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New horizons for a real estate industry
CoreNet Global Conference - 18th September 2002 in Lille, France
Corporate real estate executives were given an insight into the social, political and technological trends that will affect their clients, their markets and their jobs. Geraldine Bear reports from CoreNet's Global Summit held in Lille last month.
It was inevitable that the programme at the recent CoreNet Global Summit would be about probing the future and what it might bring for the Corporate Real Estate profession. This was the first European Summit following the merger of NACORE and IDRA and a forward-looking conference agenda was the natural and positive proposition.
The conference was structured around three keynotes speeches from heavyweight international speakers, none of whom were property professionals
Dr Patrick Dixon describes himself as a Futurologist and works from the premise that 'tomorrow is yesterday'. Dr Albert Bressand, who heads up globally renowned think-tank Promethee, offered an 'Economic Weather Report' that was a compelling eye-opener to all Anglophiles - and there were plenty of us. Peter Cochrane, founder of ConceptLabs, raced through future directions in technology. All were absorbing and consummate performers with strong messages to impart and despite coming from different directions there was overlap and convergence between all talks.
Understanding the future
Dealing with pace and change
Dr Peter DixonLuck helps - Cochrane noted that the text messaging features of mobile telephony were tagged on as an afterthought extra. Today text messaging is used more than voice.
Product life cycles are shorter and getting a product or service to market before the customer / consumer knows he wants it is the only recipe for success.
What does this mean for the property professional? More of what we've been talking about for the last couple of years; flexibility, short-term leases and the ability to move fast to support a business that is performing at breakneck speed. It also means that anything in the pipeline is probably already obsolete. More importantly it is being able to anticipate what a business might need and being ready to deliver before that need has been articulated.
Understanding how we will work
Technology will continue to shape our working day with parasitic networks taking us to the next level of wireless working. Wherever we are our mobile devices will scan to piggyback into a device that will forward data device by device to your connection. Unfortunately you really will be able to work whilst you tramp the Fells.
Bressand argues that creative relationship management will enable successful business. This is not the ability to deal with the face-to-face relationship (although even today some executives spend six weeks a year at 35,000 ft just to foster relationships of trust (and more about trust later). For Bressand relationship management tools will enable companies to manage every possible internal and external relationship as part of an 'industrial process'.
All speakers touched on the role of video conferencing. Despite its clunky reputation this has got to be the way of the future. Open plan offices, according to Dixon, do not support successful video conferencing and the current levels of bandwidth continue to create a stilted, unnatural event that most people find unsatisfactory.
Peter Cochrane ran a fascinating clip that showed a BT Research Laboratory development; a room set up with half a meeting table butted against a wall video screen that mirrored the real 'half meeting room'. As the video meeting progressed remote people 'walked' into/onto the screen and joined the meeting table. It seemed a convincing 'in the round' meeting with participants apparently moving throughout a virtual meeting space. The ability to conference from the desktop and in a successful meeting environment will arrive and offices today will need to adapt.
Technology will continue to make us 'even more skilful amateurs' - during the last decade we have become successful typists (death of the secretary), desk top publishers (death of the in-house design team), document producers (death of the reprographics and print department). Do not expect this to change. Any non-core expertise than can be transferred to the mainstream workforce by increased application of technology will continue.
Another way to flourish, according to Dixon, is to have global reach but be able to act within the local context. Technology allows you to tap into global audiences but responding to local culture is key to success. Organisational structures will continue loosening to embrace all forms of business partnership with organisations reshaping themselves constantly. The ability to deliver a global but flexible property solution will be a growing imperative. Dixon believes that there will still be ownership - for flagship buildings - but there will be embarrassing and expensive mistakes. The real answer, however, lies in a business being able to offer a creative combination of place and technology to work.
A note about the conference itself
The real conference business was about professional networking and the sponsorship that the real estate profession can attract allows this to be a convivial and enlightening activity. Every breakfast, lunch and evening meal was sponsored generously.
We enjoyed New York style brunch courtesy of The State of New York, an elegant dinner sponsored by Chambre de Commerce et D'Industrie De Lille Métropole, Lille Métropole Cummunauté Urbaine and so on.
APIM Mille Métropole funded a tour for all conference delegates around the key Lille developments including phase 2 of a major business centre and a bio-health business park sited alongside one of the largest hospital sites in Europe.
The ability of this professional group to attract this level of sponsorship support highlights the power that the CRE professional has compared to his facilities management colleague. These are people who are perceived to have the influence to participate in the deals that commit organisations to global property moves. Whilst there were, as always, more suppliers than end users delegates, the end user community was well represented at a senior level. facilities managers were absent and facilities management was rarely mentioned. There is still a major gulf to bridge between these two professional groups.
In addition to the keynote speeches, there was the familiar education programme with all events structured around a panel of experts each offering a ten-minute view to support or oppose a theme followed by open discussion. There was something of the Curate's Egg about them; they were good in parts.
Culture and beliefs
New economic orders
Dr Albert BressandBressand reminded us that the EU continues to expand; by 2005 the EU will be a union of some 20 odd countries. It's a community based on the unique concept of 'mutual recognition', a belief that if it is good enough for one member it is probably good enough for another. It is a principle based not on an economic viewpoint but the belief that one society can respect the institutions and practices of another. This has meant that it is a remarkably open system with fewer trade barriers and an appetite for modernisation. It also allows the EU to adopt a step-by-step approach to the future. There isn't a grand vision, a place where we need to get to, this is a journey that we take step by step. It still isn't clear whether it will be the 'United States of Europe' or a large European market. However, Bressand says, do not under estimate the transformations that happen along the way.
The launch of the euro created a single money market overnight. A Europe-wide bond market integrated within months. Consolidation of the equity markets is underway. The impact on property finance and investment is and will be considerable. The impact on the City of London has yet to unfold but one must question whether London can maintain its position as a key global finance centre.
The property professional has to be prepared for anything and everything. Some situations will hit you with no warning and little justice. Some businesses and some individuals will fail unfairly; a case of wrong place at the wrong time.
Trust and transparency
Dixon was the speaker to specifically urge the audience to 'build a better world' but underlying all three presentations was the belief that success will accrue to those organisations that espouse strong values, believe in honest transaction and are willing to make a positive contribution to the wider world.
Conclusions for the future?
Cochrane would offer a more Darwinian view: "The survivors will not be the strongest or the most intelligent. The survivors will be those who are most responsive to change."
Bressand would say: "Be aware and understand the storm clouds but look for the silver linings because they are out there."
If you are interested in delving more into the viewpoints of the speakers you can visit their respective websites. Cochrane and Dixon welcome you to download both the CoreNet presentation and anything else that takes your fancy.