As technology continues to go up the agenda in the property sector, conversations often end up landing on data. Data is a funny thing, it means different things to different people. Whilst it is widely accepted that it is important for the sector to do something about data, there is a lot less clarity on what that actually is.
So, if you are embarking on the journey to work out what to do about data, but not quite sure where to start, here are three questions every property business should ask themselves.
- What data do you need?
This does seem an incredibly obvious starting point, but I am often struck by how little people consider this. It is very difficult to come up with any coherent data strategy without starting with what you need. To do this needs a pretty good grasp of what it is you do – to really understand your value proposition. Once you have this, you can work out the data that you need.
Like it or not, technology is changing the shape of the market. More and more companies and solutions are combining to deliver ever more sophisticated solutions. This means that tasks are becoming more specialist, so it is important to be very clear on where you add value in the supply chain and to make sure you charge for that value.
- Do you have the rights?
So, now you have a good idea about the data that you need and hopefully what you have (although this is often much easier said than done), the next thing is to make sure that you are actually allowed to use it. For example, make sure that you not only have a license to use the data, but a license to use for the purpose you are actually using it for.
Another example could be the storage and use of people’s personal data. Something that is already very important, but will become even more high profile with the introduction of GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in Europe which comes into force in May 2018. To highlight the importance of finding out more about this, a recent study by NCC Group found that in the UK, fines from the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) in 2016 were around £900k, had GDPR been in force, they predict the fines would have been around £70m. Some companies are reportedly deleting their entire customer database to avoid future problems.
- Can it come from anywhere else?
Last, but not least, if data is something that your business relies on, which for many people will be the case, what role does it play in your proposition? Data or access to it, may well be what sets you apart in the market but are you the only one who has it? This is at the heart of the debate about whether to share data or not. If it is your differentiator, then unless there is a really compelling business case, why share it? There is one caveat to this and it is a pretty big one.
Are you sure that no-one else has it or something similar? There is more and more data being created all the time and technology is making it increasingly easy to simulate or synthesise data. Data does not have to be perfect, sometimes good enough is good enough.
By asking some fairly straight forward questions, we can make a lot of progress in understanding the role that data plays in a business and some of the challenges we face. Unfortunately, the answers are often not so straight forward. However, it is not a question that will go away, so the most important thing is to start the process. I hope the three questions above are a good starting point.
Dan Hughes will be at MIPIM PropTech this October as a member of the advisory board and MIPIM Startup Competition.
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