Data management: understanding how to analyse data

The commodity of the future

23 January 2020

Surveyors work with data every day so understanding how and why to use it is essential, as the Data management competency highlights

Data is fundamental to the role of surveyors: much of the provisions of our professional services require and depend on it. All candidates taking the RICS APC are, therefore, required to complete the Data management competency to at least Level 1.

Candidates are required to ‘demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the sources of information and data, and of the systems applicable to their area of practice, including the methodologies and techniques most appropriate to collect, collate and store data’.

Level 2 means providing evidence of practical application, understanding the relevance of information gathered and analysing the data.

At Level 3, candidates must provide evidence of reasoned advice given to clients and others on the use and practical application of the information collected and systems used. They must also specify the most appropriate way to collect, analyse and apply data.

In a surveyor’s day-to-day activities, data is integrated into numerous processes. There are some fundamental questions to consider when creating data outputs, such as cost estimates (see box).

As an APC candidate, you should be particularly knowledgeable in three key areas.

  • Knowing how data is collected, analysed and ultimately stored, more specifically in your company. Speak to your organisation and understand fully how data is being managed, maintained and adjusted.
  • Being aware of the impact of data on technology, such as building information modelling and computerised central databases. There are various views on the benefits, challenges and dangers of using this technology and its adaptation and applicability across a variety of project types.
  • Understanding how legislation affects both the use and storage of data. You should know what legislation is relevant in the jurisdiction in which you are working, and what that legislation dictates.

In the UK, the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) under the Data Protection Act 2018 has affected the way businesses handle data. Be aware of this and its impact on you and your day-to-day business activities.

The GDPR applies to personal data,meaning any information through which someone can be directly or indirectly recognised, such as name, identification number, location data or online identifier. Significant fines are applicable if firms do not comply with these regulations.

Once your summary of experience has been completed and focus moves to the final assessment, remember that while mandatory competencies can be questioned directly by assessors, they can also be covered during questioning on other technical competencies or in case study questioning. Make sure you are prepared to address Data management at any point during your interview.

Data is a valuable commodity, and its influence and importance look set to grow exponentially. Understanding how to work with it is vital for any surveyor.

Considerations for creating data outputs

• What data is needed? Identify the type of data required for the task.
• Has the data already been collected and published through a service such as BCIS, for example, or is it more unique, such as data collected in house or through benchmarking? Wherever the data comes from, check it is reliable, current and applicable to the outputs required.
• How is the data interpreted? Is the data comparable if multiple sources are used?
• Is the data sensitive and can it be used legally?

David Cohen FRICS is an APC chair, assessor and auditor, a founding director of APC Academy and Amicus Property Consultants, and a member of the Construction Journal editorial advisory group.

Further information