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JCRE
8,4 Enhancing the contribution of
corporate real estate to
corporate strategy
188
Johannes J.L. Scheffer
ING Real Estate, The Hague, The Netherlands
Bastiaan P. Singer
Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands, and
Marc C.C. Van Meerwijk
JP Morgan, London, UK

Abstract
Purpose – The purpose of this research paper is to provide corporate real estate executives with a
measurement tool for pinpointing and enhancing the contribution of corporate real estate to corporate
strategy.
Design/methodology/approach – A measurement tool is designed by adopting a theoretical
framework in which seven added values of real estate are aligned with nine corporate strategic driving
forces. The practical applicability of this tool is validated by assessing the contribution of corporate
real estate to corporate strategy at 14 Dutch-based global corporations.
Findings – Many corporations still lack sufficient insight into the impact of corporate real estate
decisions on corporate performance. Therefore, it is difficult for senior management and other
stakeholders to grasp the actual contribution of corporate real estate.
Research limitations/implications – Future research may be conducted to investigate the
exhaustiveness of the listed real estate issues. Moreover, the linkage between the added values and the
strategic driving forces could be validated further in practice.
Practical implications – The measurement tool supports corporate real estate executives in
aligning corporate real estate with corporate strategy. Thereby it contributes to the further recognition
of the importance of real estate in a corporate setting.
Originality/value – Prior papers on the contribution of corporate real estate to corporate strategy
have primarily been focused on either pinpointing various driving forces or linking specific property
decisions to corporate strategy. This paper, however, unveils the linkage between fundamental drivers
of corporate real estate and corporate strategy in a comprehensive management tool for portfolio
analysis and strategy formulation.
Keywords Real estate, Corporate strategy, Value added, Strategic alignment
Paper type Research paper

The content of this paper reflects the personal view of the authors and is not related to their
current employment function or the companies by whom they are employed.
The authors would like to thank Deloitte Real Estate, ING Real Estate and the expert
Journal of Corporate Real Estate
Vol. 8 No. 4, 2006 panel led by Professor Hans de Jonge of Delft University of Technology, for supporting and
pp. 188-197 facilitating the research project. The participating corporations are also greatly appreciated
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
1463-001X
for their cooperation. Last but not least the authors are grateful to Professor Geert Dewulf
DOI 10.1108/14630010610714862 of the University of Twente for his assistance in writing this paper.
Introduction Contribution of
Since, the late 1990s, managing the corporate real estate portfolio is receiving increased corporate real
attention in the board room – especially at large corporations – as a source of
competitive advantage. As stated by Joroff et al. (1993), “corporate real estate is rapidly estate
undergoing a transformation other corporate resources such as human resources
and information services have recently experienced”. In order to claim their role as
so-called Business Strategists, corporate real estate executives should principally be 189
concerned with “business trends influencing the corporation’s strategic advantage,
productivity, and stakeholder value” (Joroff et al., 1993). As Lindholm et al. (2006)
argue, the strategic management of the real estate portfolio must be derived from and
support the overarching corporate strategy in order to ensure an effective contribution
to the corporation as a whole.
Resulting from these series of propositions, the contribution of corporate real estate
to overall business objectives should be dominated by the return on the core business
activities (Krumm, 1999). Besides, intensifying concentration on the bottom line of the
corporation also helps corporate real estate departments in their efforts to become more
involved in the strategic management decision-making process within corporations:
By producing real estate strategic plans that address the business units’ objectives
(efficiency, customer satisfaction, productivity, etc.), corporate real estate executives can best
demonstrate their value and provide a platform for being involved in broader corporate
planning process (Lambert et al., 1995).
On the subject of corporate real estate and its contributions to competitive advantage,
some published research exists to date. However, it is acknowledged that there is still a
need for more specific research (Roulac, 2001). Some of the current papers focus on
pinpointing the driving forces of corporate real estate and corporate decision-making
(De Jonge, 1996; Nourse and Roulac, 1993). In some cases, attempts have been made to
link both strategic perspectives (Roulac, 2001). Other papers provide specific strategies
along with measurable items to analyse and formulate corporate estate strategies
(Lindholm and Leväinen, 2006; Osgood, 2004).
The purpose of this research paper, however, is to provide a practical measurement
tool that enables corporate real estate executives to unveil the alignment between the
centres of gravity among the driving forces of corporate real estate and corporate
strategy. This insight enables them to make conscious and unambiguous decisions
about the fundamental premises of corporate real estate employment. The range of its
application is extensive. The tool can be utilised by corporate real estate executives of
both small and large-scale facilities since it is well applicable on both object and
portfolio level. Moreover, it cannot only be used to analyse the alignment of corporate
real estate to corporate strategy, but can also be used as a directive for the continuous
adaptation of the real estate approach as a result of changes in the strategic corporate
setting. The latter also offers senior management a means to steer the corporate real
estate department.

Methodology
Research approach
As the first step in the development of the practical measurement tool, a theoretical
framework has been drawn up, in which the key elements of corporate real estate and
JCRE corporate strategy are addressed. Next to that, the alignment between both is
8,4 identified. Since, there is a gap between the rather abstract key elements of corporate
real estate and the quite specific real estate decisions a corporate real estate executive
faces in daily practice, extensive literature research has been conducted focusing on the
various key elements. Consequently, each abstract key element has been concretised
into a number of measurable items.
190 The second step in the development of the practical measurement tool was
concerned with the evaluation of the practical applicability of the model. This
evaluation process was proposed by an expert panel overseeing the theoretical validity
of the model, led by real estate Management Professor Hans de Jonge of Delft
University of Technology. The evaluation has taken place through a validation of the
theoretical tool within the Dutch corporate real estate practice. For this purpose, a set of
global Dutch-based corporations has been selected and found willing to participate in
the research.
The sample of globally operating corporations has been subjected to an assessment
of measuring the contribution of corporate real estate to their overall business
objectives. In order to do so, information has been derived from open interviews
with the corporations’ real estate executive(s) and from confidential documents
distributed by some of them. Furthermore, publicly accessible documentation, like
annual reports, corporate web sites etcetera were addressed. The participating
corporate real estate executives were also asked to evaluate the usefulness of the model
in their daily practice: does it provide them with additional insights concerning the
relationship between controllable corporate real estate issues and the drivers of
corporate strategy? Finally, the validity of the model and the exhaustiveness of the
listed measurable items have been evaluated with and underpinned by the
participants, based on their extensive knowledge and expertise.

Research sample
Since, few corporations have an explicitly formulated real estate strategy in current
corporate real estate practices (Ernst & Young, 2005; PropertyNL, 2004) and research
shows that mostly large corporations are involved in the strategic management of
corporate real estate (Ernst & Young, 2002), the selection of the research population for
assessing the model’s validity focused exclusively on the top 200 Dutch corporations.
Subsequently, after consulting the expert panel, selection criteria have been framed
based on the assumption of a correlation between the actual criteria and the extent to
which a corporation actively asserts corporate real estate in achieving its corporate
objectives.
The first selection criterion relates to the amount of floor area a corporation uses to
accommodate its business processes. Both real estate assets that belong to the
corporation as legal property and as economical property are taken into account.
Therefore, floor area used on a freehold, lease and/or rent basis is incorporated. Based
on an expert panel discussion, the minimum amount of floor area has been set on
100,000 m2 gross space area.
The second selection criterion relates to the organisation of corporate real estate
management. The research exclusively focuses on corporations that consist of a
department acting as an autonomous entity within the corporation with the
management of corporate real estate as its main task.
In compiling the list of the research population, both publicly accessible and private Contribution of
sources of information have been used. Based on Euronext stock exchange data, public corporate real
licensed corporations have been identified that are part of the Dutch Indices AEX,
Midkap and Other Funds. These entities have been complemented by private estate
corporations, traced on the basis of the two Dutch publicly accessible databases
PropertyNL and Vastgoedmarkt as well as on private sources. The latter refers to
members of CoreNet Global and (other) experts in the field of real estate management. 191
Of the broad list of corporations that suited the criteria set out above,
14 Dutch-based globally operating corporations were found willing to participate in
this research. The research sample consists of corporations from the following
industries: financial services, information technology, energy, wholesale trade,
aviation, retail, electronics, communications, and logistics.

Theoretical framework
As a starting point of this study, the research model adopts a framework introduced by
Hugh Nourse and Stephen Roulac, linking eight alternative real estate strategies to
nine so-called strategic driving forces (Table I). A driving force is “a central hook that
can serve as a clear and simple concept to guide top management in developing the
strategic framework” (Nourse and Roulac, 1993). By linking specific driving forces to
specific real estate strategies, the approach:
. . . provides a context for negotiating competing interests and increases the like hood that a
specific real estate decision will be consistent with the enterprise’s overall real estate strategy
and thereby supports realization of corporate business objectives (Nourse and Roulac, 1993).

(1) Products offered A business with this driving force defines the business by its products and
products similar to existing ones
(2) Market needs A business with this driving force defines the business by attempting to
serve the particular needs of a particular segment of a market
(3) Technology A business with this driving force defines the business by attempting to
provide products, services, and markets derived from its technological
expertise
(4) Production capability A business with this driving force defines the business by attempting to
provide products and services that can be produced using its production
capabilities
(5) Method of sale A business with this driving force will define the business by attempting
to provide products and services that can be sold by the company’s way of
convincing customers to buy
(6) Method of distribution A business with this driving force defines the business by attempting to
provide products and services that can be sold by its distribution system
(7) Natural resource A business with this driving force defines its business by attempting to
provide products and services that are generated from its control and use
of particular resources
(8) Size/growth A business with this driving force defines its business by attempting to
provide products and services that meet new size or growth objectives
(9) Return/profit A business with this driving force defines its business by attempting to
provide products and services that will meet its targeted return or profit
measures Table I.
Nine strategic driving
Source: Nourse and Roulac (1993) forces
JCRE Deviating from the approach of Nourse and Roulac, the perspective of alternative real
8,4 estate strategies is substituted for the basic assumption that real estate should be
considered as a resource that can contribute to the realisation of corporate business
objectives through a series of added values. From this perspective, real estate strategy
is addressed in a similar manner as corporate strategy: through a series of central
hooks that can serve as clear and simple concepts. In an effort to pinpoint added value
192 of real estate, De Jonge describes seven elements of added value (Table II) contributing
to the transformation of real estate from mere “cost of doing business” to a true
corporate asset (De Jonge, 1996).
In order to attain a tool to measure the alignment of corporate real estate with
corporate strategy, relationships between specific added values of real estate and
specific strategic driving forces have been identified (Figure 1). Note that the added
value “Risk control” is linked to all strategic driving forces, since risk is embedded in
the entire corporate strategy.
At the basis of the model is the assumption that a corporate strategy is positioned
around one or more strategic driving forces. Depending on which driving force is
considered, one or more added values are suitable to support the specific driving force.
In order to assess whether the appropriate added values are promoted by the
organisation and whether the full potential of the added values are utilised, the seven
added values are put into operation by drawing up 25 specifically measurable items
(Table II). These items have been developed by performing literature research and
have been underpinned by the participating corporate real estate executives.

(1) Increasing productivity (1) Selection of location


(2) Innovative workplaces
(3) Retaining human capital
(2) Cost reduction (4) Workplace costs
(5) Accommodation costs
(6) Facility costs
(7) Benchmarking
(8) Corporate finance
(3) Risk control (9) Inflexibility of real estate portfolio
(10) Selection of location
(11) Value risk
(12) Working environment
(13) Environmental aspects
(14) Development process
(4) Increase of value (15) Acquisition and disposal of real estate
(16) Redevelopment of real estate
(17) Market analysis
(5) Increase of flexibility (18) Organisational flexibility
(19) Financial flexibility
(20) Technical flexibility
(6) Changing the culture (21) Workplace innovation
(22) Communication
(7) PR and marketing (23) Image
(24) Selling points
Table II. (25) Sales strategy
Seven elements of
added value Source: De Jonge (1996)
Added values Contribution of
corporate real

PR & Marketing
estate

Productivity

Flexibility

Culture
Value
Costs

Risk
Driving forces
193
Products
Market
Technology
Production
Resources
Distribution
Figure 1.
Sales Relationship between
Growth driving forces and added
values
Profit

Empirical results
Based on the theoretical framework, a three stage model has been developed in which
the key elements of corporate real estate and corporate strategy are addressed and the
relationship between both elements is identified. Also, the 25 measurable items are
included that are identified to bridge the gap between the rather abstract key elements
of corporate real estate and the specific real estate decisions that corporate real estate
executives face in daily practice. Each of the 25 measurable items are subjected to an
ordinal scale in order to assess the extent to which each of the items is employed to
contribute to the realisation of corporate objectives. The extent of employment for each
item should fall into one of the four following designated categories:
(1) no use;
(2) moderate use;
(3) fairly good use; and
(4) extensive use.

An example of the three stage model for one of the participating corporations is shown
in Figure 2.
When using the model, the first stage is to determine the contribution of each
measurable item to a specific key element of corporate estate. To measure the extent of
employment for each item, points are awarded in the model varying from zero points
for no use to three points for extensive use. Subsequently, for each key element of
corporate real estate, or added value, a maximum score can be determined. Finally, by
dividing the actual score of a corporation’s employment of the various measurable
items through the maximum score for each key element, the percentage of contribution
to the key element can be determined. Through assessing the percentage for each key
element a corporate real estate executive develops insight in the centres of gravity in
the current real estate approach.
8,4

194
JCRE

strategy
Figure 2.

alignment of corporate
Model for measuring the

real estate with corporate


EMPHASIS IN CORPORATE REAL ESTATE CONFRONTATION EMPHASIS IN CORPORATE STRATEGY

Selection of location 1 Two of the computing centres of Alpha are cost intensive and hard to move. Corporate profile
Therefore, thorough analyses take place regarding the presence of potential Corporation Alpha provides high-quality IT-services to
Innovative workplaces 2 skilled employees. Innovative workplaces are currently implemented, with as 44% PRODUCTIVITY PRODUCTS clients operating in information-intensive sectors, as
a main objective increasing productivity. With this implementation, employee industry, financial services, healthcare and government.
Retaining human capital 1
satisfaction is monitored through questionnaires. Alpha strives to be leading in these sectors within the
Netherlands, regarding both quality and quantity. Outside
the Netherlands, Alpha is active, especially as for IT-
Workplace costs 1 Alpha has implemented standards for workplaces for different types of infrastructure services.
employees in order to control the costs. By concentrating accommodation, MARKET
Accomodation costs 1 costs for both accommodation and facilities are reduced. By centrally
As a market leader, Alpha wants to grow further in the field
acquiring these facility services, 1 million Euros are saved annually. External
Facility costs 1 40% COSTS of managed ICT-services both in the Netherlands and in the
benchmarking takes place to control overall accommodation costs.
second home market, Great Britain. This growth should be
1 Benchmarking 1 Furthermore, through sale-leaseback-transactions capital formerly tied up in
based on long lasting projects and durable relationships
corporate real estate is freed, since the return on equity is higher than on real
2 TECHNOLOGY with clients. At the same time, the highest requirements are
Corporate finance estate.
to be set on the integrity and security of Alpha's services.

Through the sale-leaseback-transactions and by sub-letting, risks are


3 Corporate strategy
Inflexibility of real estate portfolio 2
reduced regarding inflexibility and value of the real estate portfolio. There Mission
Selection of location 1 are risks concerning the selection of locations, as this is highly dependent Alpha wants to be an innovative ICT-service company,
on the proximity of customers. Finally, Alpha is not subject to risks of the PRODUCTION contributing to creating actual business value by customers
Value risk 1 development process of real estate, since it takes no part in these kinds of based on thorough knowledge of their processes and a
activities as it doesn't belong to Alpha's core business. 28% RISK broad variety of capabilities.
Working environment 0
Environmental aspects 0 Vision
2 RESOURCES ICT has become common good within our society and
Development process 1 surprisingly "usual". Furthermore, margins have become
comparable to margins in other sectors. Now even the
4 labour market for ICT employees is "usual". In short, ICT is
Acquisition/disposal 1 Through analyses of the real estate market Alpha has been able to benefit as ordinary as water coming from a tap. Therefore, ICT
from engaging in sale-leaseback-transactions. Furthermore, value creation should just work for being at the centre of all business
Redevelopment 0 has been realised by exercising an option to buyback real estate and the 22% VALUE
DISTRIBUTION processes.
immediate refinancing of the premises.
Market analysis 1
Nevertheless, ICT will bring astonishing societal changes
for coming generations, surging organisations, servicing
Organisational flexibility 1 Alpha tends to enlarge the organisational flexibility by using new concepts on and processes to change fundamentally. These changes
workplaces. By a modular layout of the work floor in these concepts, the will stem from current and new technologies that will serve
Financial flexibility 2 technical flexibility is enhanced even so. Finally, the financial flexibility is 44% FLEXIBILITY SALES as a foundation for next generations to establish pioneer
enhanced during recent years by engaging into sale-leaseback-transactions. innovations. Alpha wants to keep up with these
Technical flexibility 1 developments closely and even more so,
to beactually part of these initiatives.
5
Workplace innovation 1 The implementation of innovative workplaces enhances the internal transfer Strategy
of knowledge. With this implementation, employees are accompanied by 33% CULTURE GROWTH Ambition and growth. Alpha is a full service ICT-provider
Communication 1 workshops. and strives to be leading in all information-intensive sectors
as industry, financial services, healthcare and government.
Alpha wants to be accommodated in solid buildings with its logo on top. The In the Dutch home market, growth is to be achieved
Image 1
solid exterior should prevent customers to think they pay too much for the autonomously as well as through outsourcing. Furthermore
Points of sale 1 services of Alpha. Furthermore, Alpha houses in the proximity of customers. PR & MARKETING PROFIT a merger with a strategic partner belongs to the
22%
As so, one office is situated near to The Hague where all governmental alternatives. In Great Britain, Alpha explicitly aims at
Sales strategy 0 clients house. services on infrastructure management.

Points awarded to each Justification for awarding by Percentage of employment Relative importance of each Description of corporate profile
1 measurable item
2 describing actions
3 for each added value
4 strategic driving force
5 and corporate strategy
In the second stage of the model, the corporate strategy of the corporation is analysed Contribution of
and the relative importance of the key elements of the corporate strategy, so-called corporate real
driving forces, is unravelled. By doing so, a corporate real estate executive develops
insight in the centres of gravity in the corporate strategy. estate
In the third and final stage of the model, the centres of gravity in the key elements of
corporate real estate are confronted with the key elements of corporate strategy. Since,
the relationship between the key elements of corporate real estate and corporate 195
strategy has been previously defined, an emphasis on certain key elements of corporate
strategy requires an emphasis on certain key elements of corporate real estate. By
confronting the centres of gravity between both sets of key elements, it becomes
apparent where alterations in the corporate real estate approach are necessary.
When looking at the presented example in Figure 2, the importance of the strategic
driving forces “Market” and “Growth” implies that the focus in corporate real estate
should be on “Flexibility” and “PR an Marketing” (and “Risk control” to some extent).
The percentages show that especially “PR & Marketing” should be more emphasised
in order to optimise the contribution to the corporate objectives, but also “Flexibility”
and “Risk control” offer a lot of potential for stronger positioning. However, a focus on
these specific added values does not mean the remainder should be neglected.
For all of the 14 studied corporations, these steps have been undertaken and verified
by the appropriate executives. The results of the study are shown in Figure 3,
conveying two sets of information. First of all, the figure depicts the extensiveness in
which added values of real estate are used that correlate to the appropriate strategic
driving forces of the corporation. These are the added values the corporate real estate
executive should be emphatically focused on. However, this does not imply that the
remainder of added values should be neglected. Therefore, the second type of
information presented in the figure represents the use of other added values of real
estate. For instance, the results of the previously mentioned corporation are presented
as case 1.
On the whole, merely half of the cases appear to have an explicit emphasis on
the added values that contribute to the appropriate driving forces. Furthermore,

61 61
51 54 52
42
31 35 31 33
24 20 20 22

Case 1 Case 2 Case 3 Case 4 Case 5 Case 6 Case 7

83
64 59 57 51 50 56
48 49
28 34
24 22 19

Figure 3.
Case 8 Case 9 Case 10 Case 11 Case 12 Case 13 Case 14 Contribution of corporate
real estate to corporate
strategy at the 14 studied
Use of added values contributing to Use of other added values [%] cases
the specific driving forces [%]
JCRE the extensiveness to which the added values are used in general is quite limited.
8,4 On average, only 42 percent of the potential added value is captured. Based on these
results, the contribution of corporate real estate to corporate strategy amongst the
studied cases can be improved significantly.
Besides, providing insight into the state of alignment between corporate real estate
and corporate strategy, the model also enables corporate real estate executives to set
196 targets in their strategic planning efforts. For instance, when cost reduction is a key
element for a corporation, a target can be set to realise an 80 percent score within the
time span of four years. Moreover, the model can be employed as a management tool.
It allows senior management and corporate real estate executives to confront their
stakeholders with argumentation for their policy. Furthermore, employees can be
made accountable for their actions by specifying appropriate targets. Finally,
the measurement tool can serve as a means to benchmark corporate real estate
performance, from a historical perspective as well as related to peer groups.

Conclusions
The contribution of corporate real estate to overall business objectives is a topical
subject, currently more than ever before. As Krumm (1999) argues:
. . . transformations and transitions in corporate structure and strategy affected the
traditional role of real estate management and triggered the need for a new perspective on the
added value of corporate real estate management. Operational effectiveness has been
degraded to a mere necessity. Currently corporate real estate departments are urged to
identify their competitive advantage, and to provide services/products that deliver added
value.
Establishing tools and indicators dedicated to measuring the added value of real estate
to overall strategic corporate objectives is therefore eminent for corporate real estate
departments in order to be considered a fully fledged participant in the strategic
decision-making process at the top level management.
The presented model for pinpointing and enhancing the contribution of corporate
real estate to corporate strategy demonstrates the performance of the corporate real
estate portfolio from a corporate perspective, therefore communicating the justification
of their in-house presence in the language and performance indicators of top
management. Hence, the model is considered to deliver a significant contribution to the
recognition of the growing importance of managing the corporate real estate portfolio
by top management as an enabler of competitive advantage.

References
De Jonge, H. (1996), “De toegevoegde waarde van concernhuisvesting”, paper presented at
NSC-Conference 15 October 1996, Arko Publishers, Nieuwegein, pp. 66-7, Krumm, P.J.J.M.
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About the authors


Johannes J.L. Scheffer is management trainee at ING Real Estate, where he currently is involved
in the set up of a new multi manager fund for the investment management business. Prior to this
Scheffer has earned his Master of Science in Architecture from the Delft University of
Technology in 2005 and his Master of Science in Business Administration from the Erasmus
University Rotterdam in 2006.
Bastiaan P. Singer is a researcher at Delft University of Technology (TUD) in the area of
Corporate Real Estate Management. Singer earned his Master of Science in Architecture,
Urbanism and Building Sciences as well as an Honours Track in Corporate Real Estate
Management at TUD in 2005. His past and current research is primarily focused on strategy
formulation and strategy implementation at large multinational corporations. Bastiaan P. Singer
is the corresponding author and can be contacted at b.singer@quicknet.nl
Marc C.C. van Meerwijk is currently an investment banking analyst at J.P. Morgan.
Van Meerwijk graduated with a Master of Science degree in Real Estate from the Delft
University of Technology in 2005. Additionally, he earned his Master of Science in Business
Administration with the laudation cum laude from the Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2006.

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