Game-Changing Trends in Design and Collaboration

Each year, at our Sperry Van Ness® (SVN) National Conference, I talk to our commercial real estate advisors and business owners about game-changing trends. Game-changers occur when people are doing things (working, playing, living) differently than they used to just a few years ago. This year, we have four categories: Communication, Design, Collaboration and Distribution.

Trends in Design and Collaboration

The following video features the second portion of my 2015 talk on trends. Watch the video and read the takeaways below.

Main Takeaways in Design Trends:

1. Mobile first, mobile only. Tech engineers are no longer adapting desktop software for tablets and smartphones. Instead they are designing straight to mobile.

2. Different devices require different design elements. Desktop software can accommodate a longer attention span than something designed for a tablet, phone or watch.

3. Cybersecurity will be a key element and consideration of every new design.

4. The mass adoption of mobile technology has opened the door for innovators to bypass existing infrastructure. Uber, Airbnb, Bitcoin and Apple Pay are examples of innovative businesses that circumvented traditional infrastructure.

Mobile technology has massively altered design. Engineers are designing for shorter and shorter attention spans and developing systems that don’t rely on existing infrastructure. In underdeveloped countries, the combination of mobile adoption and lack of existing infrastructure, i.e. phone lines and banking systems, has sped up mass adoption of new business models. In developed countries, however, we are seeing slower adoption of alternative currencies (Bitcoin, Apple Pay) and lawsuits levied against new business models (Uber, Airbnb). The key for new technology to achieve mass adoption and acceptance is: access, affordability and accountability. As discussed in the video, the aforementioned Bitcoin, Apple Pay, Uber, and Airbnb are caught in the accountability stage for now.

The expansion of technology also comes with new risks. As we move towards the Internet of Things where our watches communicate with our thermostats (see Nest) as well as our banks, security will continue to become a bigger and bigger issue. New technologies will therefore be required to incorporate security protocols into all design elements.

Main Takeaways in Collaboration Trends:

1. One form of collaboration is crowdsourcing. In the commercial real estate industry we are seeing the crowdsourcing of investment funds (Fundrise, Realty Mogul) and in the case of Comstak, the crowdsourcing of lease data.

2. At SVN, we have been leaders in collaboration and here are two examples:

a. Crowdsourcing of knowledge. Our service and product councils bring together experts around specific asset classes and services, who partner on transactions and share knowledge both online, on calls and in person at our national conferences.

b. Crowdsourcing of demand. The SVN National Sales Call, where our advisors feature new properties they are marketing, is revolutionary in allowing participation by outside brokers, clients and potential clients. This is due to our founding principle that no one advisor, local firm or national company knows all the potential buyers for a property. Only when you drive up demand by exposure to the entire marketplace does a client achieve the best value for their property.

At Sperry Van Ness International Corporation, we are watching these trends to see how they affect the commercial real estate industry. Our goal is to capitalize on these trends so that our advisors are using the most powerful tools to the benefit of their clients.

To view the full speech please visit our YouTube page.

Mobile technology and mass customization by Diane Danielson

Mobile technology has changed more than the fact that we can work anywhere at anytime. Earlier we discussed how mobilization has affected how we perceive time and use space.  This week, we’re looking at how it has increased the need for personalized services and mass customization, even in the B2B realm.

One of the interesting things about mobile technology is that we all use the same devices, but we customize them to fit our own needs. With over 775,000 apps in the iPhone store (including our own SVN™ Connect iPad and iPhone apps), and multiple settings for font size, ringtones, and hundreds of other options, it’s statistically impossible to duplicate another individual’s mobile experience.  On top of that, the smartphone case market is booming – everyone wants to personalize his or her identical device.

When it comes to content on your device, again, no two people see the same Twitter or Facebook feed. We personalize our feeds to fit our own unique interests. For example, my Twitter feed is full of local news + social media and business gurus + commercial real estate contacts + a handful of pop culture tweeters. This is a mix that is not likely to be duplicated by anyone else, but it works for me.

As a result of all this personalization in the palm of our hands, mobile technology has helped solidify the era of mass customization.

How is customization being used in your industry? In the hospitality industry, hotels are all delivering the same basic product: a room for rent. Yet, at many hotels these days, you can:

Big mugs and “to go” cups. Now that’s mass customization in a hotel that I really appreciate!
  • choose different rates that might include different benefits like breakfast or complimentary internet access
  • have a wake-up call, use an old-fashioned alarm clock or dock your iphone right next to your bed.
  • make coffee in your room, and even have your choice of mugs or “to go” cups.
  • Self-park or valet-park
  • Check out online or in person
  • Earn points towards future stays
  • Use points from other frequent traveler programs

Providing customization in the details, whether it’s at initial contact or during delivery of services, can become your differentiator and the key to client loyalty.

So what does this mean for the commercial real estate industry? It means that you have to look at your business from the user’s perspective and get personal. Here are two areas where you can incorporate some customization.


Start with something as basic as your website contact page. Nothing is more frustrating than wanting to contact someone by phone and there is only a generic contact form on the page or vice versa. You need to give site visitors both options. In addition, you can further personalize your communications by allowing site visitors to directly contact individuals at the firm or by area of expertise.

In addition, there are potential clients out there who may prefer to get to know you and your business via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or even an eNewsletter. Provide them with options.  Do you send out email blasts? Consider segmenting your list. Most email distribution programs have this option, which even allows recipients to select the type of offerings about which they want to hear.


This past year, SVNIC focused on rolling out two more service options for our franchisees to adopt: Property Management and Auction Services. We also have specialty product councils, where our Advisors can team up with others who have a product specialty like hospitality or marinas. The ability to provide multiple, related services for a client creates the perfect platform for client personalization.

Diane Danielson

How are you setting up your business up for customization this year?

Diane K. Danielson is the Chief Platform Officer at Sperry Van Ness International Corp. Click here to follow her on Twitter.

Mobile Technology – Why having the Internet in your pocket changes how we use space.

We all know mobile is a huge trend this year, but I believe that we need to break it down further to really understand its reach. Earlier this month, I wrote about how mobile technology has changed how we perceive time. This week, I’m focused on how it changes our use of space.

In real estate, whether it’s residential or commercial, we are selling space and location and mobile technology has changed that forever.

You can now work anywhere. Companies like Sperry Van Ness International Corp. are storing their data and accessing software in the cloud. This means our employees and Advisors can work from wherever they want.  This change affects the traditional definition of “office space.” One example of the new era of office space is the Boston Innovation District (@IDBoston). This new district is a true testament to their “Live Play Work” slogan, with innovation centers where entrepreneurs can come together and smaller housing units with shared workspaces right in the building.  We’ve also recently seen the launch of Marriott’s workspace on demand program (powered by LiquidSpace) where a traditional hotelier is now providing short-term office space.

You can now live smaller. When you downsize your desktop computer to a laptop or tablet, do you really need a desk?  If you carry your books around on a Kindle, what would you do with a bookshelf? What if your iPad is your TV?  We used to need hundreds of square feet to hold all our stuff, but the next generation is able to fit all their possessions in the back of a Zipcar. And, who needs a parking space if you can share a car? This is why the Boston Innovation District is testing out micro-units with housing as small as 300 sf.

You can now share space across industries. While this has been a trend for dying industries, it may be a way to revive a few. In retail, with the ease of purchasing books, music and games on mobile devices, bookstores are trying to stay in business by adding cafés; and GameStop and others are pursuing kiosks, pop-ups and sub-leases within other stores. The Boston Globe, mired in another struggling industry, has even opened up it’s extra space to entrepreneurs. While some might see this as a depressing last ditch save, others might see the opportunity in the cross-pollination of ideas. What true entrepreneur would be able to resist telling their landlord how they might improve their service?

How do we address these changes in the commercial real estate industry? We can do the following:

  1. Help tenants and owners incorporate flexibility and adaptability into their space planning. Whether it’s for growth, remote workers, or in the worst case, downsizing, the more we can incorporate flexibility and adaptability into their space planning, the better service we are providing. It’s likely that tenant reps may end up doing a bit of space matchmaking in order to make a deal work.
  2. Update traditional space calculations. Does that law firm really need that many square feet per attorney when you cut out the library? Is one conference room enough? Or can you create more shared spaces? How we calculate and use space is changing. There is a need for more “we space” and less “my space.”
  3. Look for office opportunities within residential settings and vice versa. As the Boston Innovation District demonstrates, people want to blend where they work with where they live now that mobile technology allows them to do so. In urban planning, the key will be to prevent financial districts or under-developed areas from becoming ghost towns. Washington DC did this with a stadium.  In that case, they built it and the people, and businesses, did come.
  4. Analyze your own true space needs. Has your ability to access the web from anywhere changed how you work? Are there adjustments in your space needs or in how you use your space that could either lower operating expenses or increase productivity? You might be surprised to find how much your mobility has changed how you work and use your current space.

Has mobile technology changed how you operate your business? Please comment below, I’d like to know.

Diane K. Danielson is the Chief Platform Officer of Sperry Van Ness International Corp. Follow her on Twitter at @DianeDanielson.


*All Sperry Van Ness® offices are independently owned and operated.


Mobile Technology’s Effect on Time and Business

Diane Danielson, Chief Platform Officer, Sperry Van Ness International Corp.

It’s unanimous that “mobile” is a top trend in 2013. But, it really needs to be broken down to examine how greatly it affects business. One aspect that mobile has changed tremendously in the past year is our perception of time.

  • How often do we talk with colleagues and immediately have to “look something up” to solve a debate. What did we do without Google at our fingertips?
  • When we download a season of our favorite TV show onto a mobile device, or watch via Hulu, we generally have no idea what night of the week it might be on. Gone are the days when we flocked to NBC’s Must See TV Thursday Night Lineup on Thursday night.
  • We see and read the news as it happens. No more waiting for a 6:00 pm news broadcast or the morning paper.

But, how does this time shift affect your business? It means that delivering services and information the same way you did in 2008 won’t work in a world where time has new, or no, meaning. It means we all need to adjust how we deliver services to meet the demands of the mobile world.

One example of a company that understands the new shift in how we perceive time is Comcast. They were one of the pioneers of using Twitter as instant customer service. Have an issue with Comcast? Tweet about it. Or better yet, tweet @comcastcares directly and their online twitter team will respond faster than you would ever get off hold on the phone!

In addition to Twitter, Comcast made another change. Remember the 4-hour window of wait time for service? Seems outrageous in an era of mobile technology and real-time communication, especially when drivers can be tracked by GPS. This is why Comcast dropped it to 2-hours with a guarantee to be within the window or you receive a $20 credit.

In commercial real estate, time as we know it is similarly collapsing. With new CRE tools like www.42Floors.com, clients (in certain markets) don’t have to wait to view a building. They can see photographs, street views, and maps from their computer (or tablet).  Through www.teneightapp.com, brokers and clients can rate buildings in real time.

There are also productivity tools like www.dropbox.com that make real-time data-sharing easy (and free). My latest find is www.slideshark.com, which allows you to view powerpoint shows on iPads and iPhones. Check out www.cre-apps.com or www.CREvine.com’s tool section for more.

At Sperry Van Ness International Corp., we have cloud-based systems for communication, marketing, CRM and project management so that our Advisors can deliver information to clients quickly and instantaneously.

How are you working in the new “time-less” era? Have you changed how you deliver services to clients? Are there new tools that help you shift time? Chime in below, we’d love to know.

Diane Danielson is the Chief Platform Officer of Sperry Van Ness International Corp.


*All Sperry Van Ness® offices are independently owned and operated.