another exercise I did with a client because they had the same comment. Well, you can't measure productivity. And so we did a calculation of their total payroll across the entire organization. And I said, okay. I said, so here's an example. If a car pulls into the parking lot at the P three level and it automatically dispatches an elevator, so that by the time the person gets out of their car and gets to the elevator, the elevator is already there.
How much time did they save? I don't know, a minute. Two minutes. Okay. So we write down 2 minutes. Okay. If you have a mobile app of Blue Dot, WayFinding, it's able to help your employees find their conference room and get to their conference room or book a conference room, or if you have tools that enable them to have more time and inner or more efficient in getting to where they need to go and things like that,
how much time do you think that will save? I don't know, two minutes. So anyway, we came up with all these use cases in one day. But if you could save time because they could pre-order their coffee and pick it up instead of standing line for their coffee, if you could do this, if you could do this. Okay. So we got to the point where we can give our employees five extra minutes per day, because we've made it easier.
How much is that worth in terms of dollars? And the number was $13 million a year. Okay. Give every employee an extra five minutes in their day to be productive and the output based on salaries and everything, it was $13 million a year. So it was a mind blowing number for them. And I said, so even if you have a 1% increase in productivity, do the math, you know, I don't have to tell you what your metrics should be, but I know the numbers going to be greater than zero.
Right. So anyway you look at it, the is greater than zero, and then you have to measure, okay, how much are we putting into it? And what do we think that number's gonna look like? But you can absolutely measure productivity. You can absolutely measure employee satisfaction. And there's all kinds of, you know, whether it's Leaseman, whether it's you know, a variety of different tools to measure employee satisfaction, easy to measure, not as easy to put a dollar amount on that measurement.
James Dice: [00:23:15] Yeah, well, it's funny because I, like a lot of my students, a lot of my members kind of came from the energy side of this. And what people, a lot of people don't realize about the 3 in the 3-30-300 is there's a lot of assumptions that go into turning that into dollars as well.
Right. Take that because it's complicated and there's, you know, physics equations. They're like, oh, that's a hard number, but really it's not either. Like we're grading calculations and then we're agreeing on assumptions. Right. And you have to do that no matter what use case.
Darlene Pope: [00:23:47] Exactly. Well, and then you have to balance the 3 with the 30 and the 300, right.
Because we saw this trend and with COVID, let's see where that trend goes now. But we saw this trend in the last five years, cramming more and more people in the less and less space. And I remember I was speaking at a smart building show in London and I mentioned this at the time because you just saw, you know, what I used to call the ant farm. And everyone moving from a dedicated space to these great big, long tables and people sitting, you know, four feet away from the next person, screens and you know, you'd walk in and you'd see this whole setup
and it's about getting more value out of your space, right? Cramming, more and more people in the less and less space. Well, what happens? First of all, your energy cost per square foot are going to go up. So while you're trying to focus on getting the most value out of the 30, your energy cost per square foot is going to go up.
So you're blowing it on the 3. And the other thing that happens is you walk into one of those environments and, what happens? Everybody's got ear phones on, everybody's focused on their computer. You know, you've got distractions, so you're focused on the 30 and not the 300. And so if you ask people, do you like working in that environment? Do you feel productive in that environment?
And so all of a sudden, if you focus on one without balancing the other, your calculations are going to be all over the board. So if you focus on the employee satisfaction and productivity, which is the most important metric, you can back into the space management and you can back into the energy management part as well.
And now what helped happen with COVID? That same event I happened to mention, cramming, more and more people in the less and less space. I said, what happens if somebody gets sick? And this is two or three years before COVID right. So what happens if somebody gets sick, you're going to have the daycare syndrome, right?
One person gets sick, everybody gets sick. Yeah. So guess what? Now the trend is, there may be less people coming back to the office, but the people who are coming back to the office want more space. Because they don't want to be sitting elbow to elbow with someone and people coming back or also now looking for private offices again.
Because they don't want to be sitting at a desk that somebody else sat at. And so the demands from the employees contribute to that employee satisfaction has changed in direct response to what we saw with COVID. So I think, I think we're going to go through another cycle of, what's the right workplace strategy post COVID? Because you know, it completely changed the way that the trajectory that we were on and the way that we were doing things pre COVID.
James Dice: [00:26:27] Absolutely. I love that little detour we just took. That was fun. Thank you. All right. So then you went from JLL to we work. Can you tell us a little bit about that? We're still kind of working our way up to the present day?
Darlene Pope: [00:26:40] Sure. So after JLL, I left jail after about three and a half years. had an opportunity to move over to at the time was the most disruptive force in commercial real estate.
And that was, we were. Phenomenal opportunity. I moved over to WeWork to lead the smart building and digital workplace program for them. So what's unique about that is I, now we keep the client, right? So as a consultant, I was always working with the corporate real estate companies and helping them put together their roadmap and their master plan and then helping them deploy it.
So now I became the client. So When I went over to WeWork, I pulled in a lot of different stakeholders. We had in our engineering team and our corporate real estate team and our facility management team. And so I did as the client, what I used to do as the consultant. And that's pull in all the different stakeholders into one room and say, Hey, we all have similar objectives.
And in the same way that you need to align, you know, all of your solutions onto a common technology platform. You also have to align all of your stakeholders internally so that we're not all solving for the same datasets. And I'll give you a perfect example because this happens in just about every company out there.
You've got different groups solving for occupancy detection. So you may have the security team using badge swipe data, right? And they're solving for occupancy of badge swipe data. You've got the IT group using network login and they're solving for occupancy data. You've got the facility management team working with the cleaning company.
Maybe the cleaning company is putting sensors on the bathroom doors to count people coming in and out of the bathroom so they can clean the bathrooms based on demand. You got the corporate real estate group doing pilots of sensors under desks and sensors on ceilings and sensors here and there to count people so they can get an idea of utilization and each person's doing it for their own purposes.
Corporate real estate wants to understand use of space. Facility management wants to clean more efficiently. Security wants to know how many people are in the building at any given time. So everybody's solving for the same data, set 4, 5, 7, 10 different ways, right? So I think when you get everybody in the same room and you say, look, what data do we need to collect?
And then what are we going to do with that data? And so if you can get a single way to collect the data that everybody needs and push it to the cloud, and then whoever needs the pieces of that data can pull the data that they need from the cloud, then everybody wins and you don't end up with overlapping solutions that are collecting sand datasets.
And so that's what I found. You know, when I went over to we, it's pulling all those people into a room and say, hey, let's put this together in one comprehensive plan across our entire portfolio. And that's what we did. And you know, you know, the ending to the WeWork story. So I parted ways with WeWork at the end of last year when they were going through you know, another round of of transition.
And then I took a couple months, just a little bit of a breather to figure out, you know, what do I want to do next? Where's the industry going? Where's the right place to be, to be at the head of. This new movement and, and this new direction because I always want to be ahead of market adoption and want to find out, you know, what's the next trend and how do I get ahead of it?
So I, when I met plan on and I had been familiar with plan on based on my work at JLL and work with a lot of clients who had already deployed the platform and what really impressed me about plan on plan on is a global leader in IWMS. Right. Integrated workplace management solutions, space management, portfolio management, asset management lease administration, work, order management.
I mean all of the IWMS types of tools that you be used to. But what really impressed me was not just their position as a global leader in IWMS, but recent investment from Schneider electric. And when I interviewed with the CEO of the company and I asked him what his vision was for the next three to five years, he said, we want to be the global leader in smart buildings.
And that's what sold me on coming to plan because I think that plan on recognized that the future is about the integration of both sides of the house and Schneider electric realizes that the future is about integrating both sides of the house. So the partnership between the two companies. Taking my smart building background.
So it JLL, I was in smart buildings, moving into digital workplace and started to do those integrations. My Anon has been in digital workplace, moving into smart buildings and, and doing those integrations. So I'm thrilled to take the position to lead the north American market and thrilled to continue my passion for education.
I continue to do regular webinars. Articles really continuing to educate the industry on the value of technology for their buildings. So throughout my entire career, that theme hasn't changed one iota, but now it's about what's new. What's next? What do we do with IOT? You know, what does IOT mean?
What does it mean to us? How do I connect this side of the house to that side of the house? You know, what is the benefit of having this common platform? And I'll tell you one of the reasons that that I was so sold on moving over to Planon was because as I mentioned, most companies buy solutions in silos.
They buy a visitor management platform, they buy a room booking platform. They buy the work order management platform. They buy a, an energy manager and they buy them all in separate silos and all of their data resides in different places. Which means you can't integrate them. You can't really do correlations between this data set and that data set.
You can't do a very easy calculation of, if we put more and more people into less and less space, what does it do our energy costs? Yeah. So the example I gave you earlier, if we focus on the 30, what happens to the 3 and the 300, So if you have all of your data in different places, you don't get those business insights and you can't see one single one single source of truth.
It gives you all the information you need about operating your facilities. And so I do feel very strongly that having that core platform where all your data is coming into one place, you have the ability to run your reports and your dashboards in all of your integrations on a single platform.
It's going to eliminate the need to have all these multiple point solutions. Now, the other component is it's got to be an open platform. So that you do have the ability to integrate third party. You know, if you do decide that you don't want to put everything on one single solution, we can integrate with other solutions that you may feel, you know, another company has got a better solution for you, or you've already gone through a year of implementation of that solution.
There's no way you're going to touch it, but it's easy to integrate into that, that common core platform. So I think companies need to understand the value of having a single platform to collect all your data, because if your data is all over the place, you got some in the cloud, you got some on prem, you got various data, different third party companies that are reporting this way and reporting that way.
There's no way you're going to be able to pull it together seamlessly. And there's no way you're going to be able to continue to move towards automation and, and really creating that seamless experience for the end-user that you want to create. So it all, it all kind of ties together.
James Dice: [00:34:09] Got it. It also seems like the progression from what you described earlier, which was like, connect the elevator to the parking system, like all these one-to-one integrations that turn into like integration spaghetti.
Yeah. Right. That seems like a phase that we're definitely kind of moving out of, but we're still in, in many ways. Like, we talk about, you know, let's connect this system with that system and system C with system D like, it really, right now, it's like this one-to-one mindset that's then progressing into this platform mindset.
Is that how you're seeing it?
Darlene Pope: [00:34:43] Well, I think in order to really have a successful technology strategy, you've got to start with a vision, a master plan and a roadmap. I think if you just start with one point solution and then integrate another point solution, and then integrate another point solution.
It's like, you don't have the blueprint print for the house, but you just decided, you know, we're going to build the living room and you can't do it that way. You have to have the full vision of where you want to go and then define all the components that you need to get there and then select what components you are going to do
with the variety of different companies. So you may decide I want a single platform for all of my IWMS functions. And then I want to integrate the BMS so that when we have an alarm or a fault or something that's generated on the BMS, we do our fault detection and diagnostics, and it's automatically kicked over to the identity as platform to then generate a work order ticket.
But then it goes to a mobile app of a field engineer that's able to respond to that ticket. And that all happens seamlessly, it's all automatic, it happened seamlessly. And so that's the benefit of pulling all this together in that common platform. If you have your BMS and a fault detection platform that then isn't connected to your work order management platform, you end up with manual entry, you end up with delay in responding to it.
And then if you don't have a mobile app capability to be able to send it to the field technician again, you've got delay, you've got inaccurate information that might be going out. so the best way to do it is, is to put it all on a seamless platform and let the software do the work for you.
That's just the whole benefit of integration and automation, right. Which we didn't have back in the 90s And we do have the technology to do it today.
James Dice: [00:36:29] Really cool.
Hey guys, just another quick note from our sponsor nexus labs. And then we'll get back to the show. This episode is brought to you by nexus foundations, our introductory course on the smart buildings industry. If you're new to the industry, this course is for you. If you're an industry vet, but want to understand how technology is changing things.
This course is also for you. The alumni are raving about the content, which they say pulls it all together, and they also love getting to meet the other students on the weekly zoom calls and in the private chat room, you can find out more about the course@courses.nexus lab. Start online. All right, back to the interview.

So one of the things I like to do in these types of conversation is to level set on terminology. So it's just a problem in the industry that you've probably seen for a really long time where we don't quite know what we're talking about when we say these terms.
So I'd like to like, level set on what these things are. So like an IWMS, right? It sounds like to me that the, a good definition for it is like you have these point solutions front of the house type of point solutions, digital workspace points, solutions that are not point solutions. They're actually integrated
together into one platform, but mostly those are focused on more front of the house type of workplace type of use cases. Is that
Darlene Pope: [00:37:45] I think of it as several of the pieces of the puzzle that come together in one solution. So as opposed to by room booking independently and work order management independently, and visitor management and space management and lease management, as opposed to buying all those independently from a variety of different vendors, the integrated workplace management solution or the IWMS,
is a single platform that offers all of those solutions fully integrated as a package. So think about back in the day, when we used to have like word perfect, you know, and you used to have a spreadsheet program and use it. And then Microsoft came along and said, oh, we're going to bundle all of these in integrated solutions.
And you bought them as an integrated solution. So it's very similar. So when you look at all of your workplace management tools, you want to have the ability for all of that information to be in the same place, because it makes it more efficient. It makes it easier to use. You do much more valuable insights into your data and your operations.
And it also gives you the ability to then pull data from the smart building side all into the same place. And the value of an IWMS is that it's not a finite definition. It isn't, it does these four things. An IWMS has the ability to continue to expand and grow based on your needs.
And if it's an open platform you can integrate with other solutions, you can also build on top of it. You can build your own custom solutions on top of that IWMS. So it really gives you. the flexibility and the capability to either buy out of the box, integrate with other third-party platforms, or build your own customization on top of it.
So it's all of the above with the ability to continue to expand based on your needs.
James Dice: [00:39:35] Okay. And if I'm buying an IWMS, am I typically an occupier, owner occupier? It doesn't sound like a landlord would necessarily be buying it, but maybe, maybe a certain modules.
Darlene Pope: [00:39:48] There are functions of an IWMS that would be applicable for anybody who owns any type of real estate.
So for corporate owner occupier all of the things we just mentioned, lease administration, lease management, portfolio management, asset management, maintenance management, like all of the functions that you need as a corporate real estate owner. As a commercial property manager, work order management, absolutely. Space management, absolutely. Lease administration,
absolutely. So there's a lot of functions of the IWMS that is, that are applicable for different types of real estate owners. And then you look at like manufacturing. You look at the financial services industry. Anybody who owns any type of real estate has some type of need for software to help them manage and run that real estate.
Totally. Okay. And then the other piece is like, once you, I found that once you define the term, then it's also good to like compare it to like adjacent buzzwords or terms, right. Or acronyms either one. So one of the things that I feel like we're butting up against is like, we're talking about front of the house back of the house here.
Or butting up against like the digital twin phenomenon also butting up against the building operating system phenomenon. Those are two words that get thrown around in the nexus community quite a bit. So how does that differ from those? How does IWMS differ from those two terms? And those two terms don't have definitions.
So yeah. Approach that how you want to
twin the concept of a digital twin is taking all of this data and basically recreating a building in a digital way. And so whether that's a physical digital twin, where you're literally creating a 3d you know, CAD drawing of the environment with live data that really creates that that 3d capability.
That's one kind of my definition of the digital twin. There's also kind of a digital twin. That's really just the data picture that you're looking at and you can run various scenarios on the data and say, if we did this, what's going to happen to that kind of thing. So it really gives you the ability to replicate your building in a digital manner.
And you can't do that. If your data isn't all in the same place. Right. So the, the contribution of an IWMS to a digital twin is being that repository, that single source of truth that you're pulling your data into in order to create a digital twin in the first place. So if you were trying to create a digital twin of your building and you had seven different sources for occupancy data, you couldn't do it.
You had seven different sources for energy data, you couldn't do it. So the it's absolutely critical to have that. Single source of data. If you plan to move towards the next iteration of digitization, which is creating that digital twin, you look at a building operating system. Again, these are all pieces of of, of the big puzzle building, operating system building automation system, you know, it's kind of more on the traditional smart building side of the house that gives you the ability to integrate and automate your base building system.
And the connection of the building operating system with the IWMS is really again, my definition of a smart building, I don't divide the two, you know? So I think as we move forward, we're not going to have this, this, this you know, finite definition of identity mass and building operations.
It's all I say, worlds colliding, blurred lines. In terms of what's on the IWMS side and what's on the smart building side. No, it's all part of one conversation, all part of one package. So when you've got, you know, work or work orders being generated directly out of the BMS, technically those on two different sides of the house, what they're, what they're operating is if they're on the same platform.
So I think what, what the software gives us, the ability to do is, you know, create that seamless integration and automation. And connect the two sides of the house that have traditionally not been connected.
James Dice: [00:43:52] Got it. Cool. That was a fascinating conversation. What do you think, so we've talked about like getting us up to present day and you talked about well, I think you've said all the things that I'm about to ask you, but maybe we could put it in a succinct summary, but like, You said, you thought about where the, where the future's headed and you want to get ahead of it.
And that's why you chose plan on, can you sort of describe like what that future vision was and to kind of sum things up here?
Darlene Pope: [00:44:18] So again, I think that the roadmap for smart buildings going forward is connecting more and more and more things and having all your data come into one place and then being able to get business insights.
Do automation make building smarter and smarter and smarter because you can do more with data. So when you look at the digitization of the workplace and taking it from our traditional FM routes, which were very manual and non-automated to very digital and automated I think that's, you know, when I look at the future of our buildings the buildings are going to respond to the real-time needs of the occupants.
And so when you walk into the building, the building knows you're there. It can automatically adjust your temperature based on what your preferences are. It can automatically turn on your lights, to the lighting levels that you'd like to work under. You know, there are so many things that we can do once you get to that point of connecting both sides of the house and adding in things like machine learning.
Right. One of the best stories from that McDonald's case study is that the building started to learn the patterns from the occupants, and it started to optimize itself to the point where we got the McDonald's used to have three to 400 hot and cold calls come on. And we launched a feature on the app that we built, where you can literally pick up your phone.
And say, cool, my space, and then communicate with Danver over your head and queer space instantaneously. You can feel the air flow on the back of your neck instantaneously. And by doing that, we reduced the number of work orders by about 90% for hot and cold calls. So the having a smart building is when the building.
Recognizes your needs starts to learn based on patterns. So then the building started to learn, oh, we always get hot calls in the afternoon between two and three o'clock on the south side of the building. And so once the building learned that it would start to pre-cool that area until it got to the point where it's eliminating the hot goals.
So once you start to add that level of intelligence, And that level of predictive operations. So another perfect example, if you take a look at utilization and you know that your utilization rates are at 80% on Mondays, but maybe they're only 20% on Fridays. Well, we can start to operate the facility based on predicting how many people are going to be here tomorrow, even to the point where maybe you don't open all buildings, maybe in a 10 story building, you only open the first three floors.
And people can come in and settle into you know, a seating area on three floors and not even open yet seven floors. So again, it's really taking the data becoming smarter and smarter and smarter, making things more automated and more responsive. And at the end of the day you hit the three, the 30 and the three.
James Dice: [00:47:03] Cool. Yeah. One of the things that the whole, you know, reading up on the IWMS world and comparing it to the other platform, acronyms and names is. It seems like there's this focus on you, you called it automation, but I call it like workflows it's, there's a focus on, you know, taking and digitizing the actual processes of running a facility.
And that's the part that gets me excited because I know that you don't change how you operate things until you take things out of the checklist and whiteboard and spreads. She can start automating and making predictions and that
Darlene Pope: [00:47:38] kind of thing. Well also, I mean, if you're a global real estate owner and you've got, you know, tens of millions of square feet all over the world, you've got hundreds of buildings, you've got thousands and thousands of people, you can't manage all that effectively.
If you don't have the tools to be able to do it. And so it, isn't just the physical operation of the building, but it's really all of the business behind the scenes. How do you manage all of those leases? How do you know when you've got, you know CPI, escalation due, or how do you know when your lease is coming to it?
How do you manage all of that? Not just from a paperwork standpoint, but from a financial standpoint. So one thing we haven't touched on is pulling financial information into the conversation as well. And part of that single platform is being able to run different scenarios and figure out how is this going to impact my bottom line.
If our energy, if we increase our number of people per square foot and our energy costs go up, what does that mean for our annual budget? If we you know, need more space and we're assigning more leases, what does that mean for our total annual budget? So again, it comes back to having all of that information, the same place and being able to run those scenarios and make smarter decisions based on the data.
James Dice: [00:48:48] So one of the pieces of that future vision was obviously COVID you said you were kind of doing some soul searching at the end of last year into this year. Um, so how do you think I haven't asked this question in a long time, but at the bit good to get an update. How do you think the real estate industry is changing post COVID?
Darlene Pope: [00:49:07] So, you know, what I think is interesting and especially where we are seeing, uh, is in, uh, extremely itemized. Are people understanding, uh, utilization. Uh, we've got a lot of solutions for back to work. Um, and what I think we're seeing, or we're going to see as people continue to come back to the workplace because they want to feel safe.
Um, and they want to make sure that their employers are making sure that they're safe. And part of that is densification. Part of that is additional cleaning. Part of that is making sure you've got, uh, indoor air quality and additional filtration. Um, but what's, you know, what's frustrating about the whole discussion about back to work is that all of these solutions were best in class practices.
Um, before COVID right. So these were, you know, people should have been measuring utilization because, and people should have been doing indoor air quality pre COVID. So what we're finding is that COVID has become the catalyst. That's basically forcing real estate owners, corporate real estate professionals to say, oh boy, what are we going to do now?
And so I think, you know, COVID has become the capital. For having to do these things. So before it was a luxury getting data about your facilities, understanding your operations, knowing your utilization, it's a little bit more of a, of a luxury. Now. It's a neat, um, the other thing we're seeing is that, you know, there's predictions that 70% of the workforce is going to come back and 30% is good and there's every time you open up LinkedIn or you see an article, people are predicting this and predicting that, and you know, everybody's got their own prediction.
My answer to that is you need to understand your own facilities, stop reading what everybody else is predicting. You need to understand how many of your employees are coming back. And the only way to do that is through these measurement tools and through the ability to measure, you know, how many people came back today versus, um, versus yesterday.
Um, so I think that the trending is important to kind of see, but at the end of the day, you've got to measure your own workforce. You've got to get your own data. You've got to use that data to make your own business decisions. And I think that's the big piece that's missing. I also think that as people come back to work, if 70% of the, of the workforce is going to come back to work, they're looking for more space now.
So you've got to be able to balance. Yes. Maybe less people decide to come back to work. Cause guess what? A lot of people are working from home for the last year, year and a half, and companies have found that. There were forces actually pretty productive, maybe more productive working from a home environment.
And a lot of them are happier. And so you have to really evaluate your situation, your workforce, your people, your facilities, and figure out what the right mix of work come home and come back to the office really is, you know, maybe it's a couple of days a week here and there, but again, COVID demonstrated a lot of things to us.
Um, you know, it, it proved that it's okay to work from home. Um, and it put us in a position where we need to have technology. We need to have insights into our, uh, facilities in order to run the facilities better.
James Dice: [00:52:27] Yeah. I think it also proved that when you digitize your operations, you don't quite know how it's going to pay off.
Always like, like people that digitize before COVID, they've got a huge payoff because they're. They have an advantage, right? Exactly. Well, do you know how many buildings were running full blast all during COVID when nobody was in the buildings, right? It makes absolutely no sense at all. Um, so ha if the buildings were smart prior to the pandemic, um, we would have been able to make much smarter decisions, uh, shut down buildings.
Uh, we would have been in a much better position, but we didn't have the data. We didn't have the information. We didn't have remote access into the buildings to patrol them in the first place. So then we couldn't send anybody into the buildings because, you know, nobody could go anywhere. So we really got caught, um, you know, unprepared for handling a pandemic like that.
Um, and I think what it's taught us is we can't afford to be unprepared, uh, in the future. Absolutely.
Very cool. Very cool. Yeah. Congrats on your, your newish gig. Thanks for taking us through the whole progression of, of your awesome career. I wanted to ask you next about, I saw that you are on the advisory council of Women in Prop Tech, and I don't quite know what that organization is. I think I understand what it was created for, but can you take us through what that is and kind of your overall approach.
Darlene Pope: [00:53:58] Sure. Sure. Yeah. So one of the things that I'm really passionate about and committed to is the advancement of women in the PropTech industry. And so I joined Women in prop Tech as one of their advisors. You know, the organization was founded as a way of helping to provide visibility and helping to elevate women who are in the technology industry.
Specifically in the real estate technology industry, because what you'll find is there aren't a lot of us. And I don't think it's that there aren't a lot of very talented women in the industry. It's just that for whatever reason, we don't have as much exposure. As, as we should. And it's not just women, I think that the industry in general needs to do a much better job of representing diversity within the industry.
You know, it's, let's say very dominated industry. And I think that, you know, we do need to do a much better job of visibility of women. There's some, there's some brilliant women in technology and brilliant women in real estate. And you know, so I'm very committed to making sure that I'm mentoring and advancing Women in Prop Tech.
And as I mentioned, I think the industry as a whole needs to do a better job or of diversity and whether that's so first of all, thank you for the opportunity to do this podcast today. But I do think that we need to see much more visibility of diversity across the board.
James Dice: [00:55:20] Yeah, totally me too. So thank you for, for coming on to tell us about it.
And I'll continue to sort of search for what Nexus is role is in that. I feel like I'm just beginning and learning, but it's people like you that can help people like me figure it out.
Darlene Pope: [00:55:35] Well, I'll tell you Women in Prop Tech has a great network. So if you're looking for additional speakers you know, I'm happy to connect you to the right people over there.
And I've got a whole network of people I'd be happy to, to refer to you for future podcasts.
James Dice: [00:55:49] Great. Thank you. All right. So I thought we'd close this out by playing two truths and a lie which started, I guess this will be, you started last week on last week's episode. And I I'm excited to hear your two truths and a lie.
Teachers in a lie. So My first job was dressing up as Chuck E cheese. Okay. I have hiked Angel's landing in Utah and almost died. And my third one is my first time ever skiing broke my leg. The first time down the hill.
All right. That's tough one.
So you got Chucky cheese, you got Angela's landing and he got broke my leg skiing.
Okay. I'm going to go with my gut again, like I did last week and say Angel's landing was
Darlene Pope: [00:56:40] and just landing is the lie. Yeah, and I did, my first job was a birthday party. Host is a checky cheeses.
And every once in a while, we had to dress up as a big mouse. Go out and entertain. The kids is dressed as Chuck cheese. So I'm never going to leave this one down. And then my first time skiing first time down the hill broke my leg. So
James Dice: [00:57:06] first time. So I took lessons my first time snowboarding, and then the first time by myself.
I went down and broke my wrist on the very first run. Yeah.
Darlene Pope: [00:57:17] I've gotten a lot better since then though. So
James Dice: [00:57:20] I've gotten a lot better as well. Yeah. Well, this is fun. Thanks so much for coming on the show. And we'll talk to you soon.
Darlene Pope: [00:57:29] Sounds great. Thank you so much.

James Dice: [00:57:34] All right friends, thanks for listening to this episode of the Nexus Podcast. For more episodes like this and to get the weekly Nexus Newsletter, which by the way, readers have said is the best way to stay up to date on the future of the smart building industry, please subscribe at nexuslabs.online. You can find the show notes for this conversation there as well. Have a great day.