Trusted property data and insight is critical for estates directors and senior business leaders to make informed decisions. Daniel de Wet, Sodexo’s Head of Portfolio Analysis, sets out the need to build a sound data foundation and the importance of a data-driven culture.

Estates Directors and their teams charged with the responsibility of managing large, complex estates face multiple challenges in normal times: budgetary position, quality versus cost, compliance of the estate, net zero targets, where to locate new sites, which sites to invest in and sites to dispose, to name a few. The longer term impact of COVID-19 is yet to play out but for certain the role and profile of estates and workplace management will continue to be in the spotlight with tightening budgets, questions over the future function of workplaces, employee wellbeing, diversity and inclusion all on senior leaders’ agenda.

Trusted data, analysis, and insight lies at the heart of solving these business challenges but how ready and able are estates and property management teams?

The expansive nature of managing a large estate means that there is no single system that covers all aspects of estates management, and with multiple organisations responsible for services, the challenges associated with harvesting accurate, consistent data and combining that data to really use it to its full potential, is complex and requires specialist skills.

Added to this, the reporting functions available from best-in-breed systems may not in themselves allow for the level of detail or flexibility required to answer the questions to business challenges.

Integrating our technical systems, data and analytics expertise, with professional property management knowledge, we are able to assess the level of a client’s data maturity. Working together we set out a roadmap so that trusted data, combined with the desire and confidence to interrogate it, becomes common place across the estates management team.

Confidence in stable data creates the foundation for the provision of information, informing knowhow and ultimately leading to wisdom in decisioning, as demonstrated in the DIKW (data/information/knowledge/wisdom) pyramid, Carruthers & Jackson, 20181.

As the pyramid leading to wisdom in decisioning is simultaneously being developed vertically and horizontally, focusing on related areas first can potentially affect the greatest initial strategic impact as opposed to focusing on standalone individual aspects. (Carruthers & Jackson, 2018)1. This results from the data and related fields in one area supplementing the development of another functional area.

Getting to the ‘single version of the truth’ needs a relentless focus on the detail – understanding and setting up the basics right, putting in place strong governance, having a vision of where you’re going, and probably the hardest to achieve, fostering a data-driven culture throughout the whole property management team.

data to wisdom triangles

How do we approach the data journey with our clients?

1.    Establish data maturity and defendability

 A thorough understanding of an organisation’s data maturity and the data landscape is required to assess future defendability. We carry out a data confidence assessment on all core data sets, whether systems or manually generated. The key data sources and the data properties are identified. Data quality is assessed using the six data quality principles of completeness, uniqueness, timeliness, validity, accuracy and consistency (Booz Allen, 2017)2. Furthermore, through stakeholder engagement data owners are identified and each data point is assessed using four metrics:  

data maturity 4 metrics

This allows us to identify the focus areas to improve both the quality and completeness of the data collected, and any gaps.

2.    Develop skills to measure, systemise and maintain

To build confidence in data, reporting and analysis it is essential that governance of all aspects of the data lifecycle is in place. 

  • Establish governance activities through a data working group, feeding into a data steering group. 
  • Drive data accuracy (quality and completeness) through continuous review of the data flow process from all data sources. 
  • Set up a data audit panel to manage data issue resolution. 
  • Appropriate systemised solutions monitor data variance over time to enable functional leads to follow the evolution of data over time.

data lifecycle

3.    Develop analytical capability

Essential to the delivery of analytics is a team that has the skill to effectively deal with the requirements of analytical activity. Sodexo’s business analysis team carries out a full spectrum of analytical activity that includes: data engineering and architecture, data management and data mining, reporting design and build, data visualisation and analysis and modelling.

4.    Foster a healthy data culture

Research by McKinsey (2018)3, suggests that “you can’t import data culture and you can’t impose it. You develop a data culture by moving beyond specialists, with the goal of achieving deep business engagement, creating employee pull, and cultivating a sense of purpose, so that data can support your operations instead of the other way around.”

It has been said that analytics and insight is a team sport. The team’s challenge is to solve business problems which requires the integration of property knowledge, whether that’s operations management, compliance, asset management, with the data analysts.

Encourage curiosity, share knowledge and constantly learn through the development of an active analytical community in the form of forums that actively share and promote knowledge. We have identified and developed functional subject matter expert PowerBI champions across all property functions.

Be aware, as the excitement for data grows, the demand for information will increase. Put in place processes to make sure resources are deployed where they are the most effective – solving your business challenges.  

This includes: 

  • Standardised project scoping
  • Automation of scheduled reports/extractions
  • Central visibility of projects
  • Report development pipeline 
  • Prioritisation determined through governance steering groups

5.    Enhance your users’ experience

We actively foster the development of an analytical culture across the broader estates management team. This involves having a clear understanding of the business challenge, developing focused questions to be answered, scoping engagements that bring out business value, data exploration, consolidation of data, virtual collaboration with end-users in a dedicated space, visualisation of analysis to finalisation of the output, and training of end-users in the interaction with analysis.

With the analysis built on a central data warehouse and visibility on all reporting, we are able to provide multiple-layer analysis so that from strategic level reports, end-users can drill down into site-level detail with a consistent user experience. 

How have we applied our approach to benefit our clients?  

Working in partnership with a large government department, we have created a comprehensive, accurate and integrated view of their large and complex estate across assets, real estate and capital solutions.

Exiting from a PFI contract required us to start the data journey together from the basics of the integrity of the data. We have continuously invested in the complex array of systems, their integration with our client and supplier systems.

Investment in a data warehouse solution and Power BI reporting means that we are now reporting on real-time trusted data in a whole range of areas, producing the management information with professional analysis required to support our client with their longer-term investment decisions.

Sources:

1 Carruthers & Jackson, 2018, The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook
2 Booz Allen Hamilton, 2017, Data Science Playbook 
3 McKinsey, 2018, Why data culture matters

More information:

  • Find out more about Dan's role.
  • More information about Sodexo's Property Management and Advisory Services can be found here.
  • OR if these challenges sound familiar to you, and you’d like to talk to a member of our team click here.

February 11, 2021