Technology’s Advance

Exciting new technological developments are advancing the industry, no matter what the uncertain economic climate may bring. By Suzann Silverman, Editorial Director.

By Suzann Silverman, Editorial Director

It wasn’t so many years ago that the commercial real estate industry did business on handshakes and signed paper contracts. Brokerage firms produced their own research or had none, and nobody had a Web site. Technology platforms were function-specific and didn’t talk to each other. That time is now a distant memory—and yet technology is still hitting its stride, with innovations unfolding at a breathtaking pace.

As advances speed up, they are ascending to a higher plane. Hardware has been reduced to two dimensions and software has increased to four. Communication is occurring ever faster, and systems are increasingly being aligned for greater efficiency. A case in point: After years of debate, the finance industry may be close to universal adoption of XML, the common computer language that CMBS.com, MISMO and others have worked diligently to create so data can be easily transferred.

For all its promise, the implications of XML adoption are far from simple: Originations may have too many unique aspects to make universal implementation likely—or desirable. But XML use will certainly make servicing a much smoother process.

Exciting new tools and strategies are surfacing in other areas, too, ranging from software integration to truly intelligent buildings to experiments with more efficient sustainable design. And as Realcomm founder & CEO Jim Young notes in his featured guest column, this reflects a trend that is practically occurring in real time, as the industry has shown stepped-up interest in some innovations during the past few months.

To ring in another year of improvements aimed at advancing the industry, CPE is dedicating a major portion of the January issue to technology. Throughout the pages that follow, you will find insights into cutting-edge experimentation and how technology is impacting a variety of business areas. Special features include Young’s retrospective look at 2011 in a section that also features highlights of the Realcomm Marketplace, and a Q&A with Steve Messaros, chief information officer of Liberty Property Trust. Messaros discusses the company’s forward-thinking integration of real estate, information technology and human resources and the measures this forward-thinking company has been able to put in place as a result. Other articles look at finance, property management tools and companywide software integration.

Encouraging as these trends are, progress in the industry extends beyond technology. While ups and downs in this volatile economy have slowed hiring, real estate firms in a number of categories continue to add to their rosters. Some companies are rewarding achievement at record levels, with further increases a distinct possibility. To help you benchmark against other industry companies, we are pleased to offer the annual CPE-FPL Hiring & Compensation Report, featuring data and analysis from FPL Advisory Group’s Bill Ferguson and Jeremy Banoff.

At this early stage of the new year, it is difficult to predict which direction commercial real estate will take in 2012. European debt crises, political stalemates and municipal bankruptcies make for a potent brew of variables. But as this issue’s reports indicate, innovations today can help the industry perform better—no matter what the world economy may bring.