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KPMG: real estate sector’s digital transformation is slow and hampered by insufficient tech talent

KPMG’s third PropTech report – Is your digital future in the right hands? – reveals that 58% of respondents say their real estate business has a digital strategy in place – up 6% on the previous two year’s findings. However, while slight progress is being made, less than a third (29%) of respondents claim to have an enterprise-wide digital strategy.

Testament to the challenges involved in implementing an end-to-end strategy, the same proportion (29%) of respondents say they have a digital strategy in some areas of the business; nearly a quarter (23%) say they have it in development, whilst nearly a fifth (19%) still have no digital strategy at all.

Andy Pyle, UK head of real estate at KPMG and Chair of the British Property Federation’s Technology Innovation Working Group, explains:

“Real estate may be an industry deep-rooted in bricks and mortar, but it’s far from immune where digital disruption is concerned. It’s clear that the industry’s key players are slowly but steadily waking up to this fact, with many now focussing on the increased ability to improve efficiencies; reduce-costs; develop closer customer relationships and utilise enhanced decision-making capabilities.

“In its myriad of forms, PropTech is an area that continues to climb the boardroom agenda, especially as competitors begin to demonstrate a competitive advantage through its use. Having said that, our findings suggest that many players might need to start looking further afield for expertise to fully execute their digital aspirations.”

Nodding to the growing importance of PropTech among real estate players, 95% of respondents say their business has a designated person leading on digital transformation, with nearly two-thirds (62%) stating that this individual is a senior employee – often a C-suite individual. Added to that, the vast majority (89%) say that this individual reports directly into the business owner, CEO, president or board member.

Despite this apparent prioritisation, in 65% of cases the digital strategy lead isn’t a technology specialist, with 40% of digital leaders actually coming from a core real estate, construction or finance background.

Andy Pyle, added:

“In the UK, a number of property companies have begun looking further afield to acquire the skills needed for a digital future – whether that be data scientists, innovation specialists or to improve customer experience. In parallel, we’ll increasingly see industry bodies and universities adapt their courses and professional training so that the surveyors of the future are fully equipped in this area. The industry clearly recognises the vital role talent and skills will play in the coming years, indeed it’s already a key work stream for the British Property Federation’s Technology Innovation Working Group.”

james.wallace@realassetmedia.com