Are you sure?

The Digital Frontier Gets Ever Nearer

Big Four firm KPMG’s experts discussed the opportunities in digitalizing business, real estate, and healthcare among other fields at a breakfast conference attended by the Budapest Business Journal.

Attila Ságodi

The event was opened by KPMG Hungary head Robert Stöllinger, who listed the company’s achievements over the last year. In the 12 months ending in September, KPMG registered a total of HUF 23 billion in revenues, with the business advisory branch spearheading growth. Stöllinger also noted that, alongside its 1,200 employees, the firm also employs two robots. “We do not only sell concepts, we are also able to realize them,” he noted.

Partner Attila Ságodi began his speech by reviewing the history of digitalization, noting that it the concept has existed “since the first computers. It has been present in the ’80s and ’90s, and today, even if companies use it, it is not integrated into their operations.”

Regarding the Hungarian labor market, he said, “The lack of people does not drive digitalization, just as the Stone Age did not end due to the lack of stones.”

Analyzing the numbers of the DESI index, which measures a country’s efforts and results of digitalization, Ságodi clarified that while Hungary is ahead of countries such as Bulgaria, Poland, and Romania in some aspects, it is well behind the leaders in digitalization, which are generally Scandinavian countries. Putting Hungary’s achievements into perspective, he noted that the country’s scores were half as high as that of the Denmark’s.

To illustrate how digitalization may impact a business, he added that while a steel factory may have employed 1,000 workers some decades ago, the same processes can now be completed by about ten employees.

Ságodi was followed by Pál Dános, the director of KPMG Hungary’s real estate advisory. Acknowledging how digitalization can be useful in the real estate industry, he also mentioned how real estate has a long-standing tradition.

“It is a 1,000 years old, truly the mammoth of industries. Except it is not extinct,” he said. Talking about progress, he noted how architectural software from Hungary-based Graphisoft has become the industry standard in architecture.

The next step, he said, is placing sensors in buildings to gather information. “Success depends on knowing what information you want to get, and placing sensors accordingly, even building the house around the sensors,” Dános said. The data can serve a range of uses, such as reducing emissions and saving money, which can then be reinvested.

Pál Dános

Building a Good Mood

Around the time he finished explaining this, he pointed out how the conference room’s blinders had adjusted themselves to prevent the sun shining into the eyes of participants; just one way in which smart buildings can be people-friendly as well. “Good mood leads to better work,” he noted.

Regarding the popularity of the so-called proptech movement, which aims at incorporating digital tech elements into real estate, KPMG’s global survey revealed that while a vast majority of the surveyed real estate companies thought that digitalization is important already last year, this year the ratio was 97%. However, while in 2017 about one-third of companies said they possess a comprehensive digitalization strategy, that ratio had failed to grow this year. In Hungary, Dános noted that there are only about a dozen developers employing more than 250 people, which means that there are few efficient supporters of startups aiming at digitalizing real estate.

While Dános admitted that, in most cases the market does not yet pay for smart homes, Ságodi had an interesting interjection. “The market, however, pays for crap. The same tiler who did a shitty job years ago gets three times the money for the same work. Only the owner’s willingness matters,” he argued.

Healthcare is another area where digitalization may help tackle the arising challenges, according to Margó Kohanecz, director of health and life sciences at KPMG. She noted how Hungary is currently missing a staggering 25,000 healthcare workers, and how globally the aim of most governments is to stop healthcare expenses from growing.

There are a variety of ways in which digitalization may help healthcare. In Australia, there are apps which tell the user about waiting times at local clinics, so that the user can pick the one with the least wait, alleviating the burden on the most popular locations. Closer to Hungary, there is an ER chatbot system in place in Europe, which decides whether a patient’s problem is serious enough to warrant a visit to the emergency room, Kohanecz said.

In Hungary, the so called EESZT (Electronic Healthcare Service Space) system is in place, containing anonymized data of patients. The e-system facilitates identification as well as storing doctors’ notes, among other features. “If the system becomes more efficient, the labor shortage becomes less serious,” Kohanecz argued.