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Feb 06

5 Questions for Corporate Real Estate Veteran Dan Hoffman

During his two decades working in corporate real estate and facilities, Dan has designed and built corporate campuses and led global real estate teams for some of the world's leading companies, including Google, Apple, and NetApp. Dan experienced the benefits of Comfy firsthand as a client when he championed the adoption of Comfy while Director of Global Real Estate for Nimble Storage (recently acquired by Hewlett Packard Enterprise). He recently joined Comfy's board of advisors. We sat down with Dan to pick his brain about the future of corporate real estate.

1. What are some of the most significant changes you've seen in corporate real estate?

You know, a lot has a changed and a lot has not. On one hand, the buildings themselves are slow to change. The infrastructure is sometimes 30 years old and there are usually only slight generational changes in building systems through the years. But, I do think the way employers think about the workplace has changed. There's clearly a desire to make the workplace experience more comfortable and an increased attention to the changing workforce. Corporate real estate and facilities doesn't want to fall behind. To me, mobile is the direction everything is moving towards, so it's very important that we can provide solutions that work on a mobile platform.

Also, I think it's becoming more common to think of the role of corporate real estate as two-fold: there's the workplace experience for employees working in the office and then there's the backend operations of the space and managing the team in charge of managing the space. A lot of new solutions seem harder to operate than they're worth. A big part of what was appealing to me about Comfy is that it really hits both. It made life for me and my team easier, and we were able to elevate the workplace experience and make people happier at the same time.

2. The facilities and IT turf war. Discuss.

My take, it has to be a partnership. Both facilities and IT are serving the same customers: the employees. Buildings are getting smarter. Workplace technology is so integrated with the physical infrastructure. Everything about the way people work today is reliant on the workplace being wireless and mobile. Facilities and IT have to be joined at the hip if we're going to make the office a place where people can work well.

3. What industry trends are you most excited about?

Green buildings are so common now, so people forget, but 10 years ago people were not doing green buildings. In a very short period of time, we moved into Net Zero Buildings and now I think the next big focus is wellness. Ultimately, it comes down to being more catered towards individuals. Workplaces have to be flexible, healthy, green—and mobile. People expect to be able to work anywhere, anytime. IoT, smart buildings, and good integration is a big part of all that too. Increasingly, people are talking about workplaces that are seamless and intelligent: you walk in, the lights and temperature are set to your preferences, the coffee is ready, your conference call tech is up and running in the room you booked,and all of it is tailored to the users' preferences... or as your new VP of Product Management Amip described it, we're going to start seeing an "anticipatory" office.

4. What was your first impression of Comfy and how has it evolved?

I have mostly worked for tech companies that like innovation and like to bring new technology in. So, I'm always looking, but I'm also highly critical. I'm not an easy sell at all! With Comfy, my expectations were exceeded. I was pleasantly surprised at every stage.

What first attracted me to Comfy was that there was a very low risk of entry. It’s important to me to have the buy-in and support of my staff. Physically, it was very easy for my team to deploy, just a box on the network. The integration with our building automation system went really well. Comfy just made it work with very little effort required from my staff.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the added value of Comfy's fault detection during the implementation phase. Comfy found problems I didn't even realize I had, and uncovered them before they became big issues. If Comfy hadn't found that frozen VAV box in advance, for example, I would have discovered it as a hot/cold call from an executive in the middle of an important sales pitch and it would have been a crisis. So, for Comfy to proactively find problems before they become an issue—that's huge.

Then there's the ongoing monitoring and ability to communicate real-time issues directly with employees through the Comfy app. One day a compressor went out, so a whole floor was hot. I didn't even think about making an announcement, but Comfy's team quickly created a notification in the app informing users of the issue and saying that facilities is working on it. Comfy's ability to communicate directly to users was a huge benefit and saved us a lot of time in replying to messages—just another example of Comfy's white-glove approach.

You know, no one's perfect and we had constrained resources, but because we had very few hot and cold calls I thought we had a pretty good handle on our building. What I found was that our old system of filing a work order was not really great. You know how it is, it's kind of a pain for an employee to file a ticket. There was often a delayed response, and so people were reluctant to submit tickets. But with Comfy, people get an immediate response. So we realized that even though they weren't raising their hand before to complain in the work order system, they could now easily improve their space with Comfy, with no added work for my team.

With roll-out to the employees, again very little work for my team. Ultimately the big test is whether the employees adopt it. Do they like it or not? I was initially skeptical about user adoption, but once again I was pleasantly surprised and found that people picked up Comfy. We started with Comfy in one building, but our corporate campus is spread across multiple buildings. People who were exposed to Comfy in that one building started saying, "Hey, I want Comfy in my building too." The fact that users were actually asking for it—that's a win!

5. So, you're obviously a Comfy fan! What are you most excited about in your new capacity as part of our advisory board?

Yeah, definitely a fan of the Comfy product and really excited to be a part of Comfy's success. As an advisor, I'm looking forward to bringing my customer viewpoint to Comfy. I'm looking forward to offering guidance on how to sell to corporate real estate and bringing insight into how we think.

I’m also excited about Comfy’s vision. Comfy is taking it's successful hot/cold call solution and expanding it to address other workplace issues, from lighting to conference room management and beyond. Comfy's growing ecosystem of integration partners will allow it to provide further services to its customers. And, Comfy's adaptive intelligence will continue to evolve and provide further insights into employee and office building relationships enabling comfort, productivity, solid economics, and sustainability. I’m happy to continue to provide feedback—and help share the exciting next chapter of Comfy's story.

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