Browse Tag: Technology

Telecommuting Turnaround: IBM Changes Its Tune On Remote Working

Home office

Telecommuting or remote working enabled by technology and online access has long been a commercial real estate market worry. The phenomenon of employees skipping on commutes and avoiding distant offices has raised fears of a softening national demand of office space since at least 1996. As reported by Global Workplace Analytics, regular remote working at home among the non-self-employed population has grown by 103% since 2005. From 2013 to 2014, the population of all employees grew 1.9% while the population of telecommuters grew 5.6%,  putting the growth in telecommuting employees at more than double the rate of all employees.

Anecdotally, the telecommuting trend has contributed to disruption of office space demand patterns over the years, depending on locality. Also, we’ve covered the telecommuting trend here at CRE Blog before.  While it is tough to put the effect of remote working into terms of a market’s absorption rate or development pipeline, the technology industry’s line about remote working has been more or less unchanging, touting reducing real estate costs and overhead as a boon to tenants and space consumers.

But now, one of remote working’s chief technological enablers has decided it won’t be “eating its own dog food” after all. IBM has taken the dimmest possible view on telecommuting for its own business, proclaiming that its employees must return to their offices or find work elsewhere. As reported by Ars Technica, the tech giant has nearly 40% of its workforce under remote work policy, and that policy is coming to a close.  This week is the deadline for those employees to return to their cubicles with Big Blue, or, alternatively, to leave the employ of the upstate NY-headquartered company.

Clients whose business operations include significant telecommuting might well take note about the distinct split in IBM’s very recent remote working advocacy vs. its practice. Will that mean a reclaiming of unused rented space, or will it mean a hunt for new digs?  Only great relationships with your clients will give you the business intelligence to know where the remote working saga is headed.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve Got Mail (But Who Really Sent It?): The Risks Of Online Financial Transactions

Still running your brokerage or property management business on an AOL email account? Law blog JDSupra Business Advisor has something to say about that decision. In an April 27th post “AOL, Dropbox, And The Big Uh-Oh,” a story is told by data security-focused attorney Drew Sorrell concerning the purchase of a New York apartment, and how it went wrong during a trip down the intertubes. (Despite the headline, Dropbox is not involved in the story.)

A New York couple brought suit against their former law firm because it used an America Onlineaccount to transact firm business.  If you are my age you probably remember that AOL and “You’ve got mail!” were the future—back in 1990.  Well, now AOL is culturally a relic of the past and occasionally I still run across someone who is using an AOL account for their email.  Usually, I silently judge them as technological dinosaurs (don’t tell me you don’t do the same thing).

Well, it turns out that this law firm and its AOL account were being used to help a couple purchase a $19.4 million cooperative apartment in Manhattan. Hackers had breached the firm’s AOL account and were monitoring its email traffic.  The hackers then used the account to pose as the attorney working on the deal to direct the clients/couple to deposit $1.9 million by wire transfer into a hacker-controlled account. The hackers were kind enough to send the buyers/clients a receipt for the funds. 

Once the fraud was detected the couple was able to recover all but $196,200 (plenty enough to still ruin my day).  While this is a brand new suit, it should be warning enough. So, what are the lessons learned here?

As a business technology observer, I’d offer that there’s nothing very special about AOL email addresses when it comes to risk of data security – committing millions of dollars of transactions over insecure email can go badly wrong no matter what service you use.

While you can read the entirety of the post and the lessons learned, let me interject with the usual disclaimer: Take nothing you read at The Source blog or really, at any blog, as legal advice.  Always, always, always get advice from qualified real estate counsel.

Source: AOL, Dropbox and the Big “uh-oh” | Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed, P.A. – JDSupra

Photo credit: BusinessInsider

Humor From McSweeney’s: Let’s Take This Open Floor Plan to the Next Level

There’s something of a trend war going on today in office layout. Tenants of course want the most from their expensive space, but what does “most” really mean?  Before the rise of the Silicon Valley-style open floor plan layout craze inspired by Google and the like, getting the most from office square footage meant cramming as many cubicles as possible near traditional conference rooms and corner offices with doors.

But cubicles are no longer vogue and doors are often enough seen as hindrances to “collaboration”.  Some workflows in some industries do benefit from a layout that encourages semi-random encounters between teams, but others — perhaps those not quite as high-tech — suffer. In a digitally-enabled world where even law offices are rethinking what it means to have floor space — and taking up less of it with giant law libraries of “dead tree” (paper) — to where do all these rethink sessions point?

I’m pretty sure it’s not in this direction…thankfully!.  Enjoy this satire of an announcement memo from an office re-layout project gone awry, courtesy of Kelsey Rexroat at upscale humor site McSweeney’s. NOTE: Don’t drink coffee while reading. It’s funny enough that you might accidentally spew on your monitor.

  • You will no longer have access to instant messaging, which leads to private, non-collaborative conversations. If you need to communicate with another employee without leaving your workstation, stand up and address them with your supplied megaphone.

Read the whole thing at McSweeney’s Internet Tendency: Let’s Take This Open Floor Plan to the Next Level..

REachⓇ Technology Accelerator: SendHub

Photo of slide at REach technology Accelerator

Business phone systems are expensive, physical and made to support one thing that fewer and fewer professionals rely upon every day: a fixed desk. The image of a real estate professional shackled to a cubicle is increasingly outdated as mobile and internet technology allows users ever-increasing power and range. It’s only natural that commercial real estate professionals would take advantage of any tools that allow them to meet clients, tenants, landlords and managers at key locations to make the face to face arrangements, showings and negotiations that all portfolios demand.

That said, smartphones alone don’t have the features that office phone systems do: auto-attendant, call transfer, and hunt, just to name a few. Agents and brokers work on teams, after all, and too often smart phones alone don’t support teams as well as fixed business phone systems do.

Send In SendHub

In the 2014 class of REachⓇ companies who show best in breed technology solutions for the real estate industry, one company stood out as an ideal solution in this problem space: SendHub.  It’s a virtual business phone system that requires no hardware, can be configured in mere minutes,  and brings business phone system features to the Android and iPhone in your pocket.

Addressing the NAR Expo 2014 with this offering was SendHub co-founder John Fallone .

“Traditional phone systems don’t work in real estate,” began Fallone.  “94% of agents end up using their mobile phone.  65% of calls to agents go to voice mail and 70% of clients are unhappy with the way their agent communicates with them. ”

The reason: traditional phone systems are built for a desk and don’t give the tools and features that agents need to do business.

“We bring a business phone to your cellphone,” explained Fallone.  SendHub works as an app installed onto your smartphone. Fallone illustrated a customer story where an agent had three phone lines that go to one phone: his personal line, his business line and a marketing line.

“When a call comes in on his business line, his SendHub app pops up so he knows he has a business call coming in.  But on his third line, he uses it to create text message marketing campaigns that he can manage straight from his phone or from the computer.”  In this way, one phone serves three purposes elegantly.

SendHub also sports collaboration features that keep track of constantly flowing information – updates to contracts, floor plans and the like, for example.  File transfer is supported, as is threading of conversations/calls so that who got what when is clearly viewable on the phone itself or on a web browser.  The features of SendHub are too many to get into here, but a look at the company website will be a rewarding exercise.


In another life, I was what they call a “phone phreak” — I built, repaired and installed telephone systems for small business. Knowing what I know about those hardware products and about voice over internet (VOIP) applications, I have for years wondered when someone would develop a VOIP application that brought PBX (business phone) services to smart phones.  After my visit to NAR Expo 2014, I’m not wondering any longer: SendHub is here.

Get To Know Deductr

Deductr CEO John JT Thomas

(Above: Deductr CEO John JT Thomas talks expense tracking and maximizing tax deductions)

Drop by booth 1404 in the upcoming NAR Expo to find the latest and greatest tool for protecting your money: Deductr.  Deductr is a terrific business expense tracking app with unique features.  What’s more, the company is a  NAR 2014 REach designee.

What is NAR REach?

A unique program of mentorship and education for startup companies in the real estate space, NAR REach has a special mission to help companies connect with the real estate industry by picking the best of breed technology startups and established firms with the greatest growth potential.  Check out NAR REach’s 2014 portfolio — including Deductr — here. 

Special Pricing Offer

To learn about Deductr, click to view a streaming video aimed at NAR members including mention of a great special pricing offer.

For a limited time, you can get special pricing on Deductr: click this link and sign up!

Coy Davidson: Tech’s Great But Isn’t The Point

English: A pile of mobile devices including sm...

Has technology in support of commercial real estate been a little oversold historically?  Coy Davidson thinks so.  At least, he says, it has to the degree that CRE listing services, apps, mapping and the like are touted as “disruptive”.  In The Tenant Advisor, Colliers International Senior VP Davidson makes the observation that the last fifteen years of the commercial business has seen major advances and important efficiencies brought to the industry, but that these have not, as sometimes has been touted or warned, turned the basic business on its ear and made brokers, reps, consultants and the whole cast of professional characters obsolete.

Well, it is 2013 and corporate tenants are still using brokers to select properties and structure transactions and property owners are still using brokers to market their real estate assets for lease and sale despite the fact that relevant property data exists and is accessible on the web. Furthermore, who is in the market for property both tenants and investors alike is no longer a brokers best kept secret.

I contend that little has changed and the demand for brokerage services will not diminish anytime soon, if at all because of one simple fact.

The reason is that commercial real estate deals are relatively complex transactions that involve multiple disciplines and participants: owner and user, consultants (brokers, architects, attorneys, contractors.) Leases and Purchase and Sale Agreements are complex legal instruments that can involve hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.

I think Coy’s right, but I’d say that the issue centers more on marketing of technology than actual technology.  “Disruptive” is a loaded word and technology offerings that propose to up-end the basic process of commercial real estate are almost always to be taken with a grain of salt.

If brokers, consultants, reps and the like suddenly found themselves without access to the internet for a month, that ringing phone and the face to face meetings hashing out the complicated features of unique deals wouldn’t stop.  Users of space, owners of space, shapers of space would all remain, and the need to own, to use and shape remains.

That said, while nobody doing deals would be out of business, it would be a nasty month to be sure.  Particularly because prospecting and research would be thrown back into the stone age.  We’d never want to willingly give up our favorite listing services.  But the fact is trillions of dollars worth of commercial property deals happened in the stone age. Some things in this business are eternal: space, users, owners, buyers, shapers and consultants.  People.


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Commercial Brokers And Green Buildings: Know Your Basics

When it comes to green buildings, most commercial real estate brokers are in a bind.  They have the trusted business relationships, they have the ear of the clients, and they’re positioned to stay put.  But adding value to deals is harder than ever when the buildings themselves demand more and more from their handlers.

Changes in technology affect all stakeholders – brokers, property managers, and owners – in a increasing number of ways.  Technology changes in building controls, new goals in sustainability and energy efficiency, new regulations and the rise of the smart electrical grid all add up to headaches for the average commercial broker.  Whether under the heading “green” or “smart”, brokers are caught without enough information about the new trends and struggle to add value.

Part of this is because what architects and engineers used to handle exclusively – usually at build time – is now an ongoing process that absolutely impacts bottom lines on property deals.  New technologies affect all the areas that brokers traditionally advise on – leases, pro formas, financing.   While brokers aren’t supposed to become experts in technology, the days where a couple of cliches about green this or smart that just don’t cut it any more.

NAR Commercial has put out a great podcast that addresses the basics in green technology in an interview with Tom Shircliff of Intelligent Buildings Incorporated.  As a strategic consultant to key stakeholders, it’s Tom’s job to keep CRE pros aware of green/smart building terminology and some tech too – just enough to add value to a deal. Check it out here. And don’t fear the new: make it work for you!