How JLL Leveled Up a Video Game Developer’s Office with Pulley
By Julia McGhee
Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL), a renowned global real estate services firm, has consistently strived to provide top-notch services to its clients. As a third-party project manager, JLL is hired by firms that need help managing construction projects, such as new office tenants or retailers opening spaces. For Amelia Stuerzenberger, Senior Project Manager out of the Austin office of JLL, and her team, their job is to act as the experts in constructing spaces that align with their clients' visions while staying within budget and timelines. However, one significant challenge they faced in effectively serving their clients was the complex and time-consuming permitting process. Having managed construction projects in Austin for over 12 years, Amelia Stuerzenberger is no stranger to the “black hole” that can be the permit process in Austin.
When discussing the challenges of permitting, Amelia’s favorite story is having to deliver a hard set of plans to a permit expeditor’s home office in East Austin and leave it on the porch where the expeditor would (hopefully) collect them. Amelia remembers thinking, “There are just 40 rolled-up sets of documents, literally sitting on this person’s porch – I hope it doesn’t rain!”
But even with the permitting process coming online during the pandemic, the approach to permitting major commercial offices remains outdated. Reliance on emails, spreadsheets, and PDFs resulted in delays and frustration. Phone calls back and forth between stakeholders, expeditors, and the city made visibility a challenge for JLL and its clients.
JLL's primary focus is delivering exceptional spaces that meet their client's needs, and dealing with permitting complexities was diverting their attention from their core responsibilities. Permit information was scattered across many systems and processes. It was hard to determine the current state of projects, and who was responsible for what. The process was difficult to predict, made forecasting approval challenging, and could have significant implications for the project overall. JLL is responsible for helping tenants budget for and schedule projects, and issues with permits could cause delays in construction starts, paying dead rent, and frustration for JLL and the client.
From robots on-site to AI-powered scheduling, Amelia watched as technology infiltrated and innovated every aspect of the construction and preconstruction process around her. Why wouldn’t it help in one of the most painful parts of the project – getting permits?
When Amelia first saw Pulley, it was clearly a noticeable upgrade from the current process. Always looking to improve, Amelia was excited to join JLL, a firm known for their innovation. After joining in 2022, she thought JLL would be the perfect place to try out a technology solution to the permitting problem. Even better, Pulley provided a combined approach of technology and local permitting service, which reassured Amelia that a local expert who knew the Austin permit process and requirements would be on hand to answer any technical questions and act as the liaison between JLL and the city.
“I’m against sticking to old habits or processes just because it’s how people have always done something. Why can’t we do it better?”
On Amelia’s initial project with Pulley, she answered a few questions and received a detailed permit plan within 24 hours. The plan mapped out the specific requirements, attributes, and drawings needed for their permits and then auto-assigned tasks across internal and external stakeholders, including the architect. She could follow along as her design team completed permitting tasks, and as soon as they were done, Pulley submitted the permits. After they were submitted, she could see the status of city reviews – directly in Pulley.
Amelia first used Pulley on an office fit-out for a video game development studio in Austin, Texas. Some clients are hands-off; this client wanted to be involved in every step of the process. Keeping him in the loop was now made easy for permitting – Amelia invited him to the project in Pulley. From the moment his architect released drawings until his GC picked up the permit, he could see exactly where they were with submitting permits, monitor city reviews in real-time, and follow along as they responded to city comments.
By providing a streamlined platform for planning, forecasting, and executing permits, Pulley empowered JLL's team to speak knowledgeably about the permitting status at any given time. Rather than calling up an individual expeditor and going back and forth looking for answers, Pulley provided easy access to permit statuses, tasks, timelines, and approvals so Amelia could confidently report to her client or send him the details directly in Pulley. This newfound transparency enabled JLL to regain control over permitting, transforming it from a stumbling block into a valuable asset and service differentiator. With Pulley's support, Amelia can efficiently handle permitting, allowing her and her team to concentrate on their core mission: delivering a space to the client that they love.
In addition to creating a “one-stop-shop,” Amelia described how Pulley drives accountability across all project stakeholders.
“I just leave the Pulley tab open in my browser, and I can go in and see exactly who has done what. I can see where everything stands in real-time. I’m not thinking in the middle of the night, ‘Oh, did the MEPs get the documents submitted when they said they would?’ Pulley gives me peace of mind and provides visibility on something everyone in the industry has been trained to accept is just a black hole.”
On that very first project, JLL received zero comments from the city – almost unheard of. Pulley effectively bridged the knowledge gap and created transparency and accountability, offering a straightforward resource that made permitting less burdensome, allowing them to reclaim time to focus on their client's needs and construction projects. Pulley’s combined software and service approach helped JLL level up its game by simplifying permitting, ultimately improving its quality of service and client satisfaction.
The time and dollar savings have been clear from the start when JLL compared to past experiences. Amelia spoke of a past project where, because the drawings weren’t up to par, the city returned with dozens of comments the project team needed to address. Then, someone resubmitted the comments to the city without answering half of the questions. That resulted in a second round of comments, which cost around $2,000 in fees to the city and added six weeks to the project.
“It’s a tangible return. With Pulley, we don’t face the issue of unanswered or partially answered comments. We aren’t missing requirements. Added rounds of comments and review are just time and money.”
With Pulley’s combined approach to software and service, JLL has benefitted from Pulley’s powerful and purpose-built technology and from working with a proactive local expert. Because Pulley’s local experts are armed with the same software, Amelia has found that they are more organized, accountable, and, most importantly, proactive. “Working with expeditors in the past, none of them ever seemed proactive. They seemed just to wait for us to keep the ball rolling. With Pulley’s local experts, they are always two steps ahead of us.”
Since the success of that first project, Amelia and the JLL Austin team have relied on Pulley for permitting projects, including an office for a high-frequency trading company, a fertility clinic, and several more projects in the works.