Until March of 2020, corporate real estate (CRE) planning was done on an annual basis, solutions were planned and rolled out over long periods of time, and time was predominantly spent reactively addressing issues. Today, one thing we know with clarity is that those days are over. We are no longer maintaining the status quo. We are expected to solve business-critical, complex challenges, with the understanding that anything can change at any moment.
How should we think about this shift? What does it mean for us? How can we leverage data and technology in a way that is meaningful for our business? Let’s decode technology’s impact on corporate real estate strategy and operations.
How are we seeing technology used today?
On one hand, CRE is spending less on technology, as a percentage of revenue, compared to other industries. On the other hand, without technology, we wouldn’t be able to satisfy companies’ and workers’ new needs at scale. Technology has become essential. It improves our flexibility and speed to react. As an industry, we had been lagging, but COVID-19 has accelerated our use of technology and put a light on our need to be agile.
Almost immediately, we saw a rise in the need for sensors and automation. This drove efficiency and allowed CRE professionals to address the larger initiatives that are now front of mind, like health and safety. We saw clear patterns in work order activity that allowed us to be predictive of future challenges, and used that information to help our clients ramp up the services and solutions they would need next.
Now that companies are returning to physical workplaces, we are helping them to implement touchless technologies and handle the new expectations around cleaning through work order automation. We are helping clients proactively and reactively ensure everything is cleaned, and cleaned throughout the day according to strict procedures. We then took it one step further, building communication loops to inform stakeholders that the work is complete, ensuring end-to-end visibility.
How can we implement technology intelligently and quickly?
The real estate industry reinvests significantly less than any other on technology, so there is a massive opportunity to add value through technology:
- Shift toward data-driven, real-time decision making
- Increase velocity through marketplaces that offer curated products and services and streamlined workflows
- Automate repetitive or predictable tasks to improve speed, efficiency and quality
- Continuously capture feedback to inform next steps and improvements
- Combine our data to identify trends across regions and industries
Don’t implement technology for the sake of technology, seek solutions that address your requirements. Then, track relevant success metrics to validate that the solution solves your requirements.
If you aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help you foresee the road ahead, choose the right solutions for your organization, and discover opportunities through industry benchmarks.
How do we, as an industry, become more agile & more resilient?
We all had to be agile when we sent workers home, and now the expectation is that we continue that pace and flexibility. “Agile is the lifeblood of any modern tech company,” says Sharad Rastogi, JLL Technologies Chief Product Officer, “It’s the only way to be successful in this world.” As an industry, we need to be equipped to respond to regularly changing requirements. Those that cannot adapt will not exist anymore.
We can begin to implement agile methodologies in our organizations in the following ways:
- Break down large projects into smaller initiatives
- Prioritize the projects that bring the most value; work on them first
- Quickly respond to changing requirements
- Give small teams the autonomy to build solutions, hold them accountable, and trust them
- Have empathy for your end user as you develop solutions
- Access accurate, holistic data in real-time to make quick decisions
- When you plan, leave yourself room to make micro-decisions based on insights from data, and always be ready to pivot if something is not working
- Measure; continuously validate impact and integrate learnings into future iterations
- Consider your stakeholders’ needs and expectations in every decision
I’m going to predict that going agile is going to be critical to how we innovate corporate real estate teams… I’m certain that we are going to see leading corporate real estate teams adopt agile methodologies, and we’re here to help.
Digital CIO, JLL Technologies
How should we look at the workplace differently?
The future of work and the future of the workplace have changed. For many companies, remote work will continue long into the future. We are seeing increased demand for a hybrid workplace — at work, home, or anywhere in between. This means that we will be moving away from offices used mostly for personal workspaces and toward workplaces that, especially for knowledge workers, enhance collaboration and brand identity. “The future of work,” says Rastogi, “is work from anywhere.”
Historically, our goals with the workplace were to maximize square footage per employee. Now, we are prioritizing collaboration, employee experience and safety, as well as flexibility. In collaboration with other business units, we will need to create delightful spaces that people will choose to work in, will enhance their collaboration, and that can flex to accommodate change.
And, possibly most importantly, we must anticipate change. Real estate is no longer static. “The workplace of the future will be very different than the workplace of today,” says Rastogi. Not only should we maintain the space to pivot and flex as the business requires, “the only way to effectively manage that,” says Wagoner, “at an anywhere, everywhere workplace, is going to be through technology platforms.”
What happens when your team adopts the technology it needs to be more nimble? According to Tim Bernardez, President of JLLT company Corrigo, “You’re going to have the data. Your teams are going to be smarter. You’re going to elevate yourself within the boardroom and in executive conversations. You’re going to have the tools that you need to really explain why you’re doing what you’re doing, how you’re making the buildings safer, how you’re optimizing your spend, all of the things we’re getting up every day and working toward.”
We all know how important data is in real estate. Why is it underutilized?
Our data is much more complicated than other industries. We are experiencing a big data challenge on top of a wide data challenge. The data relevant to us comes in “large volumes at high frequency and in real time,” says Yao Morin, JLLT Chief Data Officer. Our data covers everything from workers and workplace assets to the workplaces themselves and out into their communities. Today, though, that data is fragmented, collected by multiple devices, systems, and applications. Figuring out how to marry our amassed, unstructured data together and in a meaningful way, is difficult but achievable. We leverage various AI technologies, as well as, statistical and mathematical methods to address our big and wide data problems related to real estate. It’s worth the investment because it will change our industry forever.
According to Morin, “We can no longer plan things once and be done with it. Data can enable us to be fast, nimble, flexible, and better prepared for change.” As we move toward a state where we can easily access and act on insights with a holistic view across our portfolios, it raises concerns about companies have been collecting more CRE data than is adding value. It’s important to keep a handle on our data debt and be cautious against storing more information than will add value in the near term. As quickly as we collect data, we will need to be able to process it and integrate it quickly to uncover the insights that drive value.
How should we think about collecting data from remote workers?
Between sensors and workplace experience apps, collecting workplace data is easy, but what about collecting information about workers who are remote? How do we drive productivity solutions and enhance their experience without appearing like big brother? Instead of simply looking at software usage, which only tells a partial story, consider surveys. The workplace, prior to the pandemic, was a controlled environment that was easy to measure, but it will require a different solution to cut through the new variables introduced in their current workplaces.
Other than change, what can we expect for CRE technology in 2021?
High quality, real-time data in one place and the ability to leverage it to positively impact people’s lives.
Chief Data Officer, JLL Technologies
Technology that is aligned across HR, IT, and CRE that helps attract, retain and improve the productivity of people.
Chief Product Officer, JLL Technologies
Front-line facilities leaders will accelerate technology adoption, and they will use automation to drive flexibility to better accommodate this dynamic world.
Corrigo President, JLL Technologies
How can CRE teams become change agents?
COVID-19 accelerated change for us earlier this year, but the next phase of this change is bigger and more complex than what we experienced this year. According to Bernardez, “We need to move toward a more dynamic way of consuming and delivering services than we see in the industry today.” For some, this will be an exciting opportunity to show our colleagues what we’re made of. Others may feel uncomfortable being in the spotlight, guiding the company through the change. Either way, our companies need our help, and we need to guide our organizations to pivot intelligently.
Acknowledge the experiences of the leaders who have been in this industry a long time. They’ve accumulated long-term data throughout their careers… By marrying our experiences, our expertise, and our data, we can help people understand things more quickly.
Chief Data Officer, JLL Technologies
One of the most important things we can do if we’re in the day-to-day of corporate real estate and facilities management is to get out of firefighting mode. Sure, we need to keep buildings operating and safe, but we also need to shift our focus to how our buildings are operating, what we’re doing from a capital planning perspective, and how we’re doing against industry benchmarks. By doing that, we will be more effective at driving change at the executive level. Tim Bernardez breaks down what to share this way:
- This is what our operations look like
- Here is what we’re learning from the operations
- And, here is how that compares against the industry
“Those three things together change the conversation in a very positive way,” says Bernardez.
Most importantly, though, share those wins as widely as possible, at every opportunity. Tim Bernardez confirms, “With all the data that’s generated, and all the knowledge that we gain, one practice that I would implore is to take that and communicate it back to your teams.”
As we all work toward creating safe workplaces anywhere and everywhere, talk to each other, but also lean on us. We are here to help.