Christian Beaudoin: 5 Ways to Rise to C-Suite Expectations

Beaudoin heashot CPE blogThe heat is on in corporate real estate (CRE) departments around the world.  From Singapore to London to Chicago, the C-suite is demanding more business intelligence from real estate executives – and more productivity from properties – than ever before.

It’s a veritable pressure cooker, according to JLL’s 2015 Global Corporate Real Estate Trends report, which surveyed 544 CRE executives from 350 global corporations and 36 countries. More than half of the respondents report greater C-suite expectations in nearly every category, from improving the productivity of office space, to delivering better data management and portfolio analytics.

Senior leaders are impatient for workplace and productivity transformation, but meeting these intensifying demands will require CRE teams to move past their traditional focus on tactical execution and rethink their role within their organizations.

Beyond cost efficiency: forward-thinking breeds productivity and collaboration

Of course, pressure from the C-Suite isn’t new – it’s simply escalating. Steadily building since the financial crisis, demands related to cost reduction have not abated.  CRE teams have responded well to structural issues, making strides such as improving basic service delivery and negotiating lower rents.

Now, ever-improving cost efficiency has become table stakes, and expectations have become more sophisticated. Over half of surveyed executives in the survey report growing demand for more strategic services, from increasing portfolio flexibility and environmental efficiency to participating in procurement. CRE is increasingly expected to improve workforce productivity, by providing more flexible working (62 percent report this demand) and supporting culture change (59 percent). CRE is also expected to improve asset productivity across the entire portfolio, with demand soaring from 47 percent in 2013 to 61 percent today.

Conversations that were once rare are becoming the norm. Senior executives now actively request that CRE leaders share business decision-making rather than simply follow orders. For example, 72 percent of respondents said business leaders continuously demand to be challenged about space needs, and 62 percent want CRE’s recommendations and scenarios.

The twist: It’s not just a challenge of demands, it’s also a challenge of resources

While many CRE leaders love a good challenge, there’s more to this challenge than heightened expectations. Demands have grown at a rapid pace, but the resources to deliver on those demands have not.

The number of respondents saying they’re well-equipped to meet C-suite demands fell from 28 to 17 percent between 2013 and 2015. Conversely, those who say they’re ill-equipped have more than doubled from 7 to 15 percent.

What’s thwarting progress? Some reasons include data management systems that are not up to snuff, and analysis strategy that has historically looked backward, not forward. Another common concern is variable C-suite commitment—senior leaders have demands, but may not consistently provide the support CRE units need to achieve them.

Put simply, it’s clear that today’s CRE leaders are faced with more than a sheer process update; it’s time to change how we work.

Five ways to rise to C-Suite expectations:

It’s time to change the paradigm from real-estate-centric to people-centric. Following are some key first steps:

  1. Power the people: Forward-looking CRE leaders focus on people and people skills. As deeper relationships are formed with other departments, such as human resources and information technology teams, CRE functions organically become better aligned with business objectives.
  2. Get data-smart: A strong data and analytics platform that includes predictive analytics enables better decisions, and strengthens recommendations for the corporate team.
  3. Map your route: Elevating CRE status within an organization requires clear planning, and a means of measuring success and benchmarking progress.
  4. Look ahead, but don’t overlook: ‘Business as usual’ must continue, even as you pursue rigorous transformation.
  5. Supercharge your outsourcing: Trusted service partners can take up some tactical slack and provide informed counsel, freeing time for in-house strategists to handle more big-picture strategy.

Old hierarchies are evolving to make room for more productivity-winning strategy. New expectations are intense, but CRE executives can ease the pressure by stepping out of the tactical shadows and into the limelight as strategic business advisors.

 

By Christian Beaudoin, National Director, Research, JLL