If Only We Had These Technologies Thirty Years Ago

One of my colleagues recently posed the question “Is there an example of a decision you made that you would do differently now based upon technologies available today?” I began my career in corporate real estate in 1971 with Xerox. I was the Regional real estate manager for the Midwest region and my job was to handle all real estate requirements for the Midwest Region- an area that encompassed most of the Midwest states.  Most of the projects involved the relocation or renewal of branch sales offices, which averaged about 25 K square feet. These projects required close coordination with branch management, regional staff, and corporate real estate and office of general counsel. In reflecting on the state of the art in information technology at the time, I recall how primitive were the available tools to get the job done. I recall having to cut and paste lease documents before faxing to Corporate. I didn’t have any spread sheet tools, so I had to do all the financial analysis on paper spread sheets. One lease deal would require hours of calculations that would be repeated every time a new deal scenario was produced. Needless to say the leasing process took weeks and I have to believe there were deals that could have been vastly improved if I had the kind of advanced network technology and spreadsheet tools available today. There was also the lag in communication. It would take more than a month to turn around a lease between branch management, the prospective landlord, general counsel, and another several months to secure management approval.

While I don’t recall a specific decision I would have done differently, I do recall one serious error in missing a critical lease option that would have cost the company plenty. If I had a software tool such as Visual Lease that flags and alerts leasing specialists of critical dates and options, I wouldn’t have missed the option. As it turned out, branch management didn’t want to renew so the error became mute.

Another key project I recall that would have greatly benefited from today’s’ lease management system, was a consolidation and relocation of D&B’s corporate headquarters from Manhattan to Connecticut. In essence, we had a number of leasing actions, terminations, and office consolidations that resulted in the move of several division offices into the Corporate HQ lease at 299 Park Avenue. But first we had to move the corporate staff from New York to a temporary leasehold in Westport, Connecticut, while we renovated an owned office building in Wilton, Connecticut for the ultimate move of the HQ. This project required detailed analysis of existing leases, and exhaustive financial analysis of various permutations of leasing alternatives. At the time we didn’t have the benefit of a lease database to evaluate which leases could be targeted for the consolidation. We got through the process successfully but not without tremendous effort.

Corporate real estate has evolved into a sophisticated managerial process. With the advent of network technology, advanced process management tools, and smart phone tools, along with powerful cloud based lease management systems, CRE can now deliver impressive financial results, coupled with premium workplace services. These benefits are only possible through the use of advanced information technologies.