Adopting an ecosystem of interconnected, best-of-breed solutions could result in a host of benefits for property businesses.
Are you using an enterprise software solution from a single vendor to run most functions within your business and have a few bits of bespoke software to support standalone tasks on the side?
That’s long been the standard ICT modus operandi for large organisations in the property sphere. But does it allow you to make the best use of the data in your possession; the ephemeral but hugely valuable asset commentators have dubbed the “new oil” of the 21st century?
Or would your business be better served by using an optimum collection of specialised solutions and enabling them to share data seamlessly, without the need for clunky middleware to link them together?
For most organisations, the correct answer is yes.
Xero-ing in on a smarter option
The interconnected, best-of-breed model is one that’s been promulgated by homegrown accounting software vendor Xero in recent years. It’s placed its solution at the heart of an ecosystem of more than 1,000 compatible applications that can be linked together like jigsaw puzzle pieces to form customised technology stacks.
It’s economical, flexible and fast for businesses to do this, and it allows them to sidestep the perennial issue of vendor lock-in. This occurs when an organisation becomes highly dependent on a single ICT supplier because the cost of switching programs or platforms is prohibitive.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are what make it possible to implement a best of breed model. They’re the articulation system that enables two third-party applications to communicate seamlessly; high-tech plumbing that lets businesses turn a series of standalone solutions into compatible high-tech infrastructure.
The API advantage
The Xero model is working extraordinary well for the army of small businesses – a million-plus and counting! – that rely on its cloud-based finance platform to power their operations.
They’re able to select specialised, subscription-based applications to manage everything from inventory control to rostering from the Xero App Marketplace. They can plug them in, secure in the knowledge they’ll be able to “talk” to one another, without the need for configuration or modification.
And they’re reaping significant efficiency and profitability dividends as a result: Xero’s Pandemic Insights report of September 2020 found that small businesses using apps to run their operations lost less revenue and suffered fewer staff losses compared with those not using them.
Getting with the program(s)
Catching up with the small end of town could deliver big benefits to the property sector, long known for its under-utilisation of digital technology and its over-reliance on sub-par legacy solutions and old-school manual methods.
So, what needs to happen to make that happen?
I believe it requires some big picture thinking at the chief technology officer level from individuals with the vision to see that things could be done differently and the will to demand and drive change within the enterprises they serve.
In the software sector, demand is almost always hotly pursued by supply. Customer support for the interconnected, best of breed model would energise the proptech community and provide developers with the impetus to start developing APIs that allow their solutions to work together as one.
While we may not see the emergence of an ecosystem comprising thousands of specialist property apps, there’s room for several dozen, covering everything from property and facilities management to investor relations.
Historically, the property sector has been slow to embrace the new. Adopting an API-driven model would allow businesses to exploit the power of digital technology and data to drive productivity, innovation and data-driven decision-making. At Forbury, it’s a movement we’re committed to supporting, and we look forward to a future where collaboration and connection with other specialist vendors is the unremarkable norm.
Scott Willson is the CEO of Forbury.