Harri John is a senior consultant for CBRE in strategic advisory and co-founder of CREation Property Network, which is aimed at making events and networking sessions accessible to all.
Data is already fundamental to what I do. I work with clients to help solve their business challenges, sitting at the intersection of people, property and place.
I have already seen huge transformations in the way we collect and use data, with Business Intelligence, BI, platforms like PowerBi and Tableau making it easier for people without a data background to manage and analyse data, creating powerful visualisations that inform data-driven decisions.
The way we interact with data is changing. Tech and innovation are creating a more visual and intuitive user experience. We are moving away from deep-diving into spreadsheets, instead focusing on drawing specific insights from the data and identifying the ‘so what’.
What I am also seeing is an increase in people-centric, human-focused data. Our clients want to understand their people, their behaviours and drivers just as much as the hard statistics. This goes beyond simply understanding how an area is utilised, and instead starts to bring in more cognitive measures of satisfaction, productivity and wellbeing.
As we start to collect an increasing amount of complex data, the challenge becomes – ‘How do we translate these billions of data points, into something which is easily digestible and focuses on adding value for clients?’ Small amounts of data are easy, you can look at a spreadsheet and get an instant grasp of what the data says. With data at scale, you have to know what questions to ask to get useful answers. This requires both an understanding of data and data-science, but also about what the data represents at a macro-level as well as at the individual data-point.
Communicating the results of complex data can be hard. It requires technical skills to understand the data, and the soft skills to understand the audience; only when these are both present can you take a client on the journey to understanding what their data means to them. This is where soft skills such as creativity, problem solving, stakeholder engagement and people skills become invaluable.
To adapt to the increasing volume and availability of data being captured about the built environment, teams will become more multidisciplinary, bringing together technical data experts and creatives; where a behavioural psychologist works alongside a surveyor, and a data scientist.
I see my future role sitting at the intersection of data and clients, synthesising the so-what. Interpreting and translating information into insight and actions for my clients, whilst also working alongside the data specialists to shape what they are doing to ensure it is in line with client needs. Technology and innovation will make my work more efficient, tools will be integrated across internal and external activities, freeing up my time to focus on the softer, added value elements of my role.
Proptech will no longer be a ‘thing’; instead technology and data will become an every-day element of everyone’s jobs. Clients will expect a service where they are in the driving seat, able to select specific elements across a variety of providers, creating a bespoke service tailored to their needs, with all tools and data from each provider seamlessly integrated into a single client interface. Thus, encouraging a continuous cycle of innovation and improvement across the industry, as service providers compete to deliver the highest level of service, retain their clients and competitive edge.
Finally, as technology advances, collaboration across the industry will be key. People will need to work together, and data made more widely available if global challenges such as climate change are to be addressed.