One Size Does Not Fit All

One Size Does Not Fit All

By Tony Finley, Chief Financial Officer, Long Realty Company

The real estate brokerage is a unique business from an ERP and technology perspective. Technology-driven automation is driving changing economics and customer relationships in multiple industries. What makes the real estate brokerage unique is the relationship with the real estate agent. Agents and agent teams can be considered both a customer and vendor which can make the selection and implementation of an ERP more complex because the agent/broker relationship is paramount to the success of the enterprise. On the other hand, standard features of the typical ERP such as inventory management and different cost of goods sold methods are not as relevant for a real estate brokerage.

Many ERP technology vendors will say they are going to do a ‘deep dive’ to get to know your business challenges to achieve the best possible deployment of their software and solutions. The process starts with a detail rich request-for-proposal (RFP) with dozens of technical requirements. Next, potential vendors provide perfectly written responses promising to meet nearly 100 percent of the numerous of ERP requirements followed by professionally delivered presentations by their sales and technical experts.

One of the first questions to ask during a sales presentation is what ERP implementation have you done that is closest match to a real estate brokerage? The purpose of this question is to expose generic or canned ERP responses that could have been provided to any potential client. Additionally, these responses will not help the decision process or move anyone closer to solving the challenges the ERP selection was needed for in the first place.

"Technology-driven automation is driving changing economics and customer relationships in multiple industries"

Instead of spending time on how a solution can accomplish a long list of requirements or looking at "wow” features, the next questions should focus on the mechanics of the implementation and how the system will actually work after the consultants leave. Many organizations do not have the luxury of having underutilized resources available for special projects. Most likely, the planning and implementation will occur at the same time as your daily accounting, finance, and reporting responsibilities. Follow-up with what are the realistic staff and time requirements for an effective implementation in a resource constrained environment? Another good question is to ask for a reference from a similar organization that has recently completed an installation.

Finance leaders have to deliver results accurately and on time. The buck stops with us. Therefore, take control of the presentation to understand the details of the worst case scenarios. These systems are expected to work as promised 90 percent of the time. That worst day scenarios must be a significant part of selection presentations and evaluations with plenty of “what if ” type inquiries. For example, how does the ERP really work on bad days and not just the good ones? What should we do when there are no experts around to provide easy answers? What happens when we have problem late in the evening before a long holiday weekend?

The risk are too high to make it easy on the presenters because they will not be there to resolve an error hours before a closing deadline. Ask the tough questions upfront to enable the setting of realistic project goals and resource requirements before contracts are signed. The objective is to get the sales professionals off their script and on the topics that are really important.

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