10 things to consider before buying estate agency cloud software
20 November, 2013 | Technology
1) Is it true cloud software? And why it matters.
True cloud based software engineering across all verticals, including vendors of estate agency systems, have built their cloud software solutions from the ground up, designed to operate specifically as a cloud product. Programming their software to ensure that it takes advantage of the huge benefits of a fully hosted cloud solution, that it is more efficient and consequently offers high levels of performance, security and saleability.
So how can you tell what genuine cloud software is? Many agency systems are billed as being ‘cloud’ but were designed to run, if not entirely certainly partially ‘in house’. This means that the user has to have some or all of the application locally installed to be able to be fully functional.
The real benefit of cloud systems are - Full access to your complete software system from anywhere and from any device.
2) Is it true browser based software?
This not only means that all you need to do to access your full software system in an internet browser is to connect to the internet but that users can run the full system on multiple browser tabs. In daily use this is an absolute requirement as it means you can be dealing with an applicant enquiry, a viewing appointment, adding a property and arranging lunch all at the same time by running multiple versions of the software on as many tabs as you like.
3) Is it CRM based?
CRM (Client Relationship Manager) - Most, if not all, estate agency software systems focus on property as opposed to people. What this means in practice is that there is no consolidated or organised approach to data access. For example, a person can at any time have multiple touch points within a business, applicant, potential or previous valuation, old or existing vendor, landlord, and tenant or indeed achieved any and all of the aforementioned. When you consider, that with most agency software, systems have no connectivity between all of these touch points it just doesn’t sound right.
This was the exact motivator behind the development of our own cloud software system RT Live. Today RT Live is a fully functional cloud estate agency CRM system that enables our customers to have full access to all touch points associated to any individual person from the beginning of time to the present day at a single click.
4) Is it future proof software?
It is of course impossible for anything to be entirely future proof, but it is critical for any software system to have an ongoing development schedule. Software, like most things in life should evolve and improve with time, as technology in particular advances at such a fast pace, it is critical that new technologies are introduced and incorporated into existing products as well as new functionality, ideas and work processes to ensure you stay ahead of your competition in the technology stakes.
5) Speed – How well will it operate on a slow internet connection?
Speed for any piece of software is crucial and without it would compromise the user experience. There is nothing more annoying than being held up while you are working due to slow software.
Software speed should be one of your primary concerns when you are buying estate agency software as it will enable you to work quickly and efficiently.
When we began our journey developing our cloud based software we made speed one of our primary factors to ensure the best user experience possible. We have optimised our software across every platform (mobile, desktop, tablet) to ensure whatever device you are using the speed won’t be compromised.
6) How does it output information?
To be very clear, what we are asking is how information is presented to the end user!? For instance, if an applicant registers on a mailing list or a new property instruction is mailed to suitable applicants, how is this information received by the interested party?
From a software vendors point of view this can be achieved in a number of ways i.e. as a rich text document, Word doc, PDF, etc. Although looking at this from the receiver’s point of view these options do not look quite so attractive, for the following reasons -
a) None of the above are interactive, (no access to additional information) they are simply flat documents.
b) Tech savvy users receiving a Word doc would simply not open it as this type o file can contain viruses.
c) Many users would not open any type of email attachment from an unknown sender.
d) All of the above of old tech in terms of delivering email content.
So what should you be looking for?
If you consider your own experience when receiving product based email, those that are graphically (image) based, that do not require any attachments being opened, that clearly contain information from a trusted company (because you instantly see the company branding), that is interesting and offers further information and that are specifically designed to engage the end user. These are the emails that you will remember and enjoy receiving, this type of email is called an html and this is a ‘must have’ requirement.
7) How secure is my data?
Surprisingly this is a question that is rarely asked by estate agents looking for new agency software, because as cloud technology is now the requirement of all real estate agents, all and I mean ALL data entered on to a true cloud system is held off site, in the cloud and if the software vendors hosting service is not carefully designed, managed and maintained this has the potential for disaster.
What should you ask? You should understand the hosting company that your software vendor uses, the type of technology used, what would happen if their power was cut, their internet pipe was damaged by road works, their building was damaged by flood or fire and what their disaster recovery process is. This does for sure all sound technically challenging, certainly for the non techie, but this is such a critical element of cloud technology and you should understand.
As a software vendor this is something we spend a vast amount of money on, ensuring that our hosting is as bullet proof as possible and something we offer total transparency about. Our hosting partner is a company called Rackspace, they are one of the top hosting companies in the World and are one of the very few to offer a guarantee of 100% up time, but don’t take our word for it, check them out for yourself - http://www.rackspace.co.uk/
We use their ‘Fanatical Support’ service - http://www.rackspace.co.uk/fanatical-support which offers real people available 24/7/365 to ensure our hosting is always on!
SOME OF THEIR CUSTOMERS -
Vodafone, Ministry of Defence (MOD), National Health Service (NHS), Transport for London (TFL), Royal Navy, Department of Transport, gocompare.com, Confused .com, Which, Virgin, Vue, Renault – see full list here - http://www.rackspace.co.uk/customers
If the answers you receive are not as clear as this, be sure to think twice.
8) Does the hosting company offer any guarantees on up time?
I have already covered this above, but it is so important that it’s worth reiterating, so be sure to ask the question ‘Does the hosting company offer any guarantees on up time?’ and have the answer confirmed in writing…
And yes, our hosting company Rackspace guarantees 100% up time.
9) How does it handle sharing data between offices?
This is critical for multiple office firms, most software systems say they are able to deal with this but few do it well, so be sure to ask how it works.
It should be seamless, full accessibility to all property and applicant files. There are a few tests to see just how well this works -
a) Run a wide area search for an applicant, do all the properties appear, irrespective of which office the property was entered?
b) Are you able to produce a list of all applicants that have a property to sell in your area irrespective of what office they registered with?
c) Are you able to produce a list of properties in a given area that were amended yesterday or last week or even last month, irrespective of where they were entered?
10) Design is subjective, but what is your approach to user interface design?
User friendly is an often used term but what does this really mean? Great design should have a clean, pleasing look and feel. Think about the things or brands in your daily life that are design icons, for me this would have to be Apple and more specifically the iPhone, it is a thing of beauty, simplicity and intuitive and dare I say life changing, maybe I am a little sad but take it away for a few hours and life just doesn’t feel the same… this is how you should feel about your software system, it is the thing that you spend every working day with and you should love it!
This is what we have attempted to do with our software RT Live - We employ university qualified user interface designers that understand how the human brain interacts with computer systems, this ensures that our software is above all intuitive and user friendly, that helps your work flow easily and actually helps you function better and more efficiently and hopefully whilst enjoying the experience… Sound a bit farfetched? Why not try it for yourself?