Edens: “CRE professionals want to know everything from work-from-home recommendations to best practices for reopening their workforce.”

ATLANTA — COVID-19 has brought time and spatial challenges to companies and workers, but technology has been pushing those dimensional boundaries for decades. Whereas businesses always turned to innovation for performance elevation, now with the new realities of this pandemic, the focus has become more about adaptation. GlobeSt.com reached out to Jake Edens, Colliers International’s SVP of technology and innovation for the U.S., to discuss how companies are using tech tools to adjust and sustain CRE operations and services.

“CRE professionals want to know everything from work-from-home recommendations to best practices for reopening their workforce,” says Edens, whose company hosts a series of virtual client webinars. “Products like Zoom, Slack and Teams are already seeing a huge uptick in adoption and will likely trigger substantial venture capital investments in the next generation of online communication and collaboration products. We are always striving to use technology to be more efficient, but more importantly we want to enable our professionals and provide them with competitive advantages.”

Major COVID-19 contingency objectives include how to maximize virtual value when parties can’t meet in person and when teams are working remotely. And how can tech help CRE firms better anticipate and plan for a suddenly different future?

“Portfolio strategy is going to be a big focus and a major change for occupiers, and the analytics to develop that strategy is important,” says Edens. “I think people will be more mindful of how they interact with others and that will lead to occupiers and owners investing more in workplace analytics tools to optimize their space planning, site selection and portfolio management.”

With many in the CRE industry searching for that “new normal” or still trying to regain their footing, it is even more important to have tools that can simplify tasks, save time and sustain value. Colliers is exploring how artificial intelligence (AI) can help its professionals more effectively analyze massive amounts of market data collected daily to recognize and act on trends before the rest of the market.

“From a pure efficiency standpoint, lease abstraction tools and chatbots powered by AI are an early example of how the industry can offload simple, but time-consuming tasks to technology,” Edens adds.

Another major in-person activity disrupted by COVID-19 is property touring, but the client’s need to understand the look and feel of space for sale or lease obviously doesn’t go away. Fortunately, the evolution of virtual touring solutions has accelerated dramatically.

“The 3D and virtual reality technology has improved so much in the past few years that the virtual tour is finally a realistic option,” Edens says. “We are also leveraging these types of tools for our ‘Work Forward >> Together’ program that enables our clients to transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic into steady-state operations and future growth.”

Technology has always fueled the constant business mission for faster-cheaper-better, but in 2020, the need for speed has given way to increased vision and versatility. CRE companies are finding the right tools to adjust to sudden change and better read an uncertain future.