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Agile working has been the talk of the town for the last couple of years. The initial Manifesto for Agile Software Development was created in 2001 with the aim of “uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it”. In short: Agility provides an iterative approach to software development or project management to help deliver value to customers faster. This, of course, isn’t news to the software world.

In a recent workshop of some 50 corporate real estate professionals, we tried applying this promising principle. The challenge? Well, let’s just say that the real estate industry is not exactly known for being especially agile-minded and flexible.

But this is not because professionals are unwilling to try new things, but rather due to the nature of real estate where verification processes are time-consuming and transactions move slower in general.

Agile is still news!

In the corporate real estate world, agile working is coming in hot off the presses. Together with CoreNet Global’s Central Europe Chapter, SAP hosted a two-day workshop at the Innovation Center Potsdam with the goal of exploring if and how agile working can be introduced into corporate real estate management. Eckhard von Münchow, who prepared this CoreNet Central Europe Chapter event, shared his thoughts about the format:
“We offered the workshop to demystify the notion of agile working. The term has been used as a buzzword in all sorts of contexts. We wanted to experience agile working so that participants can apply agility in their everyday work and create workspaces that are suitable for many working styles."

This learning purpose was facilitated by four coaches from the agile space, who helped us reach the following takeaways in the realm of corporate real estate:

  • Agility requires new ways of thinking, new (soft) skill sets and leadership changes.

  • These changes affect the culture, mindset and planning behavior of the organization.

  • Start your innovation process with an open mind, rather than the idea of a manifested solution.

  • The solution will develop dynamically throughout the process.

  • Agility is not a synonym for flexibility. Agile teams follow a set agenda and don’t let external events interfere with their sprint periods.

It’s an experience economy, after all.

While these findings are not new to the software world, they are novel to the real estate industry. Marco Hofmann, Head of the Line of Business Real Estate at SAP, had this to say about his own experiences with agile working methods in corporate real estate:
“One of the advantages of implementing agile-working methods in corporate real estate is definitely the speed with which we can deliver products to our customers. In our case, the product team behind SAP Cloud for Real Estate delivers new features or product improvements monthly, in smaller, but more frequent increments. We can, therefore, react to customer needs faster, evaluate results continuously and consequently, respond to their requirements much faster.”

Agile working can, therefore, have a positive effect on our customers and product users. In real estate, we must constantly be listening to the opinions, intuition and the intentions of our customers and users to create the best products and experiences. And agile working methods are great for making sure we do just that.