The Making of a Corporate Real Estate Executive - Part 3

In our continuing series about how to become a CRE executive, the conversation would be incomplete without a brief review of the IT basics relating to CRE management. The CRE executive will need to become a close collaborator with counterparts in the IT organization. Knowing the IT vocabulary is the first step in building this partnership. There are two major categories of CRE related IT

First, are the IT issues relating to buildings. This would include broad band cabling, WIFI capability, communications gear such as PBX and DSL services, and the array of servers, routers, file storage, and other IT equipment needed for modern office operations. In most cases the IT organization will have the primary responsibility for IT provisioning, however, the CRE organization must provide the appropriate physical infrastructure for the IT equipment and cabling.  Physical security is a priority, and in many cases the CRE organization is tasked with providing the necessary security infrastructure including sensors, card readers, and where necessary surveillance TV cameras. Many CRE organizations are responsible for guard services which are typically contract services.

The other major category of CRE related topics is the whole range of software applications designed to manage the various CRE processes. It is wise for the aspiring CRE executive to become familiar with the key applications and to gain an understanding of their functionality and cost. I wrote a blog post a year ago (IWMS Priority Applications: What’s Important? What Can Wait?-July 2015) about prioritizing these applications. To summarize, I suggested that I would begin with a robust lease management system since the foundation of CRE operations begins with the lease portfolio. The next priority is space management functionality. Here the application gives the user the ability to create blocking and stacking designs from the building layouts, and keyed to personnel data.

The third category of functionality is building maintenance management, which provides records of building maintenance tasks, both preventive and predictive. The final category of functionality is a robust project management module. Here the application arrays all the key tasks in various building and leasing projects, and ties project milestones to a preplanned schedule. These various modules can be procured separately and tied to a common data base via middleware. Or the CRE group may opt to acquire an integrated solution (IWMS) where the various modules are fully integrated into a single enterprise level software solution. Another major decision is whether to license the software and operate within your server environment or whether to “rent” the software via a cloud provider. Your IT organization can give you advice on the best approach, although cloud solutions are clearly becoming the preferred alternative.

The final category of IT related topics which need to be fully understood by the aspiring CRE executive is the whole subject of data center facilities. With the advent of cloud computing, and the growth of virtualization, data center growth has exploded over the last ten years. The modern data center is a highly complex and sophisticated structure, requiring significant investment in electrical power, HVAC, cable management, and redundant back- up generators and UPS systems. It’s not uncommon to see data center construction costs exceeding $1000 per square foot for a highly redundant, and fault tolerant center. From my experience the IT organization will take the lead on a data center project, but the CRE organization will play a key role in site selection, leasing, and building design so it’s important to gain a basic understanding of data center design, infrastructure, and the priorities for site selection.

As I mentioned in my last blog post on becoming a CRE executive, there are many roads to achieving a position as head of corporate real estate.  It’s critical that the subject of IT become a key knowledge base for the aspiring CRE executive.  IT is transforming the nature of work and the workplace. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to assert that the successful CRE executive of today must be a reasonably knowledgeable information technologist to compete in the modern digital era.