The role of the Corporate Real Estate Manager has changed enormously in recent years.
Traditionally, the role of the CRE manager was finding facilities based on a set of specifications dictated by the company, next negotiate the best price and then dispose of the building again as the company no longer had a need for it. Thus, an operational, reactive, transaction-oriented function.
As early as 1993 Michael Joroff in his research report "Strategic Management of the 5th resource:. Corporate Real Estate" predicted that the role of the CRE manager until 2000 would evolve into five stages:
- Function: Cost efficiently procuring facilities;
- Function: Standardize space needs and thus minimize housing costs;
- Deal Maker
- Function: Creative space needs, problem solving and negotiating regarding specific assets;
- Function: Facility providing services as a competitive service provider;
- Business strategist
- Function: Integrate workforce, workplace and technology trends in business strategy.
It seems that we needed about 15 years longer to reach stage 5 and even now it is still dependent on the maturity of the organization and/or CRE manager.
Over the years, the role has changed considerably and evolved into a much more strategic, proactive function that translates the business interest and business strategy to appropriate housing solutions.
One of the main conditions for this change is the fact that senior management started to realize that with the introduction of CREM it has become possible to save costs and there even is money to earn. This gave greater attention to CREM and the CRE managers' role became more strategic in nature. Besides that the much more complex environment, new legislation, technological developments and changing the way we work all played an important role. All these developments call for a changed profile of the function and thus the officer.
In 2015 to a large extent also the responsibility for sustainability, corporate social responsibility and the use of information technology has been added.
This last function in my opinion is still underexposed but that is not right and even undesirable!
Because the modern CRE manager faces quite some challenges with regards to IT.
A (probably not complete) list of IT related matters that the CRE manager must have knowledge of and not only that, but where CRE actively has to be involved in or even has to take the lead.
- Introduction of automated systems as an Integrated Workplace Management System (IWMS)
- Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems for FM
- Big Data and Business Analytics;
- Collaboration and use of the Cloud;
- Use of mobile devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.) in the workplace;
- BYOD (Bring your own device);
- Complex IT infrastructure in the work environment;
- A series of mandatory reporting (eg financial / Sarbanes Oxley / IFRS / CO2 / CSR);
- Electronic access control systems;
- Introduction of time and place independent working
Obviously, Corporate Real Estate works closely with the IT department in this endeavor.
But that can only happen if the CRE manager is IT savvy.
That means he/she must first be familiar with the above issues, posses knowledge of how each one fits into its own operations, understands the benefits of the various options any specific IT application brings, where the line is drawn between IT and CRE responsibilities, which terms are used by IT and what they mean, and finally how the IT planning process works plus where and how this can be influenced.
In addition, the CRE manager must be able to alsoassess the consequences for the effectiveness and efficiency of the employees, how certain choices can affect employee satisfaction, whether there are environmental consequences and if so what they are, what it means for the image of a company and its property and ultimately what the initial investment but also what the (change in) total cost of ownership is expected to be.
I could therefore imagine an extension of Joroff's stages to:
6. Strategic Leader
- Function: Lead Corporate Real Estate as a general manager with shared responsibility for: the business result; applying enterprise-wide and cross-departmental technologies and for building the image of the company in both internal and external customers.
So dear CRE Manager, if after reading the above you raise your eyebrows in surprise, your head feels heavy of the amount of information, you get an attack of anguish at the thought that you should be able to do all this too, or if you are encouraged by this additional challenge ...... please know that I want to help you with this.