7 useful lessons Corporate Real Estate can learn from big tech

The tech industry has developed and honed unique solutions to accommodate the need for turning a quick and large profit on new innovations. What are the valuable takeaways for the corporate real estate industry? How can we learn from them to better drive growth and handle our ever-growing workloads?

1. Get agile

Instead of tackling big projects from beginning to end, many teams in the tech industry have turned to agile. It keeps everyone moving, breaking large projects down into parts and verifying ROI as you go, rolling out solutions quickly, and spending less time on the parts of a project that don’t add value. It also moves companies out of a reactive state and toward solutions that move the needle.

Conditions are ripe for agile teams in any situation where problems are complex, solutions are at first unclear, project requirements are likely to change, close collaboration with end users is feasible, and creative teams will outperform command-and-control groups.

Harvard Business Review

Agile at Scale, 2018

Before you select the right agile methodology and processes for your organization, start with a general understanding of the agile mindset with our free ebook, The CRE Guide to Agile. Agile starts by nurturing an entrepreneurial culture.

2. Dream big

Innovation and lofty goals run deep at successful tech companies. Everyone participates, envisioning a future that looks radically different than the past. Marketing teams streamline their operations so that they can move as fast as the product teams and explain things that have never been explained before. Product teams are solve problem after problem because they’re building things that have never been built before. HR, IT, legal, and finance teams have to get creative to keep up.

In other words, if you work at a tech company, new things don’t intimidate you, change is the norm. And there is nothing better than developing new things that will change the world for the better.

3. Prioritize diversity

After a number of major missteps due to a lack of product team diversity, the tech industry made a major shift toward measuring diversity and its value. McKinsey found companies in the top quartile for ethnic and cultural diversity outperform those in the fourth quartile by 36% in profitability. They also found that companies with more than 30% women executives outperformed companies with fewer women executives and far outperformed companies without any women executives.

The important learning from the tech industry, though, is that the benefits are not reaped by just hiring a diverse workforce, we need to retain them and support them so that they can be active participants in the decisions being made. Further, diversity and inclusion evangelist, Aubrey Blanche, reminds us to seek diversity and inclusion for all of our teams, not just where it’s easy.

For me, the workplace inclusiveness conversation is a huge one. It’s not a blip. The world around us is changing, and I think it would behoove any company to make sure they are putting themselves in a place where they can, hand over heart, say to employees, to clients, ‘This is a place where you can show up, be included and feel like you can be your authentic self.’

Marcellus Parker

Head of Corporate Real Estate & Workplace for Americas, JLL

4. Attract & retain top talent

According to a study of over 600,000 people, superior talent is 4x more productive than average talent and 8x more productive if the work is complex. In other words, investing in the right people can accelerate your organization significantly. Something that takes the average team two years can take a high performing team three months.

Finding an exceptional candidate who has the exact experience you’re looking for can be tough. To overcome that, hiring managers in tech companies often hire people with the right skills and mindset from different industries. This brings yet another advantage: workers who can bring new ideas to the table. Sure, they’ll need to learn your industry, but an exceptional candidate can handle it.

As our industry becomes more complex, investing in top talent is critical. Search for them, and then give them a great place to work (e.g. challenging, healthy, supportive), so they choose to stay with you.

A couple of major research studies are predicting that a better workplace, along with the technology to enable it, is going to become table stakes for entities that want to attract and retain talent in our new normal.

Edward Wagoner

Digital CIO, JLL Technologies

5. Leverage automation

The four leading reasons to implement automation?

  1. Reduce costs by relegating repetitive and/or predictable tasks to software
  2. Increase productivity of your systems and people
  3. Improve reliability by removing the need to monitor and complete the most boring, repetitive, and error-prone tasks to software that is available 24/7/365
  4. Optimize performance

Leslie Willcocks, professor at the London School of Economics says it best: “Robotic process automation (RPA) takes the robot out of the human.”

RPA can help you automate repetitive software tasks, but there are plenty of other types of automation to bring to your team. You can automate work orders, report generation, warranty management, lease tracking, maintenance, etc. By freeing up your team’s time, they can do the nonrepetitive work that moves you toward your vision. On the other hand, if your budgets are tight, automation can deliver the efficiency you’ve been looking for and can allow you to accomplish mundane, overlooked, or unpleasant tasks.

6. Be data-driven

In the tech world, accurate, integrated data is the holy grail. Once you can study your business and performance like a scientist, you can discover what doesn’t work, what does work, and why. With that information, you can turn your business into an optimized machine. In tech, the goal is often seeing clearly across product, sales, and marketing. It can differentiate companies—if they know how to use that information, of course.

In CRE, we’re talking integrations with CMMS, IWMS and workplace experience apps to see holistic views of our operations; we’re understanding historical information regarding assets, spend, and vendors to identify cost-cutting opportunities and better optimize our assets. Data integration for large CRE organizations will be game changing and will lead to a proliferation of new solutions to solve newly identified opportunities and problems.

One of the most exciting aspects of data, too, is that it can allow for meaningful machine learning and artificial intelligence. Neither are possible or meaningful with partial, siloed or sloppy data.

Imagine a world where our data is fully integrated: A utilization sensor identifies increased activity in a part of the building and then send that information to the work order system, which tells the cleaning vendor to send a cleaning robot. Then, the experience app informs the relevant employees that it’s been cleaned. Pre-COVID, people were saying it was a ‘nice to have,’ but what we’re seeing in large parts of the world is that it’s become a priority.

Edward Wagoner

Digital CIO, JLL Technologies

7. Build trust

The book, The Speed of Trust, hit big tech by storm. In fact, CEOs from companies such as Apple, Workday, Salesforce, Zoom, and VMware deemed it the top book everyone should read in 2018. With good reason, too. It dives deep into the economies of trust, a requirement for high-performing teams, which also drives efficiency.

According to Deloitte, listing trust in their 2020 Tech Trends, business leaders see trust as a “business-critical goal to be pursued.” They are building trust with all of their stakeholders because they see the enormous business impact it has.

Trust increases speed, thus lowering cost. By building trust in our organizations, everyone can move more quickly and confidently in the right direction.