Communications Tools

Sept. 1, 2005
Delivering voice, e-mail, and data systems effectively

In commercial real estate, there are three forms of necessary communications at the property level: voice, e-mail, and data. Communications delivery comes in two forms: hard-wired and wireless. In order to determine the right tools and optimal type of delivery, you need to look at your company’s culture and geographic footprint to evaluate current requirements as well as tomorrow’s expectations.

First, determine the size and geographic footprint your company will maintain 24 months from today. Next, identify global gaps and/or duplication in communications through voice, e-mail, and data. Once you understand the existing costs on a global basis, place a direct value on duplication of efforts (as well as loss of information) to create a cost-to-benefit ratio for potential solutions that integrate all modes of communications. The larger the geographic reach, the more important wireless convergence of voice, e-mail, and data becomes. Due to this convergence, commercial real estate is dramatically changing as the interaction between owners, property managers, facilities managers, tenants, and vendors is occurring on a real-time basis.

For instance, say that a tenant submits a work order request via the Web. That work order request is sent via e-mail wirelessly to the property manager. The property manager contacts the appropriate vendor to remedy the problem and the tenant then receives an e-mail closing the request, which was sent wirelessly by the property manager from his or her handheld device. In this type of scenario, remote access for all three communications modes is essential.

For companies managing multiple locations in larger geographic regions, centralization of technologies is essential to keeping long-term ownership costs low. Installation of a Voice-over-Internet Protocol (VoIP) system - with the main hardware in centralized data centers and remote offices using call managers, firewalls, public Internet Ts, and secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnels - will dramatically decrease the cost of running management offices in multiple locations. Generally, the internal management team that understands the core business must define the balance of the needs of the various technologies.

When choosing implementation partners, work with certified and authorized vendors who are disciplined in asking questions about your business. Long-term relationships and annual maintenance contracts are the foundation of maintaining an effective communications strategy. Lock on to proven technologies that can be done quickly and affordably. If implementation of a solution takes longer then 90 days, do not do it. Finally, remember that it is not just about choosing a technology solution; it is your company’s culture and personal style driving these needs.

Cisco or Avaya? Outlook or Lotus Notes? Blackberry or Palm? All of these technologies are industry standards and can be implemented in less than 3 months. They are generally low in cost, scalable, reliable, user friendly, connectable to other software and hardware, and, most importantly, provide a return on investment. Using the 10 quick tips below, you can begin selecting the right solutions that will fit your company’s size, culture, and budget while providing the best mix of voice, data, and e-mail communications.

Ian Marlow is executive vice president, COO/CIO, and head of Global Facility Services at The Gale Co. (, with company headquarters in Florham Park, NJ.

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