Smart spaces & places

A blog brought to you by Chris Kane 

A recent Twitter exchange amongst fellow workplace travellers prompted me to mull on the question of perspectives. This led to those great existential questions:  Why don’t we see things in the same light? How come we have different perspectives even on the same topic? Who has the best view of the situation?

It also brought to mind that great George Eliot quote from Middlemarch, “It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.” 

I for one am a great proponent of seeing the bigger picture and the broader view, not just in the workplace world, but in all situations. However, in this particular instance the questions I asked myself about perspective and various viewpoints focused on the CORPORATE REAL ESTATE ecosystem.

As with everything nowadays, the landscape and processes are changing even in CRE. According to CoreNet Global the #CRE ecosystem is in a state of flux and at the CoreNet Indian conference delegates were discussing the shift away from traditional strategies. Their reference to an ecosystem prompted the Twitter debate which ranged from “it is not an ecosystem but everything is connected to the world” to “it is part of an ecosystem”

Regardless of the rights or wrongs of this debate, this is what drove me to consider why people view things differently? No doubt it all boils down to how an individual perceives a certain situation.

Indeed, just the label for this sector we’re involved with is in itself one that is open to misinterpretation. Corporate real estate better known by its moniker CRE, is not a generally known term outside the sector. With American origins the equivalent term in other parts of the world can vary, for example, premises department or property division. What interests me is how practitioners view the term CRE. Is it the sole preserve of those who describe themselves as dealing with property, space, real estate within a corporation or enterprise? Does it encompass those who are the outsourced service providers? In fact, could it also include all of those who supply spaces and places?

There are multiple views on this at the moment, although looking back to the sector’s relatively short history to the 1980s the aim of its founders’ focus was to ‘professionalise’ the management of a corporation’s real estate with an internal perspective. This has led to the huge variety of perceptions in how sector is seen today.

To further complicate matters, the outside world views our sector as a complete mystery, especially the baffling distinctions between Corporate Real Estate and Facilities Management. I’m often asked why are there two different professional titles, since most people perceive them as having the same responsibilities and functions within an organisations.

To clarify things in the simplest, most basic way – CRE focuses on an organisation’s property portfolio, this includes site location, building design, leasing facilities, acquisition, disposition, in other words the life cycle of a corporation’s estate from beginning to end.

Facilities management is primarily an operational role, which focuses on the day-to-day running of an organisation’s facilities, including maintenance, repairs, utilities, furniture acquisition etc – in short, taking care of the bogs and boilers!

Even though for years my perception has been that FM and CRE should have a more integrated approach, beyond just managing aspects of bricks and mortar, to think more about the workplace as a whole – an ecosystem, which benefits the organisation they serve.

The other area which people’s perception often vary is in their view of the workplace. Firstly, most people equate the workplace with the office, yet there are many millions of people who don’t work in an office. Secondly how the world of human resources perceives the workplace differs fundamentally from how CRE and FM see it, since HR’s primary focus is on people issues. Thirdly, since what we really talk about is the actual space within the workplace, why not just use the label ‘workspace’?

I absolutely believe that everybody is entitled to have a position or outlook on a particular theme, topic or thesis. I’m sure readers will also agree that our respective perspectives are based on our unconscious beliefs, as well as how our life experiences and our past informs the way we look at things. Everyone has their own interpretation of how they view the world, even within the same sector, and it would be a very boring, dull world if we all saw it one way.

However, given the rapid changing nature of the game for those of us interested in the built environment and particularly regarding the space where people work in today, I wonder if we need to seek fresh perspectives? To start a dialogue to enable us all see above the parapet, to view the broader picture and to be able discern the wood for the trees?