Chandra Dhandapani has held a lot of titles since joining CBRE in 2016 to lead the corporation’s digital strategy and handle the technological aspects of it. She’s always believed leadership and serving clients are built on the same principle: helping people realize their dreams. Now serving as Chief Executive Officer of the Global Workplace Solutions (GWS), having previously been in the dual role of CBRE’s Chief Transformation Officer and Chief Operating Officer of GWS, Dhandapani leads a diverse team of specialists to navigate oncoming challenges in the digital sector of the real estate industry.
This interview was conducted before Dhandapani’s appointment as CEO in May 2022.
What’s your style of leadership as you oversee a team while holding an important position in CBRE?
I’ve always believed that leadership isn’t about being in charge; it’s about being someone others want to follow. I strive to be engaged, curious, and ambitious about transforming the status quo in our industry. I believe in pursuing the notion of what’s possible and using that opportunity to paint a picture and create something that’s bigger than all of us. I enjoy working with and encouraging my team to do amazing things that they didn’t believe they could pull off — and they often deliver beyond what any of us imagined. I would love for our teams to look back on our time together as a time when we dreamed big and achieved those dreams.
Our North Star at CBRE is “creating the real estate solutions of tomorrow so businesses and people thrive.” In any environment, but especially now, we must listen carefully to what our clients and employees are saying. They want help addressing their needs, and we want to help them differentiate the noise from the signal.
You’ve spoken before about the importance of having a multidisciplinary team. Can you expand on that?
The challenges we face in business are complex and multidimensional. Often, the larger the organization, the more siloed we tend to be. I firmly believe that busting through silos and bringing together multidisciplinary teams will help us achieve better outcomes faster — especially when we bring a multidisciplinary team together in an agile delivery model to iterate and get to the target state faster.
How does CBRE support professionals across the entire investment lifecycle?
We refer to the support we provide our professionals as the power of our platform. We have committed to and are focused on investing in resources that are core to the success of our professionals, including sales management, marketing, research, and thought leadership, giving our teams data advantage and enabling technologies. In terms of our clients, we offer a complete spectrum of services across the investment lifecycle, including the acquisition, value enhancement and disposition phases. Using our enablement strategy of “build, buy, and/or partner,” we strive to provide our professionals and our clients with data-driven insights and technologies that enable them to achieve their goals.
Digital transformation is something that’s still fairly new to real estate. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of digital transformation to the industry?
Our clients and professionals expect us to be much more data-driven and tech-enabled in the services we provide and enhance the quality and consistency of those services. Imagine a scenario where a building engineer gets notified of an issue along with the right contextual data on her mobile device. She’s enabled by a strong Fault Detection and Diagnostics (FDD) system that allows her to troubleshoot and resolve the issue swiftly and correctly on her first visit. The work order system recommends the parts needed to solve the problem, and the procurement system enables the order to be placed with the best supplier for that area at a company-negotiated price. There is a great benefit to that type of digitally transformed building operations process, and we are excited about the way we are bringing those capabilities to life in a smart combination of software and services.
As Chief Transformation Officer of CBRE, how are you making sure that technological use is optimized inside and outside the organization?
The hardest part of digital transformation in an industry like ours is [being able] to identify and apply the right technology for the right use cases and to elegantly integrate services and technology solutions in a seamless manner. I commented earlier on the power of multidisciplinary teams. At CBRE, we assemble multidisciplinary teams that include “fi t for purpose” real estate experts, product managers, software engineers, and other functional expertise as needed to define the problem/opportunity and develop solutions in an agile, iterative manner that results in specific product/solution roadmaps that enable client outcomes.
Kenny Hedges | Contributing Writer