Portal helps landlords service customers

Copyright: David Lawson - Property Week  2001

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Tenants of an office block in London’s Berkeley Square will soon be able to report a blown light bulb, skim a list of stationery suppliers, check whether there is any expansion space in the building , find out when the lift renovation will be finished or simply see what movies are showing after work in the local theatres. And it can all be done from a desktop computer

  This kind of service has been around for a long time within companies, first as local area networks and lately as increasingly sophisticated intranets but linking multiple tenants takes on a new dimension. It closes the gap between landlord and tenant, according to Deborah Matthews of Jones Lang LaSalle, which will use Berkeley Square House as a launchpad for its PyramidOffice ‘portal’ in the UK.

  One building could rapidly become half a dozen this year as the system takes off, and rapidly spread throughout  Europe. But it is only the tip of a very large iceberg. JLL is one of a small band of pioneers developing online tenant services in the US which will eventually spread across the Atlantic. Wrapping up a range of functions in single portals is the most visible but a lot more is going on behind the scenes.

   ‘We are working on several initiatives which will improve property management by streamlining accounting and procurement,’ says e-business director Peter mantle. Berkeley Square house is one of hundreds of buildings managed by the property consultants. Systems are being developed to revolutionise the back-office operations by pooling functions such as lease administration and purchase of  utilities.

   Central helpdesks will be developed for each building but there is no reason why these have to be on the premises. They could be run remotely in future via a call centres.  At first this will be offered to in-house clients but tenants can join in later. ‘We can work with individual tenants on areas like aggregation of supplies to take advantage of bulk purchasing discounts,’ says Mantle.

  But why has it taken so long to launch when alliances to exploit web-based services were announced with so much fuss in the US more than a year ago?  ‘You have to remember that Europe is a different market,’ says Mantle. ‘Landlords do not play such a central role in service provision over here.’

    That means facilities managers will continue to play a crucial role as  gatekeepers within firms. But they will have the opportunity to tap into  systems ranging from individual building portals to wider purchasing and administrative networks.

 It is not just about cutting costs but increasing efficiency, says Mantle. In the US, for instance, the property agents and landlords which banded together to form an alliance called Octane discovered they had been dealing with more than 200,000 suppliers. ‘Just rationalising those will be a major saving,’ he says.