CREtech Futures… What If?

The Geographer, J Vermeer, 1668-1669

The Geographer, J Vermeer, 1668-1669

You know that phrase ‘It’s different this time’ don’t you? And it never is, is it?

But what if, just once, within our industry, it turns out that it really is different this time?

What if all this talk about #SpaceAsAService and the real estate industry moving from being one focussed on selling a Product to one built around delivering a Service actually comes to pass?

What if, over the next 5-10 years flexible working really does become the defining characteristic of the office market?

What if a majority of companies employing less than 250 people opt for buying their occupational needs ‘as a Service’ and don’t sign Leases as such?

What if a majority of companies that employ over 250 people no longer expect them to turn up at the same office every day, but instead provide a wide range of spaces and places they can work from that are specifically tailored for the particular ‘jobs to be done’ of each and every person.

What if ‘the customer is right’ and that’s what they want, and if you cannot provide it, well they really can survive without signing a 10 year Lease?

Someone will give them what they want. Demand always induces Supply.

If this comes to pass, who wins, and who loses? The same people and companies as now, or is the apple cart about to be upset?

Could this be a change in market dynamics that blows up the existing order and lays down the foundations for an entirely new industry?

In my mind, the answer is yes. Marc Andreessen was right when he presciently wrote ‘Why Software is Eating the World’ in 2011. Smartphones, ubiquitous connectivity, Cloud Computing and Artificial Intelligence, just being the most prominent of a wide range of new technologies, are transforming every industry. And in so doing are fundamentally changing the nature of Demand for Real Estate.

The reason flexible working is growing like topsy is because the very nature of the work we do, and the way the economy is structured, is being redefined by technology. Things change when the barriers to change are removed, and technology is removing a whole heap of barriers.

So who wins? Paradoxically, it will not be those with the greatest grasp of the new technologies. That will be necessary, but not sufficient.

No, the real winners in this new world will be those who marry an understanding of exponential technology with highly developed human skills, and the knowledge and capability to leverage one to enhance the other. It will be people and companies who understand that they need to know far more than they do today about how their buildings are performing, how people are actually using them, and who exactly their customers are. And their customers will be everyone who enters their properties.

The winners will be those who can combine real estate knowledge with technology, data, analytics, empathy, anthropology, design and hospitality. This new breed of real estate company will be able to create exceptional customer experiences, and these will transfer into compelling, enticing, sticky Brands, and in those Brands will lie the next generation of real estate fortunes.


This first appeared, on 21st August, as a guest blog post on - with thanks to Michael Beckerman