Regulated by RICS

Technology is increasingly integrated in the way we work. Although the real estate industry is sometimes seen as behind other industries when it comes to implementing technology, it is becoming ever more visible and necessary. From setting and measuring sustainability requirements, to collecting accurate building data to help asset managers gain control of the operational performance that buildings deliver, we’re already seeing technologies impact.

So is technology the key driver in making the built environment more sustainable and habitable? For me technology is a tool for making important decisions, but people are and still remain fundamental in interpreting and reporting on the data collected. Although there’s a wealth of data already being produced, it can in many cases be difficult to convert this into useful management information.

Where in my generation there was an emphasis on speed of information, for the current generation of real estate professionals, with all the information immediately available, the focus has shifted to interpretation of information.  Technology can certainly help with this and the current artificial intelligence tools already contribute a lot to translating a mountain of data into management information. Nevertheless, it is the analyst who must interpret this information and inform his or her management whether a “go” or “no go” can be given.  Our drone surveys and data capture service is a perfect example of this.  We use drone technology to capture a wide range of visual imagery, video and other remote sensing data but our specialists are still required to fly the drone, analyse the data it collects, and then report on the findings to our clients.

Many decisions made during transactions are not made based on technologies output but in fact based on mutual trust between the parties involved. This makes our industry substantially different. Yes, we trade in stones, but the investments are made for and by people. We approach transactions with a human, pragmatic and commercial view, so collaboration is the key to success for everyone involved.

Technology plays an important role in optimising processes in buildings and making logistical processes more efficient. Yet, despite advancements, in many cases humans are still required to collect, pack, ship and deliver the products we order. Which is still completely justified as it keeps the economic engine running and, for the time being, there remains a human control factor.

To ensure the right balance between technology and people, we require a new type of real estate professional. A generalist who can tie all these facets together. However, generalists are becoming few and far between with the increased need for people to be trained as specialists or because schools’ and universities’ curriculum are simply not developing at the same pace as the industry. We have a role to play in this ourselves. If we want to remain the front runner in Europe, perhaps not in terms of volume, but certainly in terms of quality, we will have to equip the next generation with a wider skill-set that can draw on the learnings and expertise from different disciplines.  The threshold to say “It’s not my area, but I have someone in my network who can help you” is then much lower. This way we ensure that the next generation not only looks at the computer screen, tablet or telephone, but can also enter into a dialogue with his or her environment.

Let us continue to work together to make the real estate industry stronger using technology as one of our tools, but without losing sight of the human factor.

As featured in PropertyNL in January 2020.  Read it in Dutch here.