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Michael Waters is associate professor, real estate at Heriot-Watt University Dubai Image Credit: Supplied

Planning for the future in any industry is a rather abstract concept. The future is unknown. Human decision-making is ripe full of errors and cognitive bias, which perhaps makes planning for the future a somewhat unfruitful task. What I teach my postgraduate students is fairly simplistic which is scenario planning rather than forecasting. Scenario planning is a much more effective path to take. It has a structured approach and perhaps one we can take forward in our careers. The concept is about understanding the forces of change and then planning appropriately.

According to the RICS Futures Report, the property profession and real estate industry is changing rapidly as it powers through the digitisation of the built environment. Being future-ready and future-proof is connected to technological advancements; data analytics is one of the most significant and most crucial digitisation tools that the real estate industry needs to be equipped with.

Seeking utility in big data

Data capture and utility analysis have a far-reaching impact across key areas of the sector, including property valuation, property asset management, and corporate occupancy. How can we make the most efficient use of property space if we are not capturing or analysing KPIs in the building we use, value, and invest in. Mega-cities and the future challenge of increased urbanisation means we need to use and advise occupiers on more efficient use of space. Retailers have faced the biggest challenges in recent years, not only with e-retail but also global oversupply. Big data re-evaluates the decision making behind value-creation in leisure and the entertainment space and draws our attention to those location most likely to the next big winners.

How will real estate education make you future-ready?

I have recently led a global survey of industry professionals to make sure that real estate graduates of Heriot-Watt University Dubai are equipped with the most relevant skills. Amongst the key areas sought by industry were the need to be critical thinker and problem-solvers, research-driven and analytical. Data analytics, Big Data and financial modelling have all been robustly added to the new postgraduate MSc Real Estate syllabus to take account of these global changes. The underlying quality of property data will rely on future graduates keeping an eye on AI and the impacts that will undoubtedly present in the next 10-20 years.