FIG Working Week 2000, 21-26 May, Prague

The Revolution in How We Work

by Richard M. Betts

Key words: accommodation, appraisal, change, computers, work.



This paper seeks to explore the likely impacts of the new "information age" upon the real property valuation occupation.

Information Access is the Key

The central force in this new era seems to be the rapid decline in the cost, time and effort of accessing information. Information is becoming much more widely available, both geographically and demographically. In turn, greater access to information is reducing the role of people who process information for others to see, and is eliminating many jobs.

Consider This a Rolling Change

Overall, the change is large, but its progress is slow and uneven. It varies by time, by place, by occupation, and by culture. The rate of change is influenced by how long it takes to develop the product, adapt it to peopleís needs, and convince people that the benefits are worth the initial cost and learning effort and time. Because this change is a rolling change, we can and should look elsewhere, to see what is coming our way.

Hints of the Future

One clear element is the merging of devices that carry out related functions, a necessary step as the number of information devices increases. A second element is the movement toward a closer relationship or connection between the user and the devices, allowing devices to be customized to emphasize what the user wants. An important third trend is the reduction in work where one gathers information for another to make decisions from; decision-makers generally now directly obtain more of the information needed. Finally, as information becomes more available and less expensive, there is less of a premium to be earned by those who have learned how and where to find it.

The Need for New Skills

It is a truism that all change hurts someone, and that big changes hurt more than small. It is also true that people resist change, and have only a finite tolerance for change. However, people will change, if and when they are convinced that they need to do so. Even then, their rate of change will be influenced by many different cultural and demographic factors. The evidence suggests that the coming changes will be rather large, and that the benefits to the individual for adapting to the changes will be rather large. In turn, this means that those who do manage to adapt earlier will have a considerable advantage over those who do not.

Impacts on the Workplace

One impact is the emphasis on ideas, on improvement, and on change itself. A second is the emphasis on efficiency and productivity. A third impact is the increasing use of technology in all businesses, and greater expertise of managers with managing technology. In turn, that leads to the fourth change, the growing technological skills of the workforce, leading to easier adaption of future new devices or ideas.

What then for Valuation?

Computers, automated information processing and other technologies have already had a substantial effect on people working in valuation. Nearly every office has changed a number of functions as a result. It is clear that much more change is to come. The production of appraisal reports, while usually performed on computers, relies almost completely on manual input of information. This surely will change, along with semi-automated preliminary cost, depreciation, and sales adjustment analyses. Automated data collection and analysis will also increase.

As a result, absent an increase in the numbers of appraisals to be performed, appraisers will face growing competition from automated valuation models. The competition will be over quality, on the one hand, versus cost and speed of delivery on the other. In the short run, appraisers may tend to move to the two extremes, focusing either on quality or on cost and speed. But both groups will find it imperative to automate as rapidly as possible, in order to reduce costs and improve delivery, even though such action will have the effect in aggregate of displacing appraisers out of the industry.

Appraisers must also take action to improve both the customerís perception of appraiser quality and the reality, as it is their only competitive strength, and one that they must maintain to survive.

Richard M. Betts, MAI, ASA, SRA
1936 University Avenue
Suite 300
California, 94704

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