The Digitization of CRE: Brokers’ Big Proptech Opportunity

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CRE professionals are increasingly looking to proptech to fuel environmental sustainability, better business, and easier change management in a fast-changing industry. One of the most compelling advantages: data.

In a recent panel at the Colliers CRE Leadership Symposium, Upflex Chief Strategy Officer Vincent Lottefier joined colleagues from Colliers, Blue Skyre, and Basking to discuss the most influential dynamics in the CRE industry’s response the post COVID-19 operating environment, and the opportunities in proptech.

Between this pandemic, the possibility of a future pandemic, tech adoption in the business world, the Great Resignation, and this urgent push for sustainability, the workplace is changing fast, Lottefier says, and the industry needs better tools in order to survive and thrive.

That’s why he made the leap from a career at JLL and the world of traditional brokerages to Upflex, he said: “The biggest challenge I think our clients are looking to solve right now is how to manage change,” he said — and Upflex, along with other proptech innovators, exist to help people and organizations keep up with a fast-changing world.

Whether occupiers are looking to meet environmental goals, to enable long-term flexible work policies, or just to stay nimble in uncertain times, easier change management — especially for the world’s enterprise companies — has never been more critical to success.

Here’s how Lottefier said he sees new technologies unlocking some big opportunities for the world of CRE. Spoiler: It all comes down to data.

At the Colliers CRE Leadership Symposium, Upflex Chief Strategy Officer Vincent Lottefier talks about the opportunity in digitization for CRE.

Tech-savvy brokers are pushing the CRE industry forward

It’s no secret that the CRE industry has been slow to adopt new technology. The powers that be have been doing things the same way for a very long time, Lottefier acknowledges. But forward-thinking, tech-savvy brokers offer the industry a window to what’s possible. They’re great people to watch if you want to see the future of CRE in the making.

At Upflex, Lottefier and his team are seeing flex-enabled brokers leading the charge in the shift to hybrid and flex, coaching occupiers in how to bring flexibility into their portfolios, make their businesses more agile, and effectively implement the hybrid work strategies the workforce is asking for.

For example, Lottefier pointed out, brokers are using white-labeled version of Upflex’s product — see Colliers’s Mobility Pass — to package their offerings in a way that is very user-friendly, secure, and that gives occupiers data to plan ahead.

The big opportunity for digitization in CRE is data

That data to plan ahead is one of the most compelling advantages of many proptech solutions, Lottefier notes. The pandemic and its effects aside, as occupiers are corporate thinking through their workspace needs, they are also considering the interplay between their real estate strategy and their biggest challenges, including:

    • hiring new talent;
    • growing globally while keeping overhead in check;
    • solving the conundrum of workspace in an increasingly remote-first work culture
    • getting in front of climate change.

Data has always given brokers and occupiers a clear look at what’s happening now, and what happened in the past, in order to plan ahead.

Proptech promises myriad benefits, from greater efficiency and productivity to facilitating borderless talent searches and hiring; easing of asynchronous work for globally distributed teams to measuring the impacts of business initiatives and iterating for improvement. Driving all of these benefits is proptech’s biggest advantage over the old ways: better, richer, more actionable data.

For example, when it comes to workspace, data shows decision makers how much workspace is needed and where. With this knowledge, occupiers can cut costs, boost utilization, improve employee experience, even improve environmental sustainability, all while centralizing booking and reduce administrative work.

Gathering this data can’t be an afterthought — there are too many privacy and security considerations to do this ad hoc. The best proptech tools are solving for that, too.

Here are a few of the data-driven benefits Lottefier said Upflex’s team is working with brokers to provide to their occupier clients.

1. Data is the key to sustainability — and that’s a major competitive advantage

The built environment generates almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions. Every building — and every occupier — can contribute to reducing that footprint, and studies show employees are increasingly expecting companies to do that.

However, companies with workspace utilization and building data are better able to plan 1) more efficient work schedules and 2) more efficient office locations. They’re also able to more easily implement, manage, and benefit from distributed and remote-first work strategies, which help them meet environmental goals by:

  • reducing commuting
  • reducing energy usage
  • reducing waste
  • building a workspace strategy around existing space instead of new construction, thereby cutting down on emissions and waste from the construction process.

Ultimately, sustainability is a key part of competing for top talent today, as sustainability is a key decision-making factor for GenZ and millennial workers. Proptech is helping companies measure their impact, reduce their impact, and make that impact and their sustainability goals transparent as they court new talent.

2. Data tells us what kinds of workspace we actually need

The office as we know it isn’t dead — but it needs a true purpose in order to survive.

People can work anywhere now — and they want to work from truly anywhere — so the office can’t just simply be a physical place to work. The office needs to offer some heads down space for focus; it needs to have space for collaboration; and it needs to have space to be social.

This is not only about physical space — what does your layout look like — but also, what kinds of space will your workforce actually use, and who is on your staff to help enable that? What events person can ensure there are constructive things to do in this space, cultural events and all-hands meetings that can take place in ways that meet your goals? Data-driven workspace management tools are giving occupiers the intel to make informed decisions.

3. Data is the backbone of a sustainable flex work strategy

To compete, you need talent, and you need to give employees the experience they want. We know from all these recent studies, that experience should be flexible. Close to 80% of employees want workplace flexibility, and 95% employees want more flexible hours, around the world.

Through digitization, occupiers are finding it’s much easier to offer this flexibility. The data they can pull and track from platforms like Upflex is key to helping occupiers implement flexibility in a way that is cost-effective, time-efficient, and best of all, measurable. They can look at what’s working and what isn’t, see where the utilization is high or low, iterate and plan for the future.