Back to the future

So 24 hours on from arrival at Mickey’s place and impressions from the conference have been favourable.  Those that I have spoken to so far are optimistic.  They are enthused about the opportunity to drive and deliver a transformative agenda for corporate real estate.  There is a discernible appetite for change and a real debate about how to achieve it.

In many ways I sense that CRE teams will need to go back to the future.  As uncertainty takes grip once more, business leaders are demanding that their CRE teams reassess opportunities for cost reduction within the corporate portfolio.  But most were asked to do the same no more than six months ago.  Much of the fat has been trimmed.  Much of the leverage has been applied to lease renewals and renegotiations.  Room for manoeuvre, at least in a reactive, tactical sense is limited.

Enter a new dawn, a new mindset, a new dialogue.  It’s time to get strategic.  It’s time to implement more radical changes that make a real difference not only to the cost line but also critically to productivity over the short to mid term.  The challenge will be the level of investment that businesses are prepared to make to drive this change agenda given the aforementioned uncertainty.  CRE teams have a role to play here.  Many of the case studies of best practice being shared here, such as those relating to workplace transformation, are founded on the power of soft, qualitative benefits.  In a low growth, limited expenditure operating environment, stronger financial appraisal, cost benefit analysis and an equally strong voice will be required from CRE teams in to secure the investment and drive the change.

I share in my fellow delegate’s optimism.  I am excited about the opportunity that change presents.  I too am mindful of the challenges and pitfalls.  But more than anything I am sure that the CRE industry – as represented here in Paris – has the determination and drive to overcome the obstacles and elevate itself further.  The future’s bright despite the economic storms.