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New RICS (PS) - the role of the 'Digital' Cost Manager [#PQS2030]

A thought leadership piece and industry perspective; by Bola Abisogun OBE FRICS [28th June 2021]

"The evolution of the Quantity Surveyor, was never going to be straightforward,

but the fact still remains, our traditional role is at risk of becoming distinctly

different during the next decade.

Data is much more accessible, and Clients more demanding and intelligent for it.

By 2030 we should have evolved to flex and accommodate their growing intelligence

which could be at the expense of our very own salvation"

_ Abisogun OBE

Last year on the 28th March 2020, inspired by an earlier webinar hosted by colleagues over at RICS, I decided to put pen to paper to articulate a vision, that at least for me, had finally arrived, precipitated by the COVID lockdown - that commenced [officially] on 23rd March 2020. This particular piece was building on from an earlier soft launch of #PQS2030 during November 2019, celebrated at RICS HQ, with Alan Muse FRICS.

Much later during last year, effective on 15 November 2020; I went onto announce an initiative that was designed to be entirely provocative and thought provoking but would also manifestly allow those like me, to willingly build upon the work that a wider cohort - at the Centre for digital Built Britain 'CDBB' - had substantially progressed, with a team of industry thought leaders and 'early adopters [disruptors]'.

Credit: CDBB

For those unaware, the CDBB is a joint venture between the University of Cambridge and BEIS; working alongside other entities including the Construction Innovation Hub.

Credit: CDBB

As a team, our key output and deliverable [at least in tangible terms] was the aforementioned Digital Twin Toolkit, the content of which would assist all manner of business to begin [or expedite] their journey of digital transformation. The core objective of fully aligning with the National Digital Twin Programme and unleashing, across their business, an eco-system of potentially connectable digital twins, using the concept described by CDBB within their industry renowned Information Management Framework 'IMF', an opportunity yet to be fully realised by the built environment professional and construction Client(s) alike.

However, the time has come for us all to focus on the increasingly obvious value proposition amidst the wider opportunity to better predict and manage not only 'out-turn' construction cost, but more meaningful 'whole-life cycle' cost, across the entire life of the built asset. With the looming emergency of climate change and the 2030 / 2050 'net-zero' challenges, it has never been more important - to us, as custodians of cost and value - to 'decarbonise' our project delivery processes. Building back better also means doing so in an environmentally conscious way, putting people at the centre of all that we aspire to achieve, using the limited resources at our disposal, sparingly and with diminishing levels of waste.

Such was the focus of our panel discussion held on 2 March 2021, with Alan Muse FRICS along with other industry leaders the concept [dare I say it, the very idea] of fusing 'predictive' and/or 'probabilistic' construction cost management with 'digital twins' was born and partially discussed. The further benefit of aligning such dynamic and potentially disruptive business models, with Smart Legal Contracts, simultaneously administered on a distributed ledger technology 'DLT' type platform, is an idea whose time has come.

Credit: RICS

Earlier this month at the RICS Global Infrastructure Conference, delivered along with fellow DCS members / industry colleagues; I moderated a panel that discussed, again in some detail, the future role of the Digital Cost Manager arising from the underlying impact of 'current' digital transformation. There was a demonstrable consensus that the traditional role was fundamentally going to change and that even now, some elements of our 'traditional' Professional Service(s) offer, are no longer being requested [or paid for] by the Client! To this end, I referred to my earlier conversation, held with RICS, regarding the soon to be implemented new RICS Cost Prediction Professional Statement.

Credit: RICS

For those unaware of the impact and immutable material impact upon the work that we do as Cost Managers, using the abbreviation of CPPS, the cost prediction professional statement is going to project the humble QS into a new paradigm. A landscape where the need to hoard data will be lost to the need to actively 'mine data' that is shared dynamically and in real time; if desired. In a world and industry where the over-simplification of 'collaboration' is defined by a constant challenge to remain transparent, our biggest challenge is not our genuine ability to realise and utilise the emerging tools and cloud based platforms, but rather it is our 'trust in the process' and towards 'each other' that could prove [and define] who wins and who loses the gargantuan opportunity that awaits.

Credit: CDBB

Hopefully, the industry affection towards, 'integrated project delivery' will grow and ultimately be considered, at least in the future, a worthy model of project procurement - suitably aligned to key Stakeholder / Client need(s), with the requisite party best placed to own the various elements of risk on the table; in accordance with the ICMS.

Credit: RICS [click here]

The essence of any successful Digital Twin rests upon the ontology of data [or data-sets] as deployed in the IMF. In seeking to demonstrate the value of Information Management 'IM'; the CDBB commissioned a report which was jointly undertaken by fellow co-authors, KPMG and Atkins.

Credit: CDBB

The overarching and quantitative benefits that have clearly been evidenced by the KPMG / Atkins team, through the disciplined implementation of IM, has been demonstrably pegged in the order of 1 in 6; i.e. for every £1 spent on IM, a financial benefit of between £5 and £6 is generated. Such significant ROI is not to be sniffed at.

As can be seen from the wider value proposition to society, by utilising both the IMF and digital twins the potential to greatly infuse a much more sustainable and carbon-neutral environ is almost immeasurable. It is through this lens that the 'Digital Cost Manager' must challenge themselves to not only ensure the project is parametrically, designed and built according to time and budget constraints, but ensure that the entire whole-life cycle of the built asset will perform as envisaged during its initial feasibility.

Credit: CDBB / KPMG & Atkins

Having written my first 'process level' digital twin for construction claims administration, back in 1994, since then, I have often considered what it would take to completely 'disrupt the well established' role of quantity surveying in the field of construction cost management. Little did I know that as cost managers, a global pandemic, some 26years later would provide the catalyst for our next chapter of growth. There is, at present, an urgent consideration of the importance of factors including design completeness, the practice of range estimating, the time required to deal with cost prediction, data sharing and analytics, and the cost management context for procurement. Aligning such effort to the ICMS will offer much needed standardisation and consistency in the presentation of construction cost and likely OPEX via asset management. However, to achieve any or all of the above, in a truly accountable, transparent and socially responsible way, we must recognise [as affirmed by Tim Neal FRICS, PPRICS] "that the skills, knowledge and expertise of the cost management professional are critical for achieving, consistent, accurate and trusted cost prediction". Those same skills are about to change, forever, with digitalisation at the core of our rebranding; design-it, twin-it, build-it and then maintain-it.

And to that end, be advised that effective this week, from 1st July 2021, the current and mandated requirement will both co-exist and come into play, for EVERY RICS member and RICS regulated firm.


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