The real estate industry is evolving – don’t get left in the dust
By York Baur, CEO of Moxi Works
Platforms are new to our industry and unfortunately, they’re wildly misunderstood. It doesn’t help brokerages realize the intricacies of them when the term “platform” is being thrown around so heavily. Right now it’s the buzz word dujoure and many of these “platforms” don’t offer or do what they should. There are five core components that a platform should have and offer, which I’ll explain below.
The reality is, you don’t need a transaction platform or a marketing platform, you need a brokerage platform where all of your tools and services such as transaction management and marketing plug in and exchange data.
The importance of picking a platform that is driven by the right company for your brokerage cannot be ignored because you’re going to have to live with this thing for a long time. If you don’t pick the right one, it’s likely that you’re going to have problems in the future and changing platforms is no walk in the park. It’s like switching from Android to iPhone or vice versa – not a trivial change.
The five core components that the platform needs to have and offer are:
1. Property data
2. Brokerage and agent data
3. Consumer data
4. Integration with the cloud environment with Microsoft and Google
5. An API allowing other companies to integrate
A proper platform has a variety of benefits. The first is that it significantly increases the choices of tools and services that a brokerage has and significantly decreases the amount of effort that the brokerage has to put into configuring, supporting, and managing those tools.
The second benefit is the ability of the real estate software industry to innovate at a much quicker pace given that brokerages don’t have to reinvent the wheel since the platform already provides many of the basic services that applications need.
Types of Platforms
Up until now I’ve explained what a platform is, but not that there are different kinds. There are closed platforms and open platforms, and one has many more benefits than the other. The philosophy of an open platform is that it offers the best tools and services throughout its ecosystem and isn’t limited to the tools and services built in house. Here are some definitions:
Open Platform: Has an open API that allows brokerages to plug and play tools and services from multiple vendors, including multiple vendors per category (such as marketing, transaction management, etc.), as they see fit.
Closed Platform: Brokerages are required to take the tools and services from one vendor and a very short list of partners, limiting choice and flexibility.
Think of an open platform as a power strip that lets you plug and play the tools and services you want, and unplug the ones you choose to exchange for new, better ones. Basically, an open platform allows a brokerage to select all of the best tools out there, have them work together, and can change tools at will – hassle free.
If you remember, the great innovation of Windows was when you were able to switch from an HP to and Epson printer and everything magically worked after installing the new printer driver. You didn’t have to do anything to Word, you just hit the print button. It’s that flexibility and integration that you get when having a platform.
Like Microsoft, we don’t pretend to be amazing at everything. We let our brokerages choose the best tools and services out there for their brokerage and integrate them into our platform; our own flavor of Windows. We want the power to stay in the brokerages hands, allowing them to curate the tools and services they think are best for their own agents. Every brokerage is unique and because of it, each needs a unique solution.
What’s an Ecosystem?
There are many ways to describe an ecosystem, but for this application within our industry, this is how I choose to explain it:
“An ecosystem is a collection of complimentary applications all working together, sharing data, that make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.”
Any computer you’ve ever used in the modern age has its own ecosystem. Whether it’s that Epson printer you’re using or the many applications you go through in a day like Skype, QuickBooks, or Adobe, everything works together as soon as you install it. If you don’t like an application, you delete it and get another one. It’s as simple as that; that’s plug and play.
Here’s what a platform’s ecosystem should look like:
Why a Brokerage Should Care
If you think that you can ignore or take your sweet time figuring out what a platform is and what it means to your business – think again.
Look what Keller Williams is doing with the Keller Cloud, for example. Should you care about it? Absolutely – we’re excited that they’re enabling data exchange between their tools to make agents lives easier. What this means to you is that you’re going to have to provide a compelling answer when one of your agents is considering moving to Keller Williams, or you’re trying to recruit talent from them. It is absolutely pertinent that you have an answer for what your brokerage platform is when retaining and recruiting agents.
While we’re fans of the integration the the Keller Cloud is creating, it’s still not a truly open platform. Why? Because Keller Williams corporate is still deciding which tools and services will be allowed to plug-in. An easy way to spot the difference, is if it doesn’t have the five characteristics I mentioned above, it’s not an open platform.
The bottom line is, having an open platform and ecosystem of applications that run on it is the key to agent productivity and retention. Traditional brokerages with old school technology are losing agents to brokerages that have not only embraced tech, but have also invested in it. Investing in a platform will allow your brokerage to look to the future without anxiety holding you back, as long as you pick the right one.
Find out more about brokerage platforms and how they work by visiting this page.
The difference between closed and open platforms exposed
By Mike McHenry, VP of Channels and Partnerships, Moxi Works
- A platform is like a power strip; it lets you plug and unplug tools
- An open platform differentiates a broker’s tool set, aiding recruiting and retention
- The difference between a closed and open platform is monumental
A “Platform” is whatever you want it to be
Platforms have existed in technology for ages. Most industries have already adopted them, but it’s a relatively new idea for a residential brokerage. I’ve noticed that the word “platform” is being thrown around heavily right now – it’s the 2017 buzz word and because of that, it’s starting to lose its meaning.
Some of these vendors that are calling themselves “platforms,” however, don’t actually do what they should and because of that, you’ll need to know what to look for. There are five basic services that a proper platform should have and offer:
- Property data that can be shared across all tools eliminating redundant entry
- Brokerage and agent data that’s up to date
- Consumer data so technology can help agents manage their SOI
- Integration with both Microsoft and Google cloud environment to easily and securely share data across tech companies
- An API (it allows other tech companies to integrate and share common data)
Let’s also put some rumors to rest. Just because you use a platform doesn’t mean you need to embrace the entire platform. It would be insane for a single brokerage to use every single one of our 30 integrated partners. A platform is whatever you want it to be for your brokerage.
Also, Security isn’t an inherent problem in open platforms just because a system is open, doesn’t mean it’s insecure. YouTube for instance, is an open platform site. No one is afraid to use it.
Closed vs. Open Platforms
I have to shed light on how important the distinction between a closed vs. open platform is. Many vendors that call themselves “platforms” are just products that sit on a database with no API – meaning they have no way to communicate effectively with one another. Here are some examples:
Open platform: Microsoft Windows. Windows is an operating system that allows you to download whatever you want, whether that’s QuickBooks for your taxes or Adobe Photoshop, and delete the apps you no longer want or use. If apple is more your speed, think iPhone and the AppStore.
Closed platform: Video game consoles. If you buy a game for Xbox and you get a Sony PlayStation, you have to buy your games all over again. The choice is not up to you if you ever decide to switch.
As a broker, this means with a closed platform you have to go with whatever tools the vendor chose to work with OR the vendor built it all themselves and can’t afford to evolve it over time at the same speed as competitors. Either way, it can be a disastrous future for a brokerage.
The reality is, no one can be great at everything. An open platform allows a brokerage to get all of the best tools out there, have them work together, and can change tools at will – hassle free.
Open Platform Benefits
If you’re a broker and you’ve already invested in some tech solutions over the past three or four years like a digital transaction tool, gifting, or lead partners, you don’t have to change them to get on an open platform; you integrate them and preserve your investment in agent training. That’s why an open platform is so dominant: the power and tools stay in the brokerages hands. They help companies retain the tools they love and find replacements for the ones they aren’t jiving with.
If you choose a platform provider for those benefits today, that provider can help you flawlessly transition as new tools come online in the future. At the end of the day that’s what everyone wants right? No headaches and a shorter list of items for a brokerage to worry about.
If those are not good enough reasons to use an open platform, then how about this: money. Maintenance and support are cheaper on an open platform because it leverages the entire community that makes up the cloud. Development time also decreases. Boeing doesn’t make aircrafts, they assemble them.
What’s an Ecosystem?
This is another term used in the platform realm. An ecosystem is a collection of complimentary applications all working together, sharing data, that make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Each platform has its own ecosystem that makes up the cloud.
Again, think of your iPhone. You can have all of your applications together so that the device becomes an indispensable business tool. You get to pick à la carte whatever applications you need and don’t have to worry about how they work together. If you find later you don’t like an application, you can delete it and install a different one.
Why a Brokerage Should Care
It’s no secret that the pace of change for real estate technology is accelerating. We know that there are hundreds of companies making technology for residential real estate, which makes for thousands of applications available for use today.
What this means to a brokerage owner is that there’s no way to predict which companies and applications are going to succeed or even to envision what technologies will come into the market in the future.
Having a platform and ecosystem of applications that run on it is the key to agent productivity and retention. If you don’t think that having a complete integrated technology platform and applications to offer your agents is important, talk to a broker that just lost an agent to Compass.
If you choose the right platform, you’re going to get most of the benefits that Upstream promises for your brokerage today and will future-proof your brokerage for what’s to come in the future.