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Q&A: Taking corporate real estate from data-laggard to data-driven

To inform critical business moves, corporate real estate (CRE) information must be assembled rapidly through data from around the company, the industry and global real estate markets. And yet, CRE departments are still catching up.

According to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by JLL, less than 30 percent of CRE executives consider themselves to be ‘data-centric,’ and more than half view a lack of data and analytics tools as a top constraint on their performance. Two-thirds lack access to cross-departmental data and less than a third have policies for standardizing data and file formats.

This lack of data prowess has become a significant challenge, because today’s C-suite expects sophisticated real estate strategy recommendations to be delivered in real-time.

John Forrest, JLL’s CEO of Corporate Solutions, Americas and Chair of the firm’s Global Corporate Solutions Board, shares insights from the study commissioned with Forrester and discusses what CRE executives can do to transform their business to a technology-enabled, data-driven organization.

Q: Data and analytics is transforming virtually every industry from healthcare and retail to manufacturing and transportation. How is data impacting CRE?

A: Corporate real estate executives are pioneering data and analytics in the industry. Executives are embracing new technologies that offer access to a panoramic array of insights that have long been buried in under-utilized building and portfolio data to harness a vast landscape of uncultivated information. C-suite and CRE leaders can now leverage unprecedented levels of real estate data to optimize portfolios in foreign markets, while  boosting workplace productivity in the U.S. These groundbreaking new tools collect and analyze the right building or facility data to deliver mission-critical insights and bottom-line results.

Q: What challenges are facing CRE firms looking to become more data-driven?

A: Standardized data governance is ranked as the weakest capability, with 56 percent of respondents reporting they do not have plans to enhance governance policies at all. Without standard policies for data collection, the CRE department cannot build a trusted analytics capability.

Talent and capabilities are another challenge, with more than 70 percent of respondents saying that their companies do not adequately attract, train, or retain appropriate talent. However, more than half aim to address the talent shortage next year.

Q:The desire to become more data-centric appears to exist with CRE executives. So, what’s stopping them?

A: For many, the C-suite wants productivity, but conflicting organizational priorities may be preventing the investments needed to shape it. More than 60 percent of CRE leaders say data and analytics strategy is driven and funded by individual business groups, suggesting a blend of objectives that are not necessarily in line with corporate goals. Thirty-one percent of CRE executives say that fragmented data initiatives across the organization inhibit their strategy. Additionally, only nine percent of leaders strongly agree that they constantly gather and exchange information across departments to proactively manage key business resources such as functional spaces.

Q:How do you see CRE evolving as data and analytics becomes more integrated into the CRE practice?

A:  Organizations are full of dark data with disparate information spread across geographies and service lines.  New technology now allows us to pull all this together and analyze it using very powerful tools to generate new insights. Transforming a CRE department into a data-driven organization means using a data and analytics platform that marries data governance, data management and business intelligence with technology and knowledge management. At JLL we have a transformational program based around RED, our data and analytics platform. We believe that technology – including big data and analytics – will be core to the future of real estate, business and buildings.