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Commercial Real Estate Goes Wireless
Commercial Real Estate Goes Wireless

By applying Web-based and wireless technologies, real-estate owners can achieve astounding efficiencies that can drive revenues up and operating costs down, thereby enhancing the value of their properties.

Whoever said, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," didn't know much about commercial real estate. The process ain't broke. It works, but it's clunky. For example, most commercial real estate service requests involve a handwritten/phone/fax method for initiating and responding to service requests. But the inefficiencies - brought on by poor communications and way too much paperwork along the chain - reduce service levels and, consequently, occupancy rates. By applying Web-based and wireless technologies, real estate owners can achieve astounding efficiencies that can drive revenues up and operating costs down, thereby enhancing the value of their properties.

Other industries have been using Web and wireless technologies for quite a while. Businesses as diverse as ranching, manufacturing, and retail have a communication chain consisting of field personnel who take direction and report results, managers who handle the day-to-day operations, and owners committed to cutting costs and driving revenues. These industries are seeing a return on their investment in wireless technology. For example, one city government department cut information distribution costs by 50% in the first year of its wireless implementation. A major retail chain's sales staff reduced errors in pricing and other administrative tasks by 75%.

Finally, commercial real estate is jumping on the wireless bandwagon. Why was there so much resistance? Because the old way wasn't broken. When a tenant had a problem, say an office door had come unhinged, he picked up the phone, called the office manager, and reported the problem. The office manager contacted someone from building maintenance. That person wrote up a work order and delivered it to the maintenance crew.

That system worked well enough for those entrenched in it to take an "If it ain't broke ..." attitude. But it was awkward. The one-way nature of the communication chain made tenants feel as though they were kept out of the loop. Slow service contributed to tenant dissatisfaction and lower-than-desirable retention.

A combined Web and wireless solution eliminates the need for the service request to go through so many layers. Bottom line: using integrated Web-based and wireless applications to process the service request, the tenant will get his door fixed faster - and will be happier. The benefits of wireless to all parties - building owners, tenants, management, and vendors - become apparent immediately upon implementation.

Web and wireless technology's two-way communication gives everyone in the chain more control. Tenants can easily track the progress of the service they requested, building managers are in constant, real-time communication with workers, and building owners have access to useful data about day-to-day building operations.

But will people use the new technology? The research says "yes." In one study, user adoption rates are well over 80%. And a full 86% of tenants said they preferred automated service requests over the old way of doing it.

What are some of the benefits of a wireless solution over the old paper-based phone and fax system?

  • Higher service levels: Two-way wireless contact and Web-based communication document each action in a service request life cycle, capture every cost, and archive historical data. This cumulative knowledge base helps management make informed decisions and deliver better service.
  • Automated reporting: In one case, a building owner had no idea that preventive maintenance was being scheduled on weekends - for a premium, of course - until he saw the first automated report.
  • Improved visibility: The technology offers a real-time view of operations across a number of properties.

    Web and wireless technologies are helping to streamline commercial real estate operations. If you're a building owner or property manager, you'll have happier tenants. If you're a vendor, you can keep your eye on demand and do better resource planning. If you're a tenant, you can demand service easier than ever, and get faster results. If you're part of the building staff, you'll make fewer trips to and from the office, deal with less paperwork, prioritize jobs, and complete assignments faster than ever.

    An automated service request life cycle has six phases:
    1.   Initiation: Usually a tenant issues a request by completing and submitting a Web-based form.
    2.   Authorization: The system recognizes the requestor's authority and forwards the request to building management.
    3.   Dispatch: The request is reviewed and appropriate staff members are assigned via their Web-based or wireless devices. Most users can select whether they want to receive dispatches in their e-mail inbox, pager, or other wireless devices. When multiple parties receive a request, each is informed when the request is accepted.
    4.   Monitor: Request status is monitored and updated in real time. All parties involved can check on the progress - as it happens.
    5.   Completion: When the request is completed, management closes it.
    6.   Report and invoice: The request is logged for billing and reporting purposes.

    These systems are built on a secure, scalable platform constructed with industry-standard hardware. This allows easy integration with a wide variety of building management systems and architectures.

    In the highly competitive office market, "ain't broke" just ain't good enough anymore. Tenants know they can go anywhere, and only owners who can provide first-tier customer service to their tenants will keep their space occupied and rent paid. Ask your tenants; they will tell you.

    About Richard Giordanella
    Richard Giordanella is CEO of Workspeed, Inc. He is a seasoned executive with more than 25 years in building successful software companies. Having started his career in building and real estate, first as a construction engineer with the U.S. Army and then in management at Turner Construction Co., he has extensive experience spanning engineering, construction, and technology, and is responsible for managing all aspects of Workspeed's operations and overall execution.

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