With 485 global offices and 15,800 professionals, Colliers International is one of the world’s leading commercial real estate services companies and is at the forefront of the industry in adopting technology solutions to enhance client experience. We asked two senior Colliers executives to share how they keep this large organization up to date with ever-evolving CRE technology. Dan Spiegel, EVP, U.S. Operations, and Durgesh Sharma, VP, Global Information and Technology Services, explain what Colliers is doing to stay on the leading edge of CRE technology.
What are the most interesting CRE tech innovations and trends that grabbed your attention?
Dan Spiegel: The most interesting innovations are the ones that are changing the way we build relationships with our clients and service our clients. On the prospecting side, Prospect Now, Linked In, TermScout, Apto, and Salesforce make finding information about property owners, identifying existing relationships and cultivating relationships easier than ever before. This levels the playing field for brokerage professionals, moving the focus away from private data as the secret sauce to what our industry offers. Other tools such as VTS and Hightower change the way we service our clients. There are numerous innovations that move us from hard copies to real time information that can be aggregated.
Durgesh Sharma: I’ve noticed that companies that support Colliers’ ability to deliver better service are also receiving more VC funding. More venture funds flowing into CRE is a sign that the industry as a whole is finally waking up and warming up to technology.
I also see crowdsourcing as a welcomed change. Information is still monopolized, which prevents the industry from working efficiently. We have to take a lead on allowing services like CompStak to offer robust data alternatives. We need this change because we’ve been collecting information about deals, buildings and tenants the same way for the past 20 years. In a perfect world, CRE will be like the stock market and every building would have a unique ticker, allowing us to aggregate all the data about a building from all sources. We also need a Yelp for buildings, where tenants could provide reviews that prospective tenants will read and trust. Comps combined with reviews will give us a comprehensive picture of the CRE landscape.
What are some initiatives that Colliers is taking to implement new technology?
Durgesh Sharma: We have a CRM & global client information platform connecting every Colliers office. Beyond implementing a CRM, we are also looking to change broker behavior. Sharing and collaborating in the interest of a client is what tenants want rather than siloed service by multiple providers. An example of how we are looking to do this is by integration of technology, research and marketing services to our producers and clients. Another pursuit is to use technology to improve the consistency of service across cities and countries. [At Colliers] we are working to standardize the service delivery protocols that brokers use across all our offices—whether Shanghai or Seattle, we want a consistent client experience.
What goals does Colliers have in terms of technology? What are the challenges?
Dan Spiegel: Colliers International strives to use technology to serve our clients more efficiently while surpassing our client’s expectations. On the efficiency front, we’re linking disparate back end systems and eliminating duplication of work. We think about what data already exists and where. We then use the insights gained from our information to provide clients with insights about trends in the industry that are specific to their goals, and exceed their expectations.
Durgesh Sharma: The challenges are around technology selection and adoption; Colliers should buy more, and build less in-house. However, it’s important not to chase new and shiny technologies when our in-house solution works just as well. When it comes to adoption, sometimes a change in culture is required, especially when using tools that call for data sharing and collaboration. Colliers, with its culture of collaboration and transparency, is best positioned to lead this technology driven transformation.
Have companies and individuals missed opportunities because they were less open to technology?
Durgesh Sharma: Culture sometimes puts business at risk. Colliers is using an internal referral tool to facilitate new business. This tool works well only if brokers provide referrals, and are also willing to accept them. The same is true for sharing contact information in the CRM, and sharing comps. We start with the teams and offices who are early adopters and they become our advocates and internal sales people to help us increase adoption quickly.
Dan Spiegel: The commercial real estate industry has been slow to adopt technology and, while we may not have missed opportunities, we are trailing the efficiencies gained in other industries. Before having a comprehensive CRM, we did not have visibility of our entire scope of the service to a given client and therefore we could miss opportunities to strengthen our client relationships. Our US offices could be providing brokerage and the Australian office could be providing project management to the same client. We missed an opportunity to offer better service and understand our full engagement with a large client. We have now resolved that by utilizing and being open to technology.
What can we do to further promote the use of technology in the CRE industry?
Durgesh Sharma: I’d like to see a higher level of collaboration among the various market players: Colliers, CBRE, JLL. Maybe we can work on a project to share data. If we can harness all the players, as well as the general public, we can all have access to better data and grow the business. Companies like CompStak are catalyzing this change by bringing all of us together. We don’t necessarily need to build our own technology, we just need to be aligned on the technology we use and commit to sharing. In some parts of the world, this is already happening.
Dan Spiegel: We just need to continue to demonstrate to every player in the industry, brokers and owners, that technology adds efficiency, frees up human resources, and provides data that can help clients. We can use information much more effectively, and this is why I enjoy seeing the growth in CRE technology and love meeting the entrepreneurs who help improve the industry.
CompStak Exchange is a free platform for CRE brokers, appraisers and researchers to exchange verified commercial lease comps anonymously. CompStak Enterprise offers unlimited fee-based access to comp information to CRE landlords, lenders and investors.