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Leading Change in the Digital Age – Part One: People Get Ready!

By Adam Stanley,  Global CIO and Chief Digital Officer

It’s no revelation that tech is moving at light speed, but all sectors including commercial real estate must track and manage the coming magnitude of change or find themselves paying the high price of ignorance.

People in and outside of the commercial real estate world ask me all the time, what makes this period different. They know technology is hitting all aspects of our lives, but that’s basically old news, right? Well, sorry to say, but we haven’t seen anything yet.

Other folks like to point out that the business of commercial real estate hasn’t really changed that much in the last 100 years since Cushman & Wakefield was first established in New York City. After all, it still boils down to doing deals and client relationships. Obviously, that’s true, but those of us the front lines of IT are acutely aware of another story: the way we do things is undergoing non-stop radical change and our business models are being upended.

Here’s some big numbers for perspective: way back in 2014 (three years ago) $400 million was invested in real estate technology; this year, that amount has ballooned to $3 billion.

Still, $3 billion is a mere fraction for a global real estate market valued at $2 trillion. This tells us that there’s a lot more money out there waiting to be spent as investors increasingly recognize that they need technology to both drive value and transform $2 trillion in real estate physical assets into digital assets. Yes, that’s right: CRE is turning into a technology-based sector, too.

When it comes to technology adoption, global commercial real estate – like other industries — is at an inflection point. What that means in plain English, is that if we don’t keep up, we risk obsolescence. That’s why, Cushman & Wakefield is putting tremendous resources behind staying on top of change and unlocking the potential of technology to empower our people and clients. This isn’t lip service – we are very serious about leading change and hyper-focused on our future success.

Ok, with disruption transforming every asset class we serve, along with our own industry, how do we stay focused? How do we decide which digital innovations will best serve our firm and people when so many are emerging from likely and unlikely sources around the world? Our technology program at Cushman & Wakefield has identified four clear but complex goals:

  • Optimize our portfolio by making the most of existing systems
  • Monitor shifts and threats
  • Determine where to place bets
  • Harness the power of data

These goals keep us focused on critical areas that support systematic, effective, and wise decisions. We know that we can’t fall prey to every cool new idea touted by hotshot tech startups and equally we know that can’t ignore all of them and expose ourselves to the “risk of ignorance.” We watch the trends like hawks, knowing there are lots of game-changing surprises to come.

Up until now, techies have used Moore’s Law to predict the pace of change. For those of you who don’t know, Moore’s law refers to an observation made by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 1965. He noticed that the number of transistors per square inch on integrated circuits had doubled every year since their invention – and would stay that way. Though the number now doubles about every 18 months – Moore’s law has been applied to the speed of technological change, and it’s held true.

But wait! Next up is quantum computing, which will blow Moore’s law out of the water. That’s a whole other story that I’ll discuss in part two of this blog.

A version of this blog appeared on CIO.com.


Adam Stanley provides strategic and operational direction for Cushman & Wakefield’s client facing and colleague technology systems and infrastructure across all global business lines. Drawing on his more than 20 years of industry experience and as an integral member of the global executive team, Adam is a change agent with proven success driving growth, performance, talent retention and innovation.

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