November 15th, 2011
By Ken Ashley (ATLANTA)
The 2011 CoreNet Global Summit came to Atlanta, y’all. In meetings that focused on big demographic shifts, amazing changes in technology and increasing connectivity,
thousands of real estate executives, service providers and economic developers
came to the Capital of the South. As became clear, grits, sweet tea and commercial real estate really do go together.
Not in Kansas or Oz
At the opening session, a “futurist researcher” shared his view that our society – and by extension our business – is “in the midst of a great realignment…that marks the end of one global era and the beginning of another.” Andrew Zolli continued that we are in transition in terms of communication (much more of it), power (decentralized) and change itself (it will be constant).
Zolli said “we are not quite in Kansas, but not quite in Oz; we are in the whirlwind.”
There is a “normalization of volatility”, Zolli continued. “We’ve gotten used to the fact that the world is a volatile place” and that change is simply part of life.
Work and Grammar
Speaking of change, Ernst & Young’s global real estate head Trex Morris shared his view that “work is a verb not a noun – work is what you do where you are, not
where you are located.” This emerging view will have profound implications for the ever expanding envelope in which workforces perform their daily tasks.
Along the same lines, Mark Gorman, Cienna’s real estate head said, “It’s not about the space any longer…If you want to succeed in commercial real estate, forget the extra space and enable workers with technology.” Allowing connectivity and productivity no matter where employees are located is critical to future success of CRE specifically, and the enterprise more generally. The advent of “cloud computing” will facilitate this rapid change, but we have to be willing to enable our workforces to plug in and sign on from almost any device, anywhere.
Hey Kid, Over Here
Tim Venable and Melissa Securda of CoreNet Global led a session of senior real estate leaders with a free flowing conversation about the future of the corporate work place. Everyone sat up when this comment was made:
“We are building the workplace of the future for kids who are now in junior high school.”
Signing ten or certainly fifteen year leases guarantees that those pimply faced young wonders will end up in your workforce sooner than you’d like to think. They are amazingly ADD, gaming experts and social media champions in every way. How will corporate real estate directors provide the tools to maximize their productivity and maintain focus? How do you give award plaques to a workforce that has no walls on which to hang them?
Will we hear “I’m bored” retorts from these young hot shots? Maybe by then we start IV’s of Five Hour Energy drinks to keep them going at the normal frenetic pace.
On top of the young guns issue, because Baby Boomers are working longer and longer, more generations will be in the workplace than at anytime in modern history. So we can’t just Tweet and Facebook everything for everyone. The challenge of leading a CRE organization with so many different constituents will grow increasingly difficult.
I Love My CFO, and HR/IT You’re Cool Too
Realcomm CEO Jim Young led a panel of senior real estate leaders in the second general session entitled “The New ReallTy” (look for an upcoming post drilling deeper into this session). The group talked about “smaller and smarter” organizations. They pointed out that we’ve been talking about the workplace of the future for 15 years but technology has finally caught up.
One panelist opined, “People will increasingly bring their own technology to work…Work will serve as a portal.” We are challenged to accommodate not only different work styles but also many varied technology needs. “One sized technology doesn’t actually fit anyone” said Ken Meyer of Deloitte.
Then there is the collaboration challenge. While we were focused on square footage per person and cost reduction, the need to increase productivity is the true Holy Grail.
Jim Young challenged greater partnership with HR and IT to enable workers to have everything they need when they need it. He wondered aloud if leaders from those two other organizations should be coming to our trade show.
Young’s prescription is to take the CFO to lunch as soon as possible and ask how CRE can better help the organization achieve its overall objectives. Better yet, bring HR and IT with you for some serious shoptalk. Shared objectives in this fast changing environment help all to get ahead in their careers.
That’s A Wrap
As our incoming Chairman Matt Fanoe said “Social networks and technologies will change…how business is done as we approach 2020. The role of the ‘connected culture’ continues to grow on a global level…and it is vital for us as an industry to keep pace.”
Couldn’t agree more with Mr. Fanoe. Life is moving fast and we need to our heads up to keep pace and stay relevant.