How Data Analytics Is Transforming the Real-Estate Industry

For Doug Frye, global president and CEO of Colliers International, data insights are key to providing customer value. The first steps are a culture of innovation and a CIO who is a business strategist.

How is the use of data affecting the commercial real-estate industry?

Traditional property data is being commoditized every day, with data accessible and available to everyone. The value we provide to clients is delivering true market insights that are personalized to their specific industry, business and employees.

We are aggregating data from structured and unstructured sources to provide predictive analytics and insights to our clients. These market insights are no longer limited to our clients' use of real estate; they cover their overall business. Add to that the fact that the number of devices generating data--and the number of data sources themselves--has grown tremendously. Using algorithms and cloud-based data mash-ups, we are able to create incredibly complete, visually stunning insights.

What's an example of how you use data to help customers?

Recently, we worked with a law firm that was trying to decide if they wanted to move their office space. Instead of immediately recommending real estate, we asked questions about their business challenges, opportunities and brand. It turned out that one of their major challenges was recruiting and retaining the best talent. We offered to run an employee engagement initiative. Employees volunteered to have their movements tracked throughout the day using location-aware devices. We then took the rich data from these devices and performed some spatial mapping, including a real-time commute analysis. Using what we learned about employee movements and preferences, we were able to design a workplace solution for the client that enabled them to attract and retain great talent. Even better, they also reduced their costs by moving out of a more expensive high-rise space.

Developing new ways to use data to help customers requires innovative thought. How do you build a culture of innovation?

At Colliers, we give everyone "the freedom to be outstanding," and we start by hiring people who are able to think about disruptive innovation and then empowering them to be innovative. Collaboration is key. We use social platforms, desktop video, digital whiteboards and cloud-based technology to connect people--to create, share and reuse knowledge.

We also take the time to foster a culture of continuous, incremental improvement. Innovation is not always about inventing something new. Innovation includes doing things smarter, faster or more efficiently than before.

Veresh Sita, your CIO, says he is proud of the relationship he's developed with you. How should CIOs build credibility with their CEOs?

We use technology to solve business problems, so it's important for CIOs to understand and operate in the full business context. CIOs can build credibility with their CEOs by owning the full lifecycle adoption of technology solutions. We live in an age where digital technology strategy and business strategy are inextricably linked. CIOs need to be able to operate like business strategists as well as technology innovators. Veresh comes to work as a business person who sits next our regional CEOs and takes accountability for the business benefits of our technology. It works extraordinarily well.

Martha Heller is president of executive recruiting firm Heller Search Associates and author of The CIO Paradox. Follow her on Twitter: @marthaheller.

Martha Heller is president of executive recruiting firm Heller Search Associates and author of The CIO Paradox. Follow her on Twitter: @marthaheller.

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Read more about real estate in CIO's Real estate Drilldown.

This story, "How Data Analytics Is Transforming the Real-Estate Industry" was originally published by CIO.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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