Digital Data Collection.

Original Article
May 11th, 2022


“Digital data collection and reporting in surveying”: This article outlines the true benefits of digital data collection, what it means in practice and how can it be used to accelerate growth through effective implementation.  

The problem
Whether specialising in the residential or commercial sectors, building surveyors have one of the most interesting, exciting, and varied professions in the built environment. However, in keeping with any vitally important profession, they also face significant challenges to maintain the highest levels of quality and stay up to date with the latest standards and regulations, all while striving to deliver their services in the most efficient and timely manner as possible. The successful adoption of technology is critical to support the modern building surveyor in meeting these challenges and staying ahead of the competition.

Digital data collection and reporting is a vital toolset designed to support the role of the surveyor to alleviate such pressures and to promote quality, consistency and efficiency. However, in a typical catch-22, it can be difficult for surveyors to make the time to fully understand the benefits or develop the knowledge on how to successfully transition to utilising digital tools.

The solution
The successful adoption of digital surveying tools requires a level of focus, leadership and commitment to quickly see a return on your initial investment. The good news is that through working with knowledgeable and experienced partners with proven technology, the time commitment is minimised and the benefits are readily attainable.

What are the benefits of digital data collection? 
Digital data collection supports the full cycle of activity from preparation and planning, through to the physical survey, editing and review, reporting and analysis. 

In order to understand the benefits that can be driven by digital adoption, it is important to consider the context and detail of the surveyor, their sector or surveying specialism and to fully understand how a particular service is delivered. Common scenarios include;

Digitisation supporting high volume
For a surveyor who is delivering a large volume of similar outputs, the efficiency of data collection and speed of production of the output report are key. The ability to collect accurate data at source and to publish into a high quality, professional and consistent report ready for distribution will be a primary driver for digital adoption.

A prominent example of this will be in the world of the residential surveyor, where several surveys may be conducted in one day with an incentive to complete and distribute the final report as quickly as possible. Residential surveyors have looked to digital adoption having faced difficulty in either delivering sufficient volume or suffering from a poor work/life balance due to the time required to “write up” reports following the survey by more traditional means such as pen and paper, and merging photographs from other devices etc.

The drive for efficiency in producing volume, which has an obvious direct financial benefit, is applicable to all aspects of residential surveying from the sole trader to the large enterprise and from the Homebuyer market to other specialisms such as timber and damp specialists, structural specialists etc.

Integration with other systems driving efficiency 
As the size of a business increases, other considerations increase in their importance when considering digital adoption. The ability for data to flow from other sources and systems (such as booking or practice management tools) into the surveying application, and for output data and reports to flow back for quality assurance, distribution, or to trigger financial workflows, becomes much more important due to the volume and number of different stakeholders involved including operational, administrative and financial staff as well as the surveyor.

Therefore, it is vital to consider how each of your solutions or systems interact with each other to ensure your business can drive efficiency across the management of the surveying process, as well as deliver the survey itself. There are many different systems and requirements that vary from business to business, such as the ability to share data via Application Programming Interface (API) or import and export mechanisms to ensure that you realise the advantages of data flow across your business.

Project Capability and Flexibility

All the advantages above are also applicable in the commercial sector. However, in addition, commercial surveying will often involve a large element of project-to-project variation of service. Consistency across a portfolio of assets is vital but the overall requirements and scope may vary from client to client.

For example, a particular client may require a full schedule of condition, but also seek to understand priority health and safety issues, or they may have different data requirements for the assets they own. Having the ability to configure bespoke data collection, standard phrases or responses and tailored outputs ensure that your need is driving the benefits as opposed to technology constraining the service being delivered. In these cases, digital adoption drives accuracy at source and consistency across individual surveyors as well as efficiency across the portfolio of assets.

Most importantly though, as legal, strategic and compliance requirements become more complex, the benefits of digital adoption are not just a luxury but essential to be able to deliver the service in the timeline demanded by clients. Without digital data collection, it can be impossible to deliver the subsequent analysis and data-driven guidance that clients increasingly expect.

What does Digital Data Collection in surveying mean in practice and how can it be used to accelerate growth?

Case Study
Novello Chartered Surveyors were established to challenge the traditional role of surveyors in the house buying process. They view themselves as property partners in the whole process rather than just giving snapshot advice.

Having previously worked for a variety of mortgage valuers and independent surveying firms, James Brook and co-founder Jack Pye, understood that nothing frustrates clients more than an unresponsive, slow surveyor who issues a low-quality report with little follow-up advice and care.

By avoiding ‘volume’ work, they focus on guiding their clients through their property related matters. When forming the business, they looked for technology partners who understood their desire to focus on quality and consistency and allow their brand and methodology to stand out against the competition.

Novello wanted to get the balance between the number of surveys and quality of service right. 

A multi-discipline practice consisting of building surveys, HomeLevels, lender valuations, HMO valuations, private valuations, lease extensions, party walls, roof surveys, new-build snagging lists and much more, Novello needed a technology partner to be able to deliver bespoke data capture and templates while ensuring the survey production process matched their service offering in the most efficient and quality way.

How did Novello successfully implement digital data collection to support their growth?

  • Recognised the competitive advantage of quality, consistency and efficiency in their strategy
  • Early engagement gave an early payback of investment
  • Embedded in their company culture and understanding of service
  • Recognition of the Recruitment Incentive (latest tools dedicated to improving the surveyor’s experience attracts the best surveyors)
  • Regularly engage early in discussion with their technology partner as they evolve their business and the solutions they offer

James Brook, Managing Director, Novello Chartered Surveyors, commented: “Technology is essential to the success of our business as it helps us to maintain constant and open communications with our clients, providing quick, detailed reports. When forming the business, we were searching for technology partners who understood our desire to focus on quality and consistency and allowed our brand and methodology to stand out against the competition. GoReport solution is a key factor in establishing and maintaining a consistent approach as we employ more surveyors and ensures the quality of our service offering is second to none.”

In summary, there are many benefits of adopting a digital data collection strategy that covers all aspects of efficiency, consistency and quality. Whether you are a sole trader or working in a large complex enterprise, these benefits are easily attainable with many organisations able to demonstrate how they have been able to achieve them. While many in the surveying industry are yet to adopt digital, it is becoming increasingly likely that it will be difficult to remain competitive without adopting a suitable solution for your needs.

About GoReport

GoReport is an industry-leading solution that digitises surveying, inspection, reporting and analysis in the built environment.

The solution enables you to capture survey and inspection data quickly and easily using a mobile device, then upload this data to the web portal to edit, review and analyse before publishing high-quality outputs. A fast turnaround for individual survey reports is often the requirement to achieve a greater experience for the client. In delivering this, GoReport also ensures that asset portfolio data can easily be aggregated, analysed and reviewed to provide actionable insight for Portfolio Management.

Our clients deliver an extensive range of surveys and inspections, including residential property, commercial, industrial and infrastructure for private and public sector clients. Whether you are using our Smart Library Templates, the full RICS suite of Home Standards, or availing of our custom template building capability, GoReport can help you increase efficiency, improve accuracy and drive consistency.

Visit our website to discover how we help our customers drive increased productivity through innovative use of our technology: