One of the things I love about the Multifamily Housing Industry is that we represent what happens when people and companies are open to working together to provide excellent service. I think it’s very clear in our industry that companies (with very few exceptions) believe that your Property Management Software provider ought not to hold your data hostage. It’s your data! Because of this, it’s easy to find companies in our industry that work to establish effective means of transferring data from one interface to another.
Most commonly, you’ll find powerful API’s that accommodate the need for data transfer. It’s as if the various companies in our industry are saying “We get it that you have valued partnerships with other companies, and while we would love your business, we realize that you probably have good reasons to work with your current vendors.” Odds are good that if you have a vendor that needs to feed information into another’s system, it can be done.
Even with all of these comprehensive integration tools, we all still know that integration is going to be the weakest link in any system. Whenever you have a system developed by one company, and a completely separate system developed by another company, it gets incredibly complex to make the two systems communicate in an intelligent fashion. I’d compare it to an american leasing agent from Dallas, Texas trying to find out how an on-site tour went from a Malagasy leasing agent from Antananarivo, Madagascar. There are a few cognates between the two languages, but mostly the languages are so unique and different that someone will walk away from the conversation guessing that (1) they were either talking about the weather, or that (2) their mother had just been seriously insulted. Yes, with a translator who knows both languages you’ll likely be able to get a fairly clear message across, but there are bound to be some communication issues along the way. (Not even Google Translate can translate Malagasy to English.) It’s exactly the same with integration utilities, API’s, and any tool that is intended to exchange data from one system to another.
Communicating effectively between systems is only one of the obstacles to overcome, though; part of the battle is just understanding the workflows you’ve pieced together. How many of you have seen perplexing organizational charts that are intended to illustrate workflows and “simplify” interactions between the various vendors your company uses? (It reminds me of one of those wooden, brain-teaser puzzles that seem virtually impossible to put together; I recently noticed one sitting on a colleagues desk, and out of curiosity just picked it up. Once in my hand, it broke apart into a million pieces, and I had no idea how to put back together!) It’s baffling to me that companies can understand how to get from point “A” to point “Z” on these diagrams, let alone make a system that complicated work! Not only do you have 35 different contacts for 56 different workflows, but you have to remember something in the range of 41 to 63 different passwords for all of the systems you need to log into! With regard to keeping track of your passwords, are you a “drawer-full-of-sticky-notes kind of person,” or are you the technical guru who has incorporated single-sign-on (SSO) functionality into your workflow? And, have you ever inadvertently contacted the wrong vendor for something you were trying to troubleshoot?
These are obvious challenges for every property management company to overcome— especially as their company, processes, and workflows mature. This requires more tools, more functionality, and better connectivity. Fortunately, though, the Multifamily Industry is creative, mostly cooperative, and adapts quickly to put the tools right into our hands. As we all work to figure out how to piece together our own hodgepodge of products and services, we’d love to hear about the creative solutions you’ve come up with to overcome these hurdles! Shoot us a line!