To deliver commercial real estate services on a local, regional, and global basis, Colliers connects its workforce to enable collaboration for business development. The real-estate giant used Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 to build an easy-to-use people-finding tool that its professionals use to connect with colleagues. The tool supports rich functionality and rapid development, while speeding up connections and helping Colliers forge deeper client relationships.
Colliers International is a leader in global real estate services, employing more than 15,000 people throughout the United States, Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America. To strategically position itself as a global leader, Colliers is transforming itself into a single enterprise delivering the best client experience. “We want to meet our clients’ needs throughout the real-estate life cycle—beyond buying, selling, and leasing, to property maintenance, tenant relationships, marketing, and other needs,” says Nancy Dumon, Business Applications Manager, Web, for Colliers International. “We accelerate the success of our clients by being a trusted advisor and results-oriented partner.”
To deliver a complete range of services, Colliers provides deep specialization across 480 offices all over the world, including legal firms, financial firms, and property management organizations. The challenge: to develop a better way to find the right person, in the right place, with the right specialization for a particular client need. “We did not have an efficient way for our professionals to quickly find these specialists,” Dumon says. “Brokers depended on their own personal network of contacts to put together the best possible team.”
In late 2009, Colliers set out to build a people-finding tool that would help its professionals quickly pull together effective teams. Colliers already used Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 for hundreds of project team sites and, because of its success and familiarity with the program, decided to use it to build the firm’s people-finding application, called Our People.
||With Our People, we will be able to match professionals across our business and geographic lines to better serve our clients. The faster we connect … the more competitive we can be.”
Business Applications Manager, Web,
In April 2009, just before Colliers began developing the tool, the firm learned about Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and liked its enhanced community-building features, particularly related to building and searching user profiles. SharePoint My Sites are greatly enhanced in SharePoint Server 2010 to provide easier and richer social networking.
Avinoam Shmueli, SharePoint Architect at Colliers, was tasked with creating Our People. Shmueli and a team of six colleagues used Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 and Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 to create a demo in just two weeks, and had a pilot for 400 employees up and running in three months. “Visual Studio makes the delivery of solutions and development of Web parts very easy,” Shmueli says. “The user interface of SharePoint Server is also much cleaner and easier to use than other collaboration programs on the market, and is light years ahead of what Lotus Notes and Domino can provide in terms of functionality.”
Initially, Colliers focused on creating people profiles for all employees by integrating SharePoint Server with the company’s Active Directory Domain Services directory. Ultimately, more than 15,000 Colliers brokers and affiliate experts will have Our People profiles.
Now, when a Colliers professional wants to put together a team to meet a client need, he or she uses Our People—a search tool located on the company intranet —to search for colleagues based on location, specialty, market, designation, certification, experience, previous clients, deal details, experience, and other criteria. Colliers has also linked Our People to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and the Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 messaging and collaboration client to enable brokers to easily contact colleagues through e-mail and participate in online communications about particular opportunities.
Colliers also plans to tie Our People to its Microsoft Dynamics CRM business software, which contains property and client information. “Our goal is to connect people, clients, and properties,” Dumon says. “We want to search any property or client and find everyone with a connection to that property or client.”
With this more robust platform, professionals can enter free-form queries such as, “Who is working with client XYZ?” or “What is a great property management firm in New Orleans?”Benefits
With Our People, Colliers professionals can quickly connect skills across and beyond the organization to better meet client needs. Using SharePoint Server 2010, Colliers created the application in three months and can easily incorporate the features that it plans to use in the future.Facilitates Deeper Customer Relationships
As Colliers makes the strategic shift to meet more of its clients real-estate needs, Our People will be invaluable in helping its teams locate the specialists needed to provide services such as leasing, consulting, valuation, brokerage, and design. “With Our People, we will be able to match professionals across our business and geographic lines to better serve our clients,” Dumon acknowledges. “We won’t need to send out droves of e-mail messages requesting client relationship information. Being able to search on specialties and other properties will speed up our connections with one another. The faster we can connect and put together solutions for clients, the more competitive we can be.” Supports Rapid Development, Easy Extensibility
Because it used SharePoint Server 2010 to build Our People, Colliers was able to create the application and get the pilot up and running in just three months. “To build a system with these capabilities from scratch, including linkage to Office Outlook, Active Directory, and other applications, would have taken years,” Dumon says. “With SharePoint Server, we were able to implement in a matter of weeks.”
“With SharePoint Server, we have a highly scalable infrastructure that we can expand on demand,” Dumon adds. “There really are no limits to where we can take this application on a SharePoint Server foundation.”
For more information about Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, go to: