Do We Have An Honesty Problem?

COLUMN – September 2023

Do We Have An Honesty Problem?

Do you ever get that feeling that someone flat-out doesn’t believe what you’re saying? That you’re some sort of snake oil salesperson? Over the years, it’s become an increasingly sinking feeling for me, despite the fact that I’ve been adding experience and expertise to my repertoire. When I’ve acted on behalf of a client, selecting solutions or professional services in the PropTech world, I can now totally see why I’ve been treated that way. The number and scale of clearly nonsense marketing claims from people and companies in our industry are of tsunami proportions. 

Firstly, there’s those that use the ambiguity of the latest buzzword to allow a buyer to read what they want into the capabilities of a solution. “It uses big data”. You mean, it captures all the data points over time? Seems reasonable and not noteworthy. “It has data analytics”. You mean that you’re able to visualise all the points on the BMS? Oh, like it always has been able to? For many working in the controls world, new technologies that are able to decipher long points-lists and automate commissioning represent a risk to business. Controls folk seem to be rebadging the same old stuff they’ve been doing for years to give an appearance of having the latest capabilities, or simply to lock out potential new players.

The second type is those that simply don’t tell the truth. Speaking with an industry peer, they shared their role in supporting a client in selecting some technology for a new scheme. After informing a vendor, who’d been through a competitive tender process, that they’d won, the vendor asked to modify their proposal. It turns out that the technology they were selling, is, in fact, “on the roadmap”. That’s technology speak for “we haven’t created it yet”. Not only did it not exist, but there was no guarantee that it would exist within 12 months. In the same way that my qualifications in brain surgery are “on the roadmap”, I today, am unable to perform lobotomies. Seems those leading at some companies have already experienced my medical skills.

The third are those that are deliberately coy about the role they actually performed in their cited case studies. Some years ago, I used a third-party technology vendor to help me acquire a continuous stream of BMS data. They were just one of many technologies that the team and I had stitched together to create one of the most integrated buildings of its time. Around a year ago when reviewing their content for a client selection process, I was horrified to read that my project and the subsequent awards it had won, we’re in fact, the sole achievement of the third-party technology vendor.

At least I can be assured (I hope), that it’s not just PropTech. In a recent FT article (19 Aug), a journalist analysed the claims of fund managers, with 94% of them claiming to be in the top 25%. Seems that credibility is going through a rough patch. Despite the vagueness in which I’ve written this in order to protect everyone’s modesty, I hope it serves as a warning to those who think it’s best to “join ‘em, if you can’t beat ‘em” and mostly to those who need to make purchasing decisions – verification will be the keyword. Good luck out there.

In Dr Marson’s monthly column, he’ll be chronicling his thoughts and opinions on the latest developments, trends, and challenges in the Smart Buildings industry and the wider world of construction. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, you’re sure to find something of interest here.

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About the author:

Matthew Marson is an experienced leader, working at the intersection of technology, sustainability, and the built environment. He was recognised by the Royal Academy of Engineering as Young Engineer of the Year for his contributions to the global Smart Buildings industry. Having worked on some of the world’s leading smart buildings and cities projects, Matthew is a keynote speaker at international industry events related to emerging technology, net zero design and lessons from projects. He was an author in the Encyclopaedia of Sustainable Technologies and a published writer in a variety of journals, earning a doctorate in Smart Buildings.