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Real Estate Technology

How Two CRE Giants Leverage Collaboration To Drive Growth

The collaborative economy is one of a number of dynamics that have great potential to fundamentally change the commercial real estate business over the next decade, according to a long-term outlook from Deloitte. It noted that market disrupters in technology—including cloud computing, social media, and analytics—have primed the sector for some of the most important shifts in its history.

And it’s coming faster than ever. Among its impacts: a higher demand for dynamically configured spaces, subleasing overtaking leasing, and a significant transformation of everyday real estate workflows. Millennials, who will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2030, prefer an open work culture and flexible tools that allows them to work anywhere, anytime, its research shows.

Why Collaboration?

There are many benefits to collaboration, according to research by McKinsey & Company, including more effective execution of tasks, saving time and money; greater innovation and bolder strategic moves; better development and retention of talent; and higher motivation and morale.

Specifically, working collaboratively accomplishes the following:

• Allows employees to build on the skills of their teammates: While one project manager’s strength might be in analytical thinking, a co-worker might shine in planning. Helping them easily work together leads to a better project outcome.

• Facilitates transparency: If you wait for weekly reports from your project managers or have to track them down by phone to get bidding updates, you’re losing valuable time.

• Boosts training: One of the best ways to train new project managers is to let them them learn from a cross-section of your team.

• Safeguards data: Information won’t be siloed on one person’s computer, and if someone leaves the team unexpectedly, you have other employees who understand a project’s background.

Driving Collaboration With Technology

One way to develop a more collaborative culture, even within a traditional office setting, is through technology. 

Smartphones and tablets allow professionals to connect from wherever they are, whether in the office, at home, or traveling. Video conferencing, including Skype, Google Hangouts, and Facetime, allow important face-to-face conversations, even if professionals aren’t in the same location. Purpose-built platforms like Honest Buildings, Rentlytics, Floored's Protofit, and SiteCompli enable teams to work from a central system, share information and ideas, and work together to manage complex processes unique to the real estate industry.

Companies using a centralized platform for team communication and as a system of record are better positioned  to review past project performance, successes, and opportunities for improvement. 

Micro-case study: JLL

Financial and professional services firm JLL employes 58,000 people across 230 corporate offices in more than 80 countries. JLL's leadership team understands the importance of removing 'friction' from the thousands of interactions that happen between those people every day.

In an effort to further institutionalize seamless collaboration, JLL announced this month that it has entered into an agreement to purchase Corrigo Incorporated, a cloud-based facility management platform. According to a press release from JLL, the aquisition will help teams gain better transparency into their facilities and be more productive in their workflows.

Greg O’Brien, JLL CEO, Americas says: “With [this] kind of innovation integrated into our core facility management offerings, we can give our clients access to a new level of service.”

Building Collaboration Through Space Planning

Commercial real estate companies can learn a lot about collaboration from startups, according to a February article in Wired.

“Startups often rely on open and engaging workspaces,” wrote Polycom co-founder Jeffrey Rodman. “This is often because startups don't have much choice but to locate themselves within an inexpensive open space, but in reality, these spaces also foster a constant and crucial exchange of ideas, creative thinking, and access to expertise.”

A shift to benching, hoteling, and open layouts can foster a more collaborative atmosphere within the physical workplace. Space planning can also encourage informal, social, and small group interaction through creating areas that naturally bring employees together, such as brainstorming rooms, project spaces, cafes, game rooms, and outdoor gathering spaces.


Global real estate services provider CBRE is one of the best examples of a commercial real estate company that has harnessed the power of collaboration.

When it was time to design its new global headquarters in Los Angeles, CBRE’s Workplace Strategy Group analyzed how the company’s working conditions ultimately affected the level of service it provided. It then applied its research to create an office that reflects the way employees work. The HQ space became the company’s first “Workplace360” office in the United States, designed to maximize employee collaboration and productivity through technology, space utilization, sustainability, mobility and enhanced flexibility, and health/wellness. 


A year later, the firm conducted a survey to gauge employees’ reactions. Among its findings:

  • 83% felt more productive in the new space, while 93% said it has had a positive impact on their business performance.

  • 93% said they are able to more easily collaborate with others, while 90% said it enables them to work from anywhere, anytime.

“[With] consistent employee feedback from all offices showing that over 90% of people would not go back to the old ways of working, we know we have created a workplace model that is improving how we work at CBRE,” said the firm’s Lenny Beaudoin upon the survey’s conclusion.

Sara Shank, Beacon Capital Partners CTA

Pauline Nee

Written by Pauline Nee

Pauline is the head of content for Honest Buildings. For over twelve years in the commercial real estate industry, she has held diverse roles focused on product development, digital marketing, user research, web design and arts programming.

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