DCS Chair - "Defining our Future" via #PQS2030 [#itstime]....!
Credit: Buckminster Fuller
September 2021, will for me, mark thirty (30) years of membership to the global leader, called RICS. Much has changed since 1991, but thankfully much has stayed the same. For one, our iconic building at Parliament Square, that represents the official (global) home of RICS is still serving members from across the globe, as well as providing access to the profession for the general public. However, so much has still not yet been confirmed, concluded or even started by our profession. As we all look to celebrate 153 years of 'public service, purpose and increasing relevance', moreso in a VUCA world, I have to admit that yes we are in state of flux; one that I have never seen before. But, I am the eternal optimist and remain confident that not only will RICS rise to the myriad challenge(s), as it always has done; it will do so in full view of the amended Royal Charter [March 2019], and critically, through congruent and inclusive effort of our members and the unrelenting demands of the general public too.
The current turbulence engulfing the profession, has already generated some positive outcomes and just recently, given rise to a global consultation; but what will the ‘strategic review’ mean to the average member, and what in particular does this mean for the general public? That so many of my peers, colleagues and mentees are asking me some pretty challenging questions, in search of 'plain English' answers, that I simply do not have [at present], I thought I would take this unique opportunity to coalesce my varied perspectives and perambulate my second thought-leadership piece. My first piece seen here [penned back in March 2020] spoke mostly of a hypothetical ‘digital’ future which although balanced with generous helpings of optimism, was not destined to arrive anytime soon. Well, for the most part, my vision-statement of just 12months ago, has been met with something of a firm reality check and an 'asteroid of truth' that has landed at the very doorstep of every Chartered Surveyor across the globe; here goes nothing.
“The work of the chartered surveying profession plays a pivotal role in the economy, and underpins the welfare of society and the environment. Our Royal Charter reflects this by requiring us to ensure the profession works for the public advantage, which we do by setting transparent, proportionate and relevant standards, supporting members and registered firms in meeting those standards, and assuring that those standards are applied and upheld.
In May 2020, RICS’ Standards and Regulations Board (SRB) undertook a review of our entry requirements, professional standards and assurance activities to ensure they continued to meet our purpose, as outlined in the Charter. As a result, the board proposed a new approach to our assessment, professional standards and regulation activities, making recommendations to embed this approach into our current activities. This new approach was recently consulted on [in November 2020] as part of the revised Rules of Conduct.
The current Rules of Conduct have not been updated since 2007. Since then there have been changes to the profession, society and client expectations. We therefore recently consulted on revised rules that better reflect the contemporary professional environment and provide guidance to members and firms on how to meet the required RICS standards. If approved, the revised Rules of Conduct are due to be published in May and come into effect in September 2021” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
As an active member, I was invited to join the discussion panel in an online webinar, along with several of my RICS colleagues [via LinkedIn post; November 2020]. So many ‘new contacts’ were made on the back of that ‘virtual’ discussion and many attendees were resonating with my reference to ethics being a cornerstone of the Chartered Surveyor’s toolbox; a significant point that I will revisit shortly.
Key & Critical Topics [Governance and Transparency'
"The major governance arrangements for RICS are defined in the Royal Charter, and the Bye-Laws made under it; the current arrangements were fully implemented in March 2020; and include:
· enabling a more globally diverse Governing Council, drawn from members around the world and across the different sectors of the profession;
· creating a new role of chair of Governing Council, held for a minimum of three years, separate from the ambassadorial role of RICS President who changes annually, and
· establishing a new, independently led Standards and Regulation Board
These reforms were designed to help improve RICS’ relevance, effectiveness and impact, and secure Surveying’s future as a self-regulating profession, trusted to set and enforce standards for the benefit of the public.
What we [RICS] are doing and could do:
The key characteristics of the organisation are that RICS:
· is a body established by Royal Charter with professional members;
· is a global professional, standards and regulatory body that exists to secure the advancement and usefulness of the profession for the public advantage;
· focuses on independently led self-regulation in the public interest, alongside providing support that is valued by RICS members and their employers;
· is a sizeable organisation, with a turnover of more than £80m and a global footprint, and an established leader in the natural and built environment;
· operates in a complex external environment that is fast-changing in political, economic, legal and technological terms;
· must engage with a broad range of stakeholders for its remit to be fulfilled successfully, and
· believes that trust is critical to its remit.
Having reviewed ‘the characteristics’ of a range of other, well governed organisations, Governing Council has identified the following principles, which it considers represent what good governance should look like for RICS:
a) Professional: it should have all the skills, capabilities and expertise required to achieve excellence in corporate governance;
b) Responsive: the organisation should be able to respond quickly and with agility in its fast-changing environment;
c) Transparent: clarity, simplicity and transparency should pervade governance structures, accountabilities, controls, processes and information flows;
d) Trusted: it should earn trust by operating transparently; demonstrating independence; acting in the public interest; and setting and rigorously enforcing consistently high standards;
e) Resilient: it is designed to be fit for [purpose] the long-term future, and shock-proof and adaptable in the short term;
f) Diverse: diversity of thought and broad relevance should be ensured in all dimensions, such as geography, gender and race;
g) Inclusive: the direction of the organisation should be informed through active engagement of all stakeholders – including members, the public, policymakers and customers _ in an open, inclusive way;
h) Ethical: the organisation must remain ethical, sustainable and responsible in all it does;
i) Leading: all sectors and codes of practice should be looked at, to create and sustain best-in class governance, underpinned by rigorous performance monitoring and continuous improvement; and
j) Efficient: it must ensure that it clearly understands the cost of governance and provides great value for money.
Applying those principles may be used to derive a highly effective structure with the following characteristics:
· Distinguishes governance from engagement
· Enables accountability
· Ensures accountability with control
· Ensures clarity with simplicity, and
· Distinguishes oversight from execution
Informed by this consultation, Governing Council will continue to consider how best to apply these principles to RICS.
“The purpose of RICS as a professional body”
“For over 150 years, members have delivered positive change for society, in the public interest and for public good; acting as stewards and protectors of the built environment. Global challenges and emerging opportunities dictate that major change is required; distinct from those which led to the formation of RICS back in 1868.
As a professional body [as outlined in the Royal Charter] our key objectives revolve around the need ‘to secure the advancement and facilitate the acquisition of that knowledge which constitutes the profession of a surveyor’, and to maintain and promote the usefulness of the profession for the public advantage in the UK; and across the world” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
RICS’ purpose remains, therefore, as:
· a global professional, standard and regulatory body;
· existing to secure the advancement and usefulness of the profession for the public advantage;
· focused on setting standards and assuring these standards are in the public interest;
· delivering support that is valued by RICS members and their employers;
· developing members’ professional skills and knowledge; and
· expanding opportunities for members to apply those professional skills
To fulfil this purpose effectively, RICS must also ensure that it:
· maintains trust and confidence in the profession and itself
· maintain its own and the profession’s relevance in a fast-changing world and
· remains financially secure to maintain RICS for future generations of professional members
“The process of reviewing our strategy and business plan will enable us to ensure that we continue to focus on delivering against our core purpose and that the activities we undertake as a professional body continue to contribute to delivering this purpose. The consultation provides an important stage in this process, ensuring Governing Council has the insight it needs to help it make the best possible decisions about our future….” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
Clearly, as a fee-paying Fellow (#FRICS) of the profession, whose over-arching commitment is to vigorously contribute towards the continued growth and exponential success of the profession, I [like many] remain charged and ready to be challenged by the multi-faceted task of achieving all of the above - on a daily basis - regardless of where my own client instructions take me across the globe. With that in mind, it must also be appreciated that there continue to co-exist a multitude of domestic, country-specific challenges, foisted upon RICS members, both in the UK and across the globe, many of which remain ultra-vires. No excuse(s), but we must all – regardless of size (of firm), social-capital, geographic location and/or political persuasion – tread carefully and with patience, now more than ever before.
Current activities to achieve our purpose
As an aspiring Surveyor, I was fortunate to have recognised ‘my purpose’ very early on in my career, which fundamentally was and is to serve others. My calling to place service ‘to others’ over and before selfish, vested interest(s) / career progression has, I think, served me well. Since 2005, my service has morphed into my own ‘well documented, body of work’ fondly known as ‘DCS’ aka DiverseCity Surveyors. My gift to the surveying profession, DCS now some sixteen (16) years later should actually no longer be in existence, but as I alluded to earlier, many things within and across this wonderful profession have not changed, it’s culture and ethics are still challenged to be completely inclusive to and representative of all. Ever the optimist, change is coming….. why, because in a post-George Floyd environ, the 'old model' just won’t cut it in 2021.
“As a professional body working for the public advantage, the activities we undertake to deliver our purpose are relatively broad. They encompass leadership, engagement, support and enforcement [of professional standards].
For any professional body, continuously ensuring that the right balance and focus between activities is maintained, is in many ways the most critical challenge; more challenging than defining the organisational purpose with clarity” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
The main professional body activities we undertake can be summaries as:
a) setting standards for entry into membership;
b) supporting trainees and admitting members to the profession in accordance with those standards;
c) maintaining a register of members and assuring members’ continuing competence;
d) setting professional and technical standards and regulating against these standards;
e) engaging with members, and facilitating networking between members, to gain insight and input to support the work of RICS and their fellow members;
f) understanding the differing markets that our global membership work in and ensuring our strategies and work are appropriately tailored and targeted to be relevant to all members;
g) providing professional support to members through guidance, information knowledge and training;
h) working with employers to help them train, develop and support members and others working in the sector;
i) providing a clear leadership voice, with members, on the major issues affecting the natural and built environment and professional surveying practice;
j) engaging with market participants, including governments, financial institutions and employers to increase understanding of the profession, its standards and work so that they choose to adopt our standards and work with members to increase professionalism in the sector; and
k) delivering relevant products and services to third parties to reinvest profits in delivering the purpose of RICS.
The following narrative is a high-level, precis of the necessary activity that affords RICS a clear mandate on delivering its purpose……..
Entry into the profession _ (a) and (b)
Entry standards and processes for all grades of membership are critical to ensuring confidence in the professions. They provide the gateway to membership, ensuring individuals have the right knowledge, skills, experience and behaviours at the point of entry.
Setting standards and assuring competence and conduct _ (c) and (d)
In order to maintain the profession for the public advantage, we need to secure the trust and confidence of the public members and other stakeholders through our standards and assurance activities; citing a ‘model of assurance’ based upon on supporting members to professional excellence.
“The current process for assessing knowledge, skills and experience for RICS members, across all tenures / levels, includes the following activities:
· Ensuring that our 22 technical pathways, 123 competencies and 18 Chartered Designations are upto-date; and
· Ensuring eligibility requirements are appropriate for a diverse and inclusive profession supporting people from all backgrounds, experiences and at different career stages into membership.” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
Engagement and involvement _ (e)
[Which seeks to ensure and recognise that], open, effective and honest engagement with members is critical to RICS, as it is to all professional bodies. [A recent move by RICS] to a ‘digital first’ approach in all we do provides real opportunities to enhance both the quality and quantity of RICS member engagement. However, in seizing these opportunities we [RICS] must also be aware of the need to retain the most valuable aspects of the previous ways of engaging.
Relevant Market Strategies _ (f)
[RICS] recognise that the markets we operate in have different requirements and in order to implement these activities, we have developed market strategies and action plans for the UK and Ireland, as well as for markets across the Americas, Asia Pacific and EMEA.
We are determined to ensure that we remain relevant and trusted by all members and support them effectively wherever they practice. Our ‘digital first’ approach enables us to do this. There are however, a small number of global markets where we currently have a significant number of members and where significant opportunities for growth and influence exist.
In addition to the UK, these markets are [as listed below] and include over 65% of non-UK based members.
Singapore [Asia Pacific Hub]
UAE [AEMEA Hub]
We [RICS will] also focus on a number of ‘other key locations’ for specific reasons, such as Brussels for its role in Europe, or Kenya as a base for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Information, knowledge, training and development _ (g) and (h)
Our work in developing training and events allows us to deliver knowledge, best practice and thought leadership to new entrants, qualified professionals and others with an interest in the built environment.
“To main trust and confidence in the competence and standards of our professionals, we must ensure that:
· skills and competencies are relevant to industry, employers and the public
· routes to entry are attractive and accessible
· assessment standards are fair, transparent, rigorous and properly controlled; and
· education and training supports competencies required at entry and for lifelong learning” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
“[At RICS] training is also one of our leading commercial product offerings, and by providing high quality, paid-for training, we are able to support the funding of other core activities of RICS and deliver free and reduced cost training.
I note and offer an example [a positive example], of current RICS commitment to training where ‘industry-led teaching in real-estate, construction, quantity surveying and facilities management; undergraduate programmes in real estate and construction; and an active PhD, offered and combined with hands-on learning for nearly 1,000 students’…….. takes place at the School of the Built Environment in New Delhi (2013) / with a second campus opened in Mumbai (2016)."
Personally, I am all for such learning activity in pursuit of more consistency and greater adoption of our professional world renowned standards. I am also convinced, without a shadow of doubt, that the demand for a ‘virtual equivalent’ sprinkled across the footprint of the Commonwealth Nations [in a post-BREXIT world] will demonstrate that, perhaps in hindsight, the aforementioned achievement, was in fact a very smart, forward looking move. Of course, such expansion should never be at the expense of more domestic issues and again, the balance needs to be struck where all members of the profession continue to feel valued and connected.
“Lifelong learning is increasingly important as RICS professionals recognise the need to maintain, develop and enhance competencies throughout their careers. Technology and the role of data in our sector is also evolving at a rapid pace, diminishing the importance of some traditional professional roles and creating demand for new specialisms. These drivers of change mean we must review and evaluate our education and qualifications frameworks to ensure they remain relevant and in the future.” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
#PQS2030 via Apprenticeship or T-Level Offer; Data Science / Data Analytics / Machine Learning & AI
Back in November 2019, my dear colleague [Alan Muse] and I met up for coffee after my return from a scheduled trip to Atlanta, Georgia in the USA. It was in relation to an earlier effort that I had made in September 2015, at that time where I had just returned from an amazing trip having agreed, with the School of Building Construction; Georgia Tech University, that I would help them develop an academic offer, akin to a UK Degree-Level Apprenticeship in Surveying. Aimed at ‘career changers’ as well as the general student populace and called ‘Advanced Construction Cost Management’, it was my bold attempt, in 2015, to positively support the US construction [and growing market for professional services] get a handle on and develop a talent pipeline in the ‘scientific offer’ of construction cost management. With the onset of BIM, VR and AR in a historically contractor led environment, my view just five (5) years ago, was to infuse a heavy technology bias into the US offer. With an Advisory Group that included the likes of those listed below, as well as RICS [USA] it worked, and has proved to be extremely successful.
On the back of my earlier affirmation [my ‘Buckminster Fuller’ challenge] to the PQS profession, back in November 2020, I am now co-curating a similar ‘Apprenticeship-type’ offer in the UK, primarily to address the emerging skills challenge(s) for the humble QS. As Cost Managers, we can no longer avoid the paradigm shift that is evolving around us, which in recognition of the Construction Leadership Council’s announcement just last week [on 11.03.21]; has consolidated my own ‘business case’, soon to be presented to a slew of industry partners, including the relevant governing bodies. This aspiration also fits well with an ongoing work stream being delivered by informed colleagues over at the CDBB via their Skills and Competency Framework, created by National Digital Twin project (itself a JV between University of Cambridge and Dept BEIS); where I remain a Gemini Ambassador.
Credit: CDBB / DT Toolkit Team
“Changing approaches to education and training; traditional ‘career-path’ routes to professional qualification are increasingly questioned and challenged. In some countries, employers and school-leavers are questioning the value of a stand-alone degree course compared to structured learning and qualification while employed. The industry is developing a broader and deeper requirement for professionally qualified individuals rather than simply qualifications aimed at the higher, traditional ‘professional’ end of the range.
One of the most-used routes to professional qualification is the Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) after graduation from an accredited degree. In January 2019, we [RICS] announced new requirements that education programmes are required to be accredited.
As universities have adapted to online learning and new ways of delivering education content, we [RICS] are reviewing the criteria and requirements we use to accredit university degree programmes. We will also consider how we work with Universities that aren’t accredited to promote careers in the natural and built environment, and how we charge for university accreditation in some countries.” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
Absolute music to my ears, and like many I am truly excited about the ‘future academic and vocational offer(s)’ from RICS, recognising that domestically, at least in the UK; we continue to bear witness to and maintain a ticking time-bomb regarding competent digital skills amidst the wider digital transformation evolution that has since gone into overdrive.
The topic of a recent webinar held on 02.03.21, where again, I was joined by several industry leaders from Turner & Townsend [India], Gleeds [UK] and Adair Associates [UK], the riveting discussion addressed ‘the traditional role of the QS’ which has always been a talking point. In light of the new Professional Statement _ called Cost Prediction; effective 1st July 2021, it is officially, something of a new(er) business model for the PQS and one that aspires to operate in truly fluid and collaborative data-driven environment.
With a pressing need for 'genuine' collaboration, the Client [themselves a CDM duty-holder] will require his/her entire design team to think less about ‘unique’ competitive advantage and more about ‘collective benefit’ in pursuit of better project outcomes. In fact, this is exactly where the 'disruptive' concept and wider value proposition, of the role and whole-life cycle potential of a Digital Twin will come into play. I’ll leave that rather provocative statement right there, just for a hot minute.
“As technology enables the profession to move up the value chain, we know that technology, data and sustainability competencies – and non-technical competencies such as resilience, emotional intelligence and the ability to collaborate – will become more important. These changes mean ‘entry’ qualifications are unlikely to provide the necessary skills and competencies that will be needed throughout a member’s career; some of the knowledge and skills used today will be[come] obsolete. We will review pathways and competencies, and review our CPD model, to ensure they remain relevant and competent.” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
Advocacy and growing professional influence _ (i)
“Over time some professional bodies have reduced their focus on advocating the profession for the public advantage in order to avoid criticism of being a trade body and not operating in the public interest. We do not believe the two need to be mutually exclusive, and RICS could become bolder in its advocating activities – seeking to promote the value of RICS standards and the professional competence and expertise of members on key global issues affecting the built and natural environment and professionalism.
We [RICS] produce recognised standards and thought leadership that are adopted by governments and clients all around the world. This drives value to members and registered firms through increasing demand for their [professional] services.”
Promoting professionalism and professional standards and advancing knowledge _ (j)
“[At] the epicentre of delivering professionalism for the public advantage is the professional and client relationship. [Equally], the value of RICS professionalism comes from the market demand for services.
Our influencing work therefore focuses on clients, governments and other influential stakeholders to adopt RICS standards, and recognise RICS professionals and registered firms as the source of realising and solving key challenges.”
Such demand [for our professional services, delivered as Chartered Surveyors] is not only likely to increase, due to the ever increasing complexity and digitisation of projects / client instructions, but will also force exploration of alternative procurement models, as Clients begin to commission ‘inter-disciplinary’ teams rather than individual consultants. [e.g. CDBB / NDTp and the production of the Digital Twin Business Case Toolkit; launched on 25 February 2021 by techUK].
"In order to be trusted, RICS also needs to demonstrate leadership in areas of external change and challenge for society and the profession. We have therefore been developing our thought leadership work to focus on issues that advance the profession in key areas, such as fire safety, climate and resilience, diversity and inclusion, and the future of cities and infrastructure.”
“We [RICS] have done this by expanding our annual World Built Environment Forum [led by Tim Smith] into a 365-day virtual thought leadership hub that will become the principal place for leading thinking and networking or ideas in the built and natural environments.” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
Providing products and Services_ (k)
“[RICS] offer a number of products and services, which are highly relevant to the delivery of professional standards, support the profession and also provide income to support other activities RICS undertakes to further its purpose. These include:
· iSurv; an online knowledge hub
· BCIS; offered to & delivered during the past 50yrs
· DRS; the world’s oldest and largest provider of ADR services [resolving disputes to the value of circa $2bn per annum]”
I agree with many within and across my profession, these are staples within the daily diet of the average member and affordability is key. That said, again I am hugely optimistic that [potentially] tailored packages of support, achieved quite possibly via the intelligent use of algorithms, could be tailored to the unique requirements of each member is not a million miles away from reality. Principally for the benefit of our younger members / practitioners of the profession, let’s see what happens there too.
Strategies and objectives _ (-)
“As set out above, the decisions for professional bodies about the balance of activities that go towards delivering their purpose is critical. Although the core activities – particularly those profession activities of entry standards, assurance and regulation – will always be central, the balance will flex over time depending on a whole range of profession, market, social, economic, political and technological factors. The Governing Council’s current strategic review and this consultation are a part of that process and will result in revised strategies and business plans for the future.
Member input through this consultation will help Governing Council in this process.”
So again, this is yet another call to action for RICS Members and the public to get involved and share your perspective, demands, dislikes, frustrations or even commendations [it’s not all bad, is it OR is it?]. To that end, the required and coveted link to do so, is here.
With regards the ‘future priorities of the profession’ and purely from a personal perspective, I hope to see more Surveyors [both Chartered and aspiring] making a tangible contribution to society, with specific reference to reducing homelessness, and attempting to eradicate both energy and digital poverty, in the UK. In my humble opinion, the RICS is right to assert that:
“As the world starts to emerge from the social economic and public health challenges caused by the pandemic, there will be a sustained period of recovery. This will present an opportunity to address longstanding societal, economic, environmental and infrastructure challenges [across the world]” - excerpt from Consultation Document 
The above may well apply and remain the case for many other areas across the globe, but fundamentally, I am acutely fluent in the current UK challenge(s) and have built a 'demonstrable business case' as to how I can help wider society achieve success, and all for the public good. In fact, it is initiatives such as that now being seriously considered (by CDBB / techUK) specifically for the Social Housing sector [on the back of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower], that will not only afford the general public first-hand visibility, but more importantly, predicated from a conviction of purpose, will demonstrate the positive impact and intrinsic social value, that the RICS via the Surveying profession, can actually deliver.
By making better use of the vast and growing volumes of data with disciplined deployment of the emerging technology tools, platforms, products and services; I truly believe that if we all aim high enough [as members of the Surveying profession], we will consistently ‘knock it out of the park’ and default to being [and remaining] the greatest professional body as applicable to the [global] built environment.
My own perspective (intertwined with the above) is designed to exhibit my own personal view(s) amidst much needed food for thought in full recognition of the current 'strategic review'. It is also offered principally for the benefit of many younger members of the profession and the wider general public with whom, I am aware, are desirous of further clarity; in plain language.
Despite the immediate challenges [as of March 2021], these are still very exciting times, so please get involved and please be patient; [GW] see you again, in twelve months.
Additional notes by author [Bola Abisogun OBE]:
: the italicised text contained with “speech marks” has been taken [almost verbatim] from documentation, produced by RICS, or on their behalf;
: the above insight is proffered in complete isolation and independence of any other ‘public statement’ affirmed by RICS;
: all statements offered [above and extrapolated] from the RICS website, may be subject to change as part of the ongoing Strategic Review [effective as of 22.03.21].