Over the past 12 months, Cardiff-based leading national chartered surveyors, Bruton Knowles, has invested £800k in technology across the business to drive forwards its impressive digital transformation plans; improving client report turnaround times by 150% and setting the stage for the next phase of the firm’s post-pandemic ambitions.
While other companies within the sector were looking at cost saving exercises at the height of the Covid crisis, Bruton Knowles was prioritising where investment was immediately required to future proof the business.
Its forward-looking executive team sought to expedite these significant infrastructure plans as part of the overall drive to maximise productivity and operational efficiency whilst also easing the transition to hybrid working.
Following a pilot phase, this new approach has now been rolled out across the business to the two-hundred strong workforce, operating within Bruton Knowles’ four National Teams, and at the firm’s ten UK sites: including in Cardiff at Odd Fellows House, 19 Newport Road, CF24 0AA.
James Bailey, Managing Partner at Bruton Knowles, explains:
Our approach has been all about providing everyone with the means to work smarter and more effectively to deliver better outcomes for our clients.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and like so many businesses, the pandemic forced us to rethink our business model. We needed to ensure greater resilience to future economic shocks, attract more talent, and deliver a better balance for our teams.
Our digital transformation marks so much more than just a significant Information and Communications Technology investment. It shows we are committed to modernising our services and the way we deliver them, in order to boost productivity.
By giving our teams the right tools to work in the most efficient and flexible way, we are finding we are exceeding client expectations because our staff have also been able to embrace the radical shift in working practices.
In introducing the new digital approach, Bruton Knowles took a phased approach to implementation. During the last half of 2021, it focused on adoption across the Valuation and Building Consultancy National Teams before moving on to the Utilities & Infrastructure, and Commercial National Teams between January to June 2022.
Using an off-the-shelf system called GoReport, which has been tailored to meet Bruton Knowles’ commercial needs, staff now have access to new hardware and software which is streamlining and customising workflows whilst also enhancing collaboration.
The greater availability of background data also means everyone now has quicker access to key information – such as previous survey reports or existing asset knowledge – to make the reporting process easier through greater standardisation.
For the business overall, these technical advancements form part of the bigger plan to reimagine the workplace and allow existing staff and new recruits the flexibility to work in a way that best suits them.
Bruton Knowles’ investment comes at a crucial time for the construction and real estate sector which continues to play catch-up in the area of digitalisation. Pre-Covid, property technology was only just emerging, because the industry had been slow to embrace the end-to-end benefits that fully integrated digital capabilities could deliver.
Now, the sector cannot move quickly enough, and is one of the fastest growing tech adopters across the globe. More companies, of all sizes, operating within the built environment are reporting that digitalisation has shot up the agenda and is one of their most important strategic priorities.
The possibilities of PropTech are endless, because so many different solutions can be applied to so many aspects of the built environment; from assessing unseen risks on sites using drone technology through to determining real time cash positions on construction programmes or using artificial intelligence in Building Information Modelling (BIM) to determine the lifetime impacts an asset might have.
Yet the sheer scale and diverse composition of the sector means there are so many different ways in which the technology can be applied. That’s one of the reasons why digital adoption in our sector has not kept pace with other industries, but there’s no doubt the pandemic has changed all that.
For Bruton Knowles, the national lockdowns meant we had to think radically about how our own digital infrastructure could best meet the challenges of the changing marketplace and shifting client needs. We knew it was time to expedite our infrastructure investment plans and find new ways to deliver for our clients.
As with any large-scale transformation project, there have been some obstacles along the way, but we have worked hard to overcome these and support our staff throughout. Much of what we are trying to achieve with our new technological processes is also about a culture shift across the organisation, which inevitably takes time to bed in.
Recent research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) highlights how rapidly digital advancements are taking place within the built environment, but it warns that technology will always have its limitations.
This is a sentiment that James concurs with.
There will always need to be the right blend of expert surveying opinion to contextualise and make sense of the raw data. Professional judgements will remain crucial. The approach has to be about using technology as an enabler so teams can continue to provide the very best advice to our clients.
It is anticipated the overall impacts of Bruton Knowles’ digital transformation programme will materialise fully over the next year. Benefits are already being seen in the National Valuation Team which has been able to provide on the spot surveying advice to clients as additional capacity within the team has been freed up.
The improved optimisation of workflows has also enabled the business to work more closely with allied professionals to cut across silos that have often existed across the property sector.
Bruton Knowles’ four National Teams are underpinned by a planning and development and rural service. Combined, this provides a one-stop-shop for clients so an entire project can be delivered to the highest possible industry standards. The firm’s motivated and resourceful surveyors have an in-depth market knowledge of local and national property markets throughout the UK.