Instant access to reliable, current information about their properties is more important than ever for our major retailers. So why is it frequently such a painful exercise? Our Retail Lead, Mark Stodgell, explains.

Quickly locating trusted, reliable information about retail property is a vital part of everyday work for modern-day owner/managers and facilities (FM) teams.

For those with large estates, often with many hundreds or even thousands of buildings and outside spaces, it is  a core part of operations.

However, challenges including outdated systems for recording and storing information, duplicate sources for the same information and question marks over accuracy and reliability, mean that, all too often, the process of locating fit-for-purpose data is a painful exercise.

An answer that should be unearthed in minutes can take hours or even days and generate significant amounts of wasted time and cost. The fastest and most reliable way to unearth accurate information ends up being to ask others – normally the last designer to work on a building – or even commission a reactive survey.

In many years of working across a wide spectrum of the built environment – with manufacturers, designers, owners, operators and contractors – and across many major projects, I have seen at first-hand the daily struggles that estates and property teams face with finding information to make decisions or simply to do their day job.

Most know all too well the challenges that result from outdated procedures for recording, storing, and locating information about their estates – the piles of paper, the hunts around dusty cabinets, the delight at finally unearthing a CD with a peeling label, only to discover that it won’t ‘read’.

At best, facilities and asset management teams are ‘making do’. At worst, incomplete or untrustworthy information is resulting in significant delays and abortive work and, in some cases, risks to statutory compliance obligations.

The ‘why’ for this situation, is buried in the rise of the PC, digital filing and the demise of the ‘admin team’. Other factors include the reliance on self-filing rather than a dedicated individual or team to curate documents and drawings over long periods of time.

How digitisation should solve not ‘create’ the problem. 

Today though, organisations are seeking to resolve these inefficiencies and take a new ‘smarter’ approach, by embarking on an estates digitisation journey.

Properly structured estates digitisation, based on common standards, provides a step-change in the management of existing information and procurement of new data about property. It is about enabling major asset and estate owners, operators and managers – across all sectors – to maximise efficiencies, reduce risk and ensure that they are equipped with accurate, trusted data that will allow them to provide robust evidence to underpin important decisions about the future.

Those who have already embarked on digitising their estates – such as Sainsbury’s, John Lewis and Waitrose with whom PCSG have worked – recognise the many strands that can potentially be involved in this process.

The journey is not straightforward and may encompass the adoption and utilisation of BIM, information audits, procurement and reviews of existing technology, information specifications, process reviews and standards. It should include a programme to support the people change aspects of adopting a cutting-edge, 21st Century approach.

A critical factor that any organisation must include too within its digitisation process is security: ensuring data is secure and available to the right people, perhaps even on a need to know basis.

But at its heart, digitisation of estates is about enabling an organisation to answer quickly and accurately its Plain Language Questions (PLQs). Typically, these include:

  • Have we got any….. ?
  • How many….. ?
  • Where are ….. ?
  • When is the ….. ?
  • Is there…. ?

The benefits of implementing this change – whether for statutory compliance, monitoring or decision making – are many: the significant cost and time savings; the removal of duplication; and the invaluable ability of having at your fingertips reliable, trustworthy, accurate data.

Summed up simply, being able to ‘find your stuff’ quickly makes teams more agile and dynamic, able to respond quickly, not only saving money and reducing risk.

For more information about how to structure and organise your property information to unlock value for your organisation, please contact Mark.Stodgell@pcsg.co.uk