Sandeep Dav\u00e9 knows the value of experimentation as well as anyone. As chief digital and technology officer at CBRE, Dav\u00e9 recognized early that the commercial real estate industry was ripe for AI and machine learning enhancements, and he and his team have tested countless use cases across the enterprise ever since.\n\nAnd those experiments have paid off. Over time, using machine learning and AI, CBRE has managed to reduce manual lease processing times by 25% and cut positive false alarms in managed commercial facilities by 65%. CBRE has also used AI to optimize portfolios for several clients, and recently launched a self-service generative AI product that enables employees to interact with CBRE and external data in a conversational manner.\n\nRecently, the company announced a significant milestone: deploying its AI-enabled Smart Facilities Management Solutions at more than 20,000 Global Workplace Solutions client sites, totaling 1 billion square feet. Even so, \u201cwe are still in the early innings\u201d with AI, says Dav\u00e9. \n\nDav\u00e9 and his team\u2019s achievements in AI are due in large part to creating opportunities for experimentation \u2014 and ensuring those experiments align with CBRE\u2019s business strategy. While many CIOs may still be wondering how to begin their organization\u2019s AI journey, Dav\u00e9\u2019s work at CBRE shows that facilitating experimentation, even if it leads to some failures, can deliver outsize success.\n\nHere\u2019s how Dav\u00e9 has made AI experimentation work for CBRE\u2019s bottom line, as well as his advice to IT leaders looking to do the same at their organizations.\n\nBuild a self-service foundation and capture ideas\n\nEager to deploy AI, many organizations begin by defining and ranking use cases. But those who have success with AI know training data is key. So, a better approach might be to build a data foundation and give your people time to explore the possibilities first.\n\nDav\u00e9 and his team made did just that when they recognized the power of data at scale. CBRE has a vast amount of transaction data, as well as a plethora of asset intelligence from sensors, workflows, and human interaction with physical space within the billions of square feet the company manages globally. This early work has enabled automation in areas of the business such as lease abstraction or automating work order classifications.\n\nWith hype around generative AI exploding of late, the CBRE team developed a multi-LLM, self-service generative AI platform that enables employees to use gen AI for a range of tasks, such as gaining insights from proprietary data and documents, using chatbots to work through problems, generating new content, and translating forms. By making the platform widely available, \u201cwe\u2019ve created an appetite and an interest across the organization,\u201d Dav\u00e9 says. \u201c[The product] has hundreds of users and is growing weekly. And it\u2019s unlocking a lot of productivity.\u201d It\u2019s also setting the stage for more innovation across the company. When the technology is available in a self-service manner, \u201clightning can strike according to its own schedule.\u201d\n\nStill, Dav\u00e9 stresses the importance of safety restrictions when it comes to AI. \u201cYou\u2019ve got to be careful how you use [AI] and how you educate your users,\u201d he says. \u201cHuman intervention is still necessary. Validation is still necessary. And it\u2019s very important to remain mindful of technical limitations \u2014 such as hallucinations \u2014 and legal obligations with respect to how we use client data.\u201d\n\nChoose use cases aligned with business priorities\n\nOnce you\u2019ve given your people time and resources to experiment and you\u2019ve captured good ideas, it\u2019s time to select the best opportunities to pursue. Here the key is to separate the flashy from the substantive. \u201cWe\u2019ve seen so many initiatives fail when it\u2019s technology for technology\u2019s sake,\u201d says Dav\u00e9, who suggests two means of avoiding this mistake: prioritization models aligned to your business strategy and strategic partnerships.\n\nLet\u2019s start with the models. Dav\u00e9 and his team filter use cases using a simple, time-honored method: plotting them in a two-by-two grid that takes as its axes \u201cvalue\u201d and \u201cfeasibility.\u201d Dav\u00e9 starts with cases that are both high-value and high-feasibility for quick wins to generate excitement and buy-in from stakeholders. \u201cThese have the most potential because, typically, they draw on data we already have access to and that we\u2019ve already made good use of,\u201d he says. \u201cIn the case of AI, many of these are productivity enhancers. They eliminate manual and repetitive processes.\u201d\n\nThe quadrant Dav\u00e9\u2019s team attacks next is either \u201chigh-value, low-feasibility\u201d or \u201clow-value, high-feasibility,\u201d depending on their objectives. It\u2019s a choice between low-hanging fruit and big investments. For AI, the high-value quadrant is where you\u2019ll find most predictive modeling. \u201cThese are not easy, but they have a big impact if you get them right,\u201d says Dav\u00e9, adding that IT leaders should consider picking a use case from each of these two quadrants: one that\u2019s high-value and one that\u2019s highly feasible. That way, your team can demonstrate early results while helping to develop momentum for the larger initiative.\n\nAs elegant as it is, though, the value-feasibility matrix suffers one serious drawback: It\u2019s plagued by the same ambiguity that almost all prioritization models face. After all, how do you assess the value and feasibility of use cases that rely on an emerging technology so little understood, or that require building capabilities that may not immediately yield benefits? Here, partnerships can make a huge difference in both risk mitigation and improving time to market.\n\nThe importance of strategic partnerships\n\nThe right technology partners can dramatically sharpen your estimations of value and feasibility. The best ones will draw on extensive experience with their respective technologies and tools to help you ensure no use case too difficult is underestimated nor any quick win relegated to the bottom of the backlog.\n\nGreat partners can also help create value you otherwise would have struggled to produce on your own. This is partly why partnerships have been integral to CBRE\u2019s strategy. \u201cWe\u2019ve always held this philosophy of \u2018build-buy-partner.\u2019 We don\u2019t have to do it all, and we can accelerate time to value,\u201d Dav\u00e9 says. \u201cWe\u2019ve identified a set of prioritized areas where we see interesting CBRE-focused AI innovation, and against each of those we\u2019ve identified potential partners. Alison and her team play a huge role here.\u201d\n\nHe\u2019s referring to Alison Bell, CBRE\u2019s global head of digital and technology strategy acceleration and digital partnerships. Bell and her team support a robust capability that many other companies try to build off the side of their desks. She and her team develop digital and technology strategies, study emerging technologies and companies in the proptech space, and evaluate how to integrate the best ones tightly into the CBRE ecosystem.\n\n\u201cWhen you look at the partnerships or investments that we\u2019ve made in the proptech space,\u201d says Bell, \u201cyou can see we partner or invest to capture strategic value. All our partnerships or investments are focused on enabling our core business and client outcomes.\u201d\n\nThrough these strategic relationships, CBRE and its partners create something that can neither be built nor bought, a kind of symbiosis in which each is learning from the other and making each more competitive, more distinct. It\u2019s a kind of evolution Dav\u00e9 thinks will separate today\u2019s digital leaders from tomorrow\u2019s. \u201cThe traditional CTO role \u2026 is about execution,\u201d he says. \u201cDigital is very much about strategy and being a trusted advisor in the business. It accelerates revenue growth and embeds technologies that transform the core business.\u201d\n\nBy infusing AI into strategy-led operational workflows and combining a data foundation with a deeply integrated network of strategic partners, Dav\u00e9, Bell, and their teams at CBRE have propelled the organization beyond cost-cutting and run-of-the-mill ideas toward more compelling innovation, a capability that will serve them well as new technologies emerge.