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Technology has created both solutions and challenges for commercial real estate, and some organizations are still trying to determine its optimal role. Just recently, the Institute of Real Estate Management in Chicago formed a panel to assess the technology needs of its membership and possible partnerships with other technology-related industry groups.

Lori Burger, senior vice president of Eugene Burger Management Corporation in Rohnert Park, CA, is leading the panel. In an informal discussion with other IREM members, Burger describes technology related issues as one of her firm’s top challenges. The problem is not lack of products, but too many options, she explained.

“There are so many very worthy products on the market. We are often solicited with fantastic products which would ultimately streamline how we do things and improve our bottom line, but if we try to engage each one, all we would be doing is perpetual implementation,” she said.

Sandra Acton, president of the Orange County, CA IREM chapter and director of real estate development for the Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, agreed. “This is always the million dollar issue for us. Do we forge ahead into another level of technology or stick with what we have? Technology has become a blessing as well as a curse. I find myself spending lots of time on an electronic device and spending less time face to face with the clients I serve. It’s hard to find the balance some times.” Nonetheless, IREM members are enthusiastic about many innovations, especially about telecommunications. They say Blackberry phones; Skype–the free internet-based voice and video calling system; and iPhones have generated dramatic change in the industry.

Anthony Pusateri, a senior vice president at RealPage Inc. in Carrollton, TX said the iPhone “makes it almost antiquated to use a Desk top PC or any other form of telephone. The security and added functionality added to this second-generation iPhone has opened the door for its use in business and exploded the possibilities of its use. Many applications are now at your fingertips. With the ability to use Wi-Fi to connect to the web, it has opened up its use for apartment marketing and rental applications. A person can use the phone just as he would in his office to take calls, offer rental availability and rental rates, send brochures to prospects and to demonstrate simulations and property and model tours.”

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