How Much Are You Really Spending on Tech? 6 Critical Questions to Ask
Software solutions for real estate brokerages abound. As you look at your options, initial price and implementation are likely top of mind. But these factors only tell part of the story — you’ll want to understand your total cost of ownership (TCO) before you decide on the right solution for your business. Be sure to get answers to questions in these six critical areas before you sign on.
6 Big Questions to Ask Every Real Estate Technology Vendor About TCO.
1. Will this software grow with my company’s goals?
Now that Software as a Service (SaaS) dominates in most industries, you are less likely to run into a purchase becoming outdated. However, does the software provider know their future intentions? Or, does this product seem like a quick-fix, a bandage, for your existing problem?
What questions should you ask about the “expected lifetime” of the software?
- Is this a new product, or has it been on the market for quite some time?
- What new products does the vendor have in the pipeline that might replace the one you are considering?
- How long do they plan to support the existing product?
2. Does the software come with usage limitations, and how do the limitations work?
If you don’t plan ahead there can come a point in your average daily usage that you find a limitation in the software. What does “typical” usage look like, and what are the costs if we exceed usage limitations?
- How many users can I have per license?
- How many devices can run the software at the same time?
- Can we access the software from both the desktop and mobile?
- Is there a limit to the amount of data storage?
3. How easy is the software to use?
Questions about ease of use apply to many aspects of how your brokerage will implement a new solution and they are important to ask ahead of time. This will help you better frame how your staff and agents will continue to embrace it over time. Be sure to understand the nitty-gritty about customization, data migration, implementation, adoption, initial and ongoing training, and expected timelines for each of these pieces. These items could affect the actual cost of the software as well as the enthusiasm of your agents and administrative staff. You want happy, engaged team members who can readily put the new tools to work.
Here are the questions you should ask about the software’s ease of use:
- How easy is it to onboard?
- What is the average time it takes for new clients to implement and start using the software?
- What is the time investment for the initial training?
- How much ongoing training is included?
- How difficult is data migration?
- How long does data migration take?
4. What should we plan for in terms of in-house maintenance requirements?
When considering the total cost of ownership, you need to look at how you will handle the inevitable upgrades over time.
Questions you should ask regarding ongoing maintenance:
- Do we need to have a dedicated in-house maintenance person?
- How hard will it be to maintain our software?
- Do we pay more for software updates or bug patches?
- At what point would we need to upgrade our licenses?
5. What kind of technical support will we need in order to use the software every day?
Even with the most user-friendly software, glitches, frozen screens, and technical issues happen. And let’s face it — real estate agents exist all over the tech-savviness spectrum. You’ll want to understand what’s promised for basic support and troubleshooting and whether you’ll need to make an additional investment to assure broad-based usage.
Questions you should ask about support and troubleshooting:
- What type of support is offered with our license?
- Is there a time frame or a limited number of support hours we get with our package?
- What happens if an agent has trouble with the software? Are we charged per call?
- How easy is it to reach a support person? What hours is support available?
6. How secure is our data, and what happens in the case of a disaster or downtime where we can’t access our software?
What safeguards does the software vendor have in place to help you keep your business safe, secure, and operational through any situation? The real estate industry is fast becoming a high-risk target in identity theft and wire-fraud schemes. You want to ensure you’re aligning with partners that take security seriously.
Questions you should ask about security, disasters, and potential downtime:
- What kind of security is included with our licensing?
- Are automatic backups included?
- Do we need to purchase additional external or cloud storage?
- Will we need to hire an additional security service provider for our software?
- Will we be able to access our data during a natural disaster?
- Software downtime affects our efficiency and agent productivity; what assurances do we have about software connectivity?
Ask these questions about any real estate software solution you are seriously considering. You’ll get important answers, and you’ll also help the vendor you eventually choose support you more constructively. And when you ask the vendor about data responsibilities, support, troubleshooting, ease of use, maintenance, and expected lifetime, you can better estimate the TCO of your new software. If a vendor doesn’t have an answer, you may want to go with a provider who already has these processes — and more — covered.