Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Web Sight: Designing a Digital Culture Today Requires Visionary Leadership. (Spotlight)

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Web Sight: Designing a Digital Culture Today Requires Visionary Leadership. (Spotlight)

Article excerpt

Technologies in the market today have survived the dot corn shake-out presumably because they work better, make systems more efficient, are easier to use and are more cost effective. Even so, the real estate industry has been slow to adopt technology innovations.

"If you look across the industry, real estate has lagged behind in adopting information technology," said Chris Bradshaw, vice president of building collaboration services at Autodesk Inc. in San Francisco.

"Incentives between owners and property managers have been all wrong. There has been no real push for third-party managers to go out on a limb and implement new technology," said Lee Asher, COO of iTendant, an Atlanta-based maker of order management systems using the Web and wireless devices.

The technology itself was tiresome and cumbersome to implement, said William Sullivan, chairman and chief executive officer of SiteStuff Inc., an Austin-based company providing online ordering of supplies used in office buildings and other commercial real estate properties. "That is no longer an excuse as all you need today is an Internet browser, password and user name. If you use technology you are going to benefit, if not it will cost you.

"The technologies coming together to create solutions are really going to help drive significant changes and are just on the horizon," Bradshaw said. "We have the convergence of mobile technology that is going to make information much more available to anyone in the field, and we have the Internet which is going past the dot com stage. People understand what happens with electronic commerce and are taking advantage of the real value of the Internet."

Technology's Third Wave

Jim Young, co-producer of Realcomm, a commercial real estate business solutions and technology conference, said six technologies-powerful computing, broadband, wireless, standard platform (Internet), network appliances and Internet-based integrated systems-have come together over the past 12 months. "This is the beginning of the third wave, where we take all the disparate appliances, computers, systems and create a network to connect it all. All the fundamentals are there to re-invent business."

The largest owner and manager of office space is the federal government, which does so through the General Services Administration (GSA). The amount of property under its guidance is vast and varied. Office buildings range from 3.1 million square feet to 10,000 square feet. At least half of the federal employees they house are in space leased from the private sector.

To manage all government space efficiently, the GSA has quietly undergone a technology revolution. "Technology creates more pressure to manage efficiently," said Paul Chistolini, the GSA's deputy commissioner of Public Buildings Service. "Processes are becoming more integrated. The challenge is to give customers the information they want so they can easily use it."

A Question of Culture

For property management, the lack of success in implementing technology changes is due to the agendas of management, the inflexibility of tech services and the constraints of employees in the field.

Even the simplest applications cause a lot of friction between the tech side and the front-line staff, said Harvey Green, president and chief executive of Marcus & Millichap in Encino, CA. "There is some resistance in the field," Green said, "but information services and management must work together to solve the problems because goals have to be met for companies to move forward."

At least half the real estate technology companies funded over the last three to five years are out of business because they failed to integrate with traditional business models. In Young's estimate, $2 billion in equity disappeared due to the collapse of the technology sector. The wheat has separated from the chaff.

"The winners are going to create technology and applications easily integrated with traditional real estate practices," Green said. …

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