Where Real Estate and IT Meet

What business does IT have meddling in real estate? Plenty, if a company cares about its bottom line, says Accruent.
Acquiring and managing a physical site, whether a corporate office or a retail location, is an involved affair that can generate reams of paper work, legal documents and accounting data. Buried beneath the exceedingly manual work of managing and tracking it all is the task of making sure the site and facilities fall in line with an organization's business goals.

Now multiply that by tens or hundreds of locations, and it's little wonder that IT, with plenty already on its plate, is not exactly a bastion of real estate savvy in most organizations.

Santa Monica, CA-based Accruent, a maker of real estate management software, believes that the efficiencies to be gained by wedding this process to software, not to mention linking it to business strategy, may have many firms changing their tune.

Accruent CEO and founder, Mark Friedman, says that despite representing the second or third biggest cost, organizations "haven't historically paid attention to real estate" as a candidate for IT intervention.

Much in the same way that technology has revolutionized other aspects of business, Friedman says that his company's software can accomplish the same in a manner that is superior to "using Excel to manage billions." Dangling the prospect of recouping the two to five percent "leakage" caused by overspending, replicated work and nebulous fee structures is usually enough to get businesses to listen.

A quick scan of its customer base reveals corporations like Morgan Stanley, Boeing, and Phizer that got the message.

Whether buying, building, leasing or managing facilities, the process generates an abundance of transactions that results in millions draining out of a large corporation's coffers after all is said and done. Therefore keeping an eye on buried line items and benchmarks that affect the bottom line makes sense.

Another reason customers have engaged Accruent is to stay on the good side of regulatory bodies. For example, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is considering changes to lease accounting, according to Friedman, affecting, among other rules, "moving leases to the balance sheet."

Addressing the real estate blindness of traditional ERP and business process management suites, the software offers a centralized view of the data produced by the many entities involved (finance, legal, facilities management, etc.), is filtering it through a business intelligence platform derived from Business Objects. What results are data- and graphically-rich dashboards and reporting functions that measure the performance of a firm's real estate portfolio as it pertains to a firm's goals. Since rarely does one size fit all, Accruent also offers suites tailored to certain types of business, such as finance, retail, healthcare and manufacturing.

The company kicked off 2007 with a new version of its software, Accruent 7. New to version 7 is support for Oracle 10g, Microsoft Office integration, and a web-enabled Lease Administration module to centralize leasing oversight of an entire organization. Improvements have also been made to the software's standards-friendly architecture, which provides hooks to other business intelligence and ERP apps.

However, the most striking and immediately apparent upgrade is the new visualization engine. Inspired by Windows Vista's enriched display capabilities, users can now interact with 3D overlays over digital maps, offering virtual pushpins and at-a-glance visuals that can be tailored to represent a desired metric or data set.

On the hardware side, Accruent recommends a dual-core Intel Xeon-powered server, 3 GHz or above, for each of the servers powering its platform (application, database, file and markup, and reporting). While most are well served by 2 GB of RAM, the database server requires 4 GB.

Accruent 7 is available now. Pricing details are available by contacting the company.

This article was first published on EnterpriseITPlanet.com.

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