Selling a real estate technology revolution

Copyright: David Lawson - Property Week  2001

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Strange and futuristic language has become an accepted hurdle to be overcome as property services move into the weird world of the Internet, and they don’t come much stranger than Zeborg, the new service being developed in the UK by Healey & Baker.    This is not some marketing ploy to create extra spin, however.  Even when allied to a major US partner like Cushman & Wakefield, H&B was well aware it was not equipped to venture into this strange new field alone. Zeborg is a specialist e-commerce company with the know-how to provide the sophisticated trechnology.

  ‘We have the property management skills: they have the software skills. It was a natural alliance,’ says Colin Hargreaves, head of the firm’s  European strategic ventures group.  H&B decided early in the technology revolution that it was impossible to decide which were the right paths to take in such a new area, so it has dipped into several, buying shares in joint ventures with specific partners. Zenborg, for instance, has developed FacilitiesWork, an e-commerce ‘marketplace’ which is being tested by C&W in the US and now being introduced by H&B to Europe.

  It claims to do more than agglomerate the massive purchasing power of the associate firms’ portfolios, ranging across thousands of properties. The system uses complex software to analyse and manipulate the data pouring in from clients to maximise efficiency.  Another strand is an alliance with Business Integration Group [BIG], another software company.   This includes property management functions such as lease administration, preventative maintenance, space management and facilities management. This will be launched in Europe in the first half of the year.

 These strands are intended to weave into a single security blanket for corporate customers. In the US it was dubbed with a jaw-breaking term ‘e-realestatesolutions’ but boils down to a single source for a wide cross-section of property services.  ‘Facilities managers will be able to access areas like building maintenance at the touch of a button,’ says Hargreaves. One major client, Lucent, is already doing this via a call centre which links management of all its European buildings.  The advantage to the client is transferring all responsibilities and costs for staff, software computers and office space in return for a 24-hour online helpdesk.

  Other services planned to be rolled out across Europe include a property listings service geared heavily towards space-finding, which should ease the burden for managers planning relocations. Buying an selling space is also part of the plan. Predictably, the US platform launched with the backing of Goldman Sacks has the futuristic label Zethus.