Article: The information age in the workplace - Shared databases

The Information Age has brought significant technological advances to our workplace. However, it takes adaptation to improve efficiency with these new tools. Maximizing the positive implications and minimizing the negative implications of technological advances requires careful management. The Shared Database is an example of such an advance.

As we know it, a Shared Database is a body of information, accessible electronically by a large group of people simultaneously. The group may be defined in some fashion, restricted by affiliation and security systems, or may be as broad as the worldwide consumer market. The database can be interactive wherein participants can both give and take information, or it can be a provider of information only, in a specified form. The most commercially useful databases pull interactive data from shared information fields that relate to each other.

The adoption of the Shared Database seems to follow a pattern. Initially there is reluctance to participate. Practitioners often feel that they own the data they have worked so hard to generate. As the benefits of sharing emerge, acceptance and participation grows. Eventually participation is viewed as essential to collaboration, as significant accomplishments result from sharing data (Gazzinaga and Rockinore, 3). While the database is the vehicle, the culture of collaboration is the engine that drives it. A staff member’s understanding of what constitutes success and what constrains resources is essential before determining what technologies will help overcome those constraints (Agnew, 94).

In the Real Estate Industry databases are many and varied. There are Internet property-listing databases that provide information on lease and purchase opportunities by market, by property type, or by location. They can provide property specifications, photos, limited financial information, and above all, information as to who to contact to initiate an inquiry or a transaction. Jacques Gordon of Jones Lang LaSalle says, “These online listing services have become the brokers’ best tool for operating efficiently…” (Johnson, 72). There are lease administration databases that track operative provisions of tenant leases and alert managers when action is required. They also allow generation of reports on rents, entity names, and expiration dates that are of great interest to brokers. There are joint purchasing databases where companies combine purchasing power for savings on services and supplies and for competitive advantage. To maximize companies’ operating efficiency databases are used to reserve resources such as audio/visual equipment, conferencing facilities, and information technology services.

Client Relationship database systems allow anyone to maintain entries about a specific client or client firm. In the present, all recent contacts with a person or firm are entered including the dates, the purpose, and the outcome. Personal information such as title, names of family members, entertainment preferences, etc. can be added. As the information accumulates, one can generate reports on a specific person to provide their work history and a history of interactions with one’s company including who interacted, when, and with what outcome. A Property Tracking database allows staff members to share detailed financial, technical, and client and tenant relationship information on specific properties. This is particularly useful when a property is in transition through a sale or a change in management. A Standards and Systems database allows promulgation of specific policies, processes and controls for use throughout an organization. In addition there are project specific databases where those involved coordinate their activities by sharing information on tasks, schedules, responsibilities, and progress.

To the positive, Shared Databases allow colleagues to readily access information generated by others to promote knowledge and efficiency. By advancing product quality and consistency, the databases allow the organizational whole to become greater than the sum of its parts. Access to the database can be shared with clients to provide information needed for their success and bind them more closely to one’s firm. Creating and maintaining the database itself can promote the cultural goals of the organization. Allowing participation by a wide spectrum of the population of one’s company in development of the forms and norms for use of the company’s information products allows good ideas to initiate anywhere and be incorporated into the company’s practices. Participation also allows the company to more easily influence its workforce to meet consensus standards for ethics, procedures, and quality controls.

To the negative, it is time consuming for individuals to maintain current, accurate information in the database. Without a vision reinforced by the company that the databases are the vehicles for conducting business, they can be viewed as just an additional chore or even an impediment to an individual’s productivity. There must be controls to insure that the information input into the database is accurate and properly used. Fast, widespread dissemination of information that should provide a competitive advantage could generate enormous damage to reputations and firm credibility if it is inaccurate. Practitioners within a firm who are not committed to the goals of the corporation may use information now readily available to promote their own ends. In addition the availability of on-line databases can make it easier for our primary clients to access alternative sources of information on our markets for transactions or services.

Decision-making, product quality, and client relationships can be enhanced by shared information. The quality and accessibility of a firm’s information will impact its success in the firm’s ability to attract and retain the best and the brightest. Those firms who can consistently make the most of their competitive advantages by the best acquisition, processing, and dissemination of information will realize the opportunities and retain the clients who are essential to their success. PDA’s, Palm devices, smart phones, and the like are being used to access shared databases to enhance the effectiveness of information systems, increase productivity, and gain a competitive edge (Mitchell, 68). Meanwhile the Real Estate Industry in association with other groups is moving to realize a new class of software oriented to one, vendor-neutral common information standard (Kilpatrick, 12). Eventually, the form and content of Real Estate information will be subject to Generally Accepted Principles as accounting information is now.

The Information Age in the form of electronic technology has forever changed the process of mobilizing and communicating information. We must continue to adapt to realize the benefits of these technological advances. A combination of habit, custom, economics, politics, and law will determine exactly how much and in what form the real world will change. (Weinberger, 24) #

-Richard Horgan, CPM, CCIM

Agnew, Marion. “Collaboration on the Desktop” Informationweek 794 87-94, July 2000

-Gazziniga, Michael and Rockinore, Daniel. “Data are Most Useful When Openly Shared.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. B13. March, 2001

-Johnson, Ben. “Ouch! Double-Digit Vacancies Hit Office Market. National Real Estate Investor, 43.10, 66-73. Sept. 2001

-Kilpatrick, John. “The Future of Real Estate Information.” Real Estate Issues 26.1 7-20, Spring 2001

-Mitchell, Lori. “Get a Handle on Handhelds as Critical Biz Tools” InfoWorld 23.19 68, May 2001

-Weinberger, David. “The Hopeful Web of Life” The Boston Globe Magazine, March 24, 2002. , Excerpt from his book Small Pieces Loosely Joined: A Unified Theory of the Web. 2002, Persus Publishing ##

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