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The Brokerage Real Estate Tech Race: JLL Adds Workplace Planning Tool InSite To Its Arsenal

In another move to diversify its offerings to provide clients with a breadth of services to cover their real estate needs, JLL has launched a new workplace planning tool called JLL InSite. 

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Simply put, JLL InSite streamlines the workplace planning, relocation and build-out budgeting process. The interactive tool is fluid in that it can visualize space needs and anticipate costs for clients' specific needs, speeding up a process that traditionally can take anywhere between a few weeks and several months, JLL Occupancy Planning Vice President Megan Mackinson said.

“We see it as a major differentiator for clients looking to change the way they work, whether that’s upsizing, downsizing, moving or staying in place,” Mackinson said. “The meat of it is if you’re trying to determine how much space you need — current space or looking for new space — it’s a tool that lets you do a quick space calculation to recommend how much space you need based on the industry standard … Once you have that recommendation it’s an interactive tool. We tweak it based on client standards."

Major brokerages have seen the perks of tech for clients and are aggressively racing to dominate the space by acquiring real estate tech startups, investing in internal tech solutions and partnering with tech accelerators

CBRE, one of the largest commercial brokerages in the world, launched workplace experiences platform CBRE 360 in January, headed by former Zipcar exec Andrew Kupiec. The mobile app is tailored to clients' needs and allows employees to access building services and amenities, such as booking conference rooms, managing meetings and sending out maintenance requests. Last January CBRE acquired 3D real estate modeling firm Floored. Similar in part to JLL InSite, Floored lets users visualize and edit floor plans in 2D and 3D and to create customized space layouts in real time.

In its March 8 Investor Day report, JPMorgan analysts said CBRE Chief Digital and Technology Officer Chandra Dhandapani has successfully made tech a front-and-center business driver for the firm.

“She appears to have helped [CBRE] create a comprehensive suite of technology offerings for clients and seems to be integrating technology-oriented acquisitions and internally developed software into all lines of business,” the report reads. “Real estate service clients seem willing to pay for technology solutions that go along with traditional functions like sales, leasing, property management and workspace management.”

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A screenshot of JLL InSite's space calculator

The goal of JLL InSite is to help clients plan ahead to cut down on both unnecessary costs and the time associated with workplace revamps and relocations.

The three-in-one tool allows companies to compare potential locations to see which would make the best use of space to accommodate employees and all of their needs. In addition to generating a tentative budget based on those perceived needs in a matter of minutes, JLL’s team of architects and interior designers create test-fits and provide 3D walk-through visualizations to help jump-start clients’ design efforts.

“Our drawings are done by architects and interior designers. We follow the major codes and they are code compliant,” Mackinson said. “[From there] you can hand them off to an architect.”

This is not JLL’s first foray into tech. The publicly traded brokerage giant, which boasts a market cap of about $7.8B, introduced JLL Spark, a global business that identifies PropTech solutions and delivers them to clients, in 2017. Headed by co-CEOs Mihir Shah and Yishai Lerner, the goal of the initiative is to create new products and invest in CRE tech startups that will transform clients' businesses. JLL Spark made its first investment in late March when it acquired Stessa, a software-as-a-service platform that tracks the success of income properties

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JPMorgan analyst and Executive Director Anthony Paolone is not surprised by major brokerages pushing into tech.

“I think it’s good,” Paolone said. “It’s in part responding to where the world is going. Business overall is going in a direction where you’re going to have the top handful of global competitors dominate the tech landscape.” 

CRE tech experts reiterate that the industry’s adoption of tech, which many fear could eliminate the need for brokers or further automate services that would encroach on individual jobs, will not put people out of work. Rather, tech will continue to streamline the work, creating a more paperless, transparent approach to sourcing deals and closing transactions.  

“Software will only get you so far if you don’t have skilled people behind the scenes,” JLL Head of Americas Occupancy Planning Susan Wasmund said in a statement. “Our team truly understands how space is most effectively planned, used and built, so we are able to provide clients with plans and budgets tailored to their unique workplace strategies.”