Real Estate in Real Time: The Industry Must Tackle Technology Integration and Standardization Issues

Article excerpt

While the dust from the dot corn debacle has long since cleared, technology is still a strong driver of efficiency and growth in today's real estate companies. As customers and clients continue to look to the Web for convenience and detailed reporting, real estate management professionals will increasingly be looking for ways to adopt technologies to remain competitive.

Fred Prassas, CPM[R] a principal of the PMC Management Group, headquartered in La Crosse, WI, understands the bottom-line effects technology can have on a real estate firm's operations. An IREM[R] faculty instructor and chairman of the Institute's former Computer and Technology Committee, Prassas has broad knowledge of technology issues. Recently, he spoke with the Journal of Property Management about those technology issues challenging the real estate management industry today.

JPM[R]: Why has the property management industry seemingly been slow in adopting technology?

Fred Prassas: Property management is a relatively small segment of the real estate industry, and our needs are very specialized. The software industry has focused more on other segments of the real estate industry where there is a larger market for its products. The number of property management software vendors continues to decline. With this reduction in competition and our relatively small size as an industry, it has not been cost efficient to adopt many of the new technologies now being used in other industry segments.

JPM[R]: Integration seems to be a major factor in the overall success of technology adoption. What is the biggest challenge in solving the integration issue?

Prassas: With the possible exception of residential sales, this is an issue that has been a problem at all levels of the real estate industry. The Institute first addressed the issue of integration in 1984 when it began research for its first Minimum Standards for Property Management Accounting Software publication. It's all about standardization--creating ways information can be shared across platforms and between programs. There are essentially two challenges. First, software vendors need to demonstrate a willingness to open their architecture to integration with complementary products from other vendors. The software industry traditionally has focused on proprietary product lines.

The second challenge is to obtain broad-based agreement among vendors, property managers and clients on terminology and other data standards.

JPM[R]: What is the biggest technology mistake property management professionals make?

Prassas: Property management professionals considering adopting or changing technology must do their homework Some of us adopted "cutting-edge" technology too early, and it became obsolete quickly. We need to make our decisions carefully and anticipate the long-term needs of both our dients and ourselves. There is no substitute for doing our homework. …