Utilization and Applications of Business Computing Systems in Corporate Real Estate

Article excerpt

Linda Ellis Johnson*

Arnold L. Redman**

John R Tanner***

Abstract. This study reports on the utilization of business computing systems by corporate real estate executives. A survey was undertaken to examine four issues: types of property data collected, MIS report generation, hardware/software usage, and decision models and experts employed. NACORE members were surveyed and reported extensive usage of wellknown business computing systems (e.g., transaction processing and management information systems), while newer systems (e.g., decision support and expert systems) are just beginning to be introduced into corporate real estate. Empirical analysis revealed differences among industries in the types of reports and property financial data that are maintained.

Introduction

Managers do not make decisions in a vacuum. Rather, the decisionmaking context faced by managers is rich, often unstructured and complex. This seems especially true for corporate real estate managers as reports continue to indicate a disparity between what senior management and corporate real estate managers view as critical decision problems (Arthur Anderson, 1994). Initially, corporate real estate research efforts attempted to address corporate real estate decision problems, identifying, adapting and applying decision models. Later, the viability of these decision models was called into question based on their ability to be implemented and to be useful to a decisionmaker (Gershefski, 1970; Naylor and Schauland, 1976; Little, 1970). Subsequently, the computer was heralded as a tool to support corporate real estate managers in formulating and solving decision problems.

Recently, there has been an effort underway to characterize the practice of corporate real estate and to lay a foundation for further corporate real estate research (Johnson and Keasler, 1993; Nourse and Roulac, 1993). Underlying this effort has been the assumption that a richer understanding of corporate real estate decision problems by its constituencies (i.e., practitioners and academics) will develop and expand its practice. Similarly, the field of "information systems," now commonly referred to as business computing, has undergone significant growth (Banville and Landry, 1989; Holsapple Johnson, Manakyan and Turner, 1994). Yet, neither literature contains an up-to-date empirical study of the use of various types of business computing systems utilized and applied to corporate real estate decision problems. In this article, we provide the results of such a study.

Although this study is primarily descriptive in nature, it informs both practice and theory and examines gaps that may exist between the two. It highlights what systems presently exist vis-a-vis what systems the business computing field suggest are possible. Hence, this research provides a vehicle for establishing an agenda for further research and discourse among academics and practitioners. Our examination of business computing system utilization and application by corporate real estate departments begins by outlining the evolution of the business computing field and then identifying common elements in corporate real estate and business computing including the relationships between these elements.

Business Computing Systems and Corporate Real Estate

Evolution of Business Computing Systems

The computer seems to have permeated every aspect of management decisionmaking in corporations. The business computing environment has changed and now encompasses such systems as electronic data processing (EDPs), management information systems (MISs), decision support systems (DSSs), and expert systems (ESs), as well as emerging business computing systems such as groupware technologies (e.g., group decision support systems, electronic mail, video conferencing), computer-supported cooperative work, and organizational computing systems. Evidence of this can be seen in the name changes of corporate information systems departments1 as corporations pursue decentralized data processing strategies by downsizing, outsourcing and internetworking. …