Technology implementation is a journey that must be supported at all waypoints.
November 15, 2022 |
Updated November 15, 2022
The rental housing industry is embracing technology more than it ever has before. But, as panelists in the “Integrated or Point Solutions? Get Married or Play the Field?” session at Apartmentalize 2022 noted, navigating the technological landscape can be a complicated and even exhausting undertaking. As a result, building the right tech stack requires careful planning and strategic thought on the part of an operator.
“If we look at the word ‘proptech,’ five years ago that wasn’t even a word,” said Lucas Haldeman, Founder and CEO of SmartRent. “Five years later, proptech is a category. That’s great for the industry. We’re at an unprecedented time of change, and real estate operators have access to more and better technology than we ever have. The one downside is making it all work together.”
Jennifer Staciokas, Executive Managing Director of Property Management at Western Wealth Communities, cautioned operators to make sure any technology they purchase is actually addressing a specific need or needs.
“So many times, you get caught with the shiny new penny,” she said. “You get this pitch, and you just get mesmerized by it. You think, ‘We have to have that.’ But think about, ‘What problem is it solving in my organization?’ That question is going to cut out a lot of the noise you’re having with some of the vendors that are coming around.”
Recounting her experience building Western Wealth’s tech stack after the company’s 2020 launch, Staciokas also noted that operators have to keep the future in mind when evaluating solutions.
“Where are you going to be three years from here?” she said. “Five years from here? And what are the solutions that you know that you can grow with versus things that are going to stay stagnant?”
Among her other pieces of advice: Operators should work with supplier partners that allow them to own their own data, and they should try to determine the end goal of a supplier. In other words, will the supplier be around for the long haul, or are its owners looking to sell to a larger company in the not-too-distant future?
Guntram Weissenberger Jr., Owner and CEO of The Westover Companies, agreed with the other panelists that the array of proptech solutions and providers can be dizzying.
“What I’ve heard here is there is a little bit of vendor fatigue, and that is true,” he said. “There are a lot of things coming to us, and property technology has become a huge business.”
Critical to making the right technology choices among the wide array of solutions and suppliers is a strong decision-making team, Weissenberger added. And while it’s important to have IT personnel on that team, including operations and onsite personnel is essential.
“People on the front lines have to be comfortable with the products you’re using,” he said. “It’s important that they’re involved in the decisions because they can really see the faults and the benefits of a certain system.”
Ellen Thompson, Founder & CEO of Respage, said operators need to dig deep when researching how well different technologies integrate with each other.
“Sales reps are going to say anything it takes to get you to sign on the dotted line,” she said. “So please, when you’re trying something new, pilot it and make sure those integrations work the way you want.”
Thompson also urged operators to investigate the support any potential technology vendor would provide. According to Thompson, the questions operators should ask during the due diligence process include: What type of onboarding support is available? What is the supplier partner’s account management process? What is the structure of the vendor’s support team, and what hours is support available?
Stephen Ursery is a Senior Account Manager for LinnellTaylor Marketing.