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Perspective: Rebecca Milne, Incendium Consulting

Incendium is a leading corporate real estate innovation company that believes CRE can change the world of work. Here, we ask the consultancy’s Manager, Rebecca Milne, exactly how – and much more.


4 min read

Rebecca Milne of Incendium Consulting

What is the best thing about your job?

It’s an exciting time to be working in corporate real estate as the industry becomes increasingly more complex due to the rapid rate of business change. This is reshaping business strategy, operations, consumer preferences and, ultimately, how and where people work. One of the best parts of my job is problem solving and guiding clients through these challenges; developing solutions and strategies that adapt and re-imagine their operating models and portfolios. Clients are having to respond to the organisational and operational challenges they are facing, and this is putting CRE front and centre of business change.

You don’t have a traditional real estate background, how do you think this helps you in CRE?

My background is a bit more diverse than the usual CRE professional. I started off in business advisory at EY in New Zealand, working with a range of public and private sector clients across different industries and geographies, solving complex policy and business challenges. I then did the jump from the corporate to the start-up world and helped develop a company that was focused on developing and promoting innovative ways of driving social outcomes through investment. We focused on investing in companies that were ‘for profit’ but with a purpose of trying to tackle the tricky social issues of today through innovation. This diverse background allows me to tackle client problems with a dynamic approach that challenges the conventional CRE way of doing things. To retain relevance, CRE professionals need to become business strategists with a deep understanding of how the world is changing and what that means for the sector.

In what way is the client more knowledgeable than 10 years ago?

Real estate is one of the largest overhead costs to a business and has historically been a long-term decision based on an unrealistic view of the company’s projected growth and real estate requirements. Today, our clients’ businesses have to be agile; they increasingly understand that building flexibility into their portfolio is an important enabler of their organisation’s performance and value. There is a much greater understanding now that property is a strategic asset that sits at the heart of a business, rather than just an expense. And, fundamentally, clients now have more options to develop their portfolio and adjust for growth, headcount and the workplace requirements of their employees. It is a very challenging  – albeit exciting – time.

In the UK, our market data indicates that, by 2023, 12.5% of the office market will consist of flexible workspace – up from 6% today.

What is stopping the property sector providing truly innovative solutions to occupiers?

In today’s world, no company is immune from sectoral disruption. Innovation and potential obsolescence are something that all industries, sectors and businesses will continue to grapple with during a period of aggressive change. CRE has to work harder than it ever has before in order to match customer demands and expectations.

However, the property sector is currently constrained by financing and the provision of physical assets, and yet so many customer demands (and real value) are represented by the need to offer ‘value-add’ services beyond just ‘space’. As we move towards delivering an experience, rather than simply a building or space, we need to look beyond our sector for new technologies and services to understand how to innovate and match end user expectations, to improve the performance, user experience and value of solutions. 

Remember that Swatch knew how to compete against Timex on watches, but they never factored in Apple joining the market. Whilst I can’t tell you who the Apple of the real estate sector will be, they are coming. Products are being designed that we don’t even know we need yet…

In your view has the rise of flexible space been created because developers were slow to react to the changing nature of work?

Work is no longer just a place we go, it is what we do. The nature of the workplace is changing, and the delivery of office space is no longer just the provision of an asset but an experiential service. Many developers were slow to adjust to the changing business model and the fact that the value of the workplace didn’t come from the ‘bricks and mortar’, but rather by facilitating effective interaction, collaboration and building the community within it.   

However, as with any trend, it is never created by one player’s response, but by wider client demand and a shift in market perception. The operational reality for businesses today is one of volatility and uncertainty, which has been a key driver in moving the industry forward. This uncertainty, coupled with the changing ways of working, has driven the rapid shift to flex space, as it is such a fast and agile route to market for organisations of all sizes.

In the UK, our market data indicates that, by 2023, 12.5% of the office market will consist of flexible workspace – up from 6% today. Consider any other product of this scale more than doubling in size in three years! The changes in our industry are coming at an astonishing rate, and I believe there has never been a better time to be involved in shaping the future of work!ω

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