Supplier partners love to tout their products’ “seamless integrations” with any and all property management systems and other property technology. But rarely do their solutions actually meet the true definition of integration.
Typically, those heralded integration capabilities merely amount to an interface – or an information bridge – between separate software products. An interface can be beneficial, but the capacity for automated workflow and communication is limited because data still must be maintained in multiple locations and generally requires some form of manual administration. The relationship doesn’t allow data to sync in real-time, which leads to inconsistencies and inaccuracies.
A product interface might be sufficient for tasks that are only conducted periodically, but at the rate the multifamily industry is modernizing, most operators are looking for a system built from components that act and perform as one. That’s where true integration becomes essential.
Unlike an interface, software integration combines products to function as a single source solution. Operating from the same database instead of passing information across a shared boundary, integrated products operate together to improve capabilities through automation.
Apartment managers need to be diligent about distinguishing between integrating versus interfacing products when shopping for proptech solutions. Interfacing software simply doesn’t deliver the same functionality as a true integration, and it’s important to know what level of communication to expect between software systems. Knowing the questions to ask is key to making an informed decision.
Questions to ask supplier partners
A firm grasp of what a proptech solution can and can’t do is vital before deployment, and asking the right questions can reveal a product’s true capabilities. Essential information that multifamily operations need to gather from potential supplier partners includes:
• Is the product compatible with the property management system? To avoid tech silos, solutions must include two-way communication with property management systems (PMS) and other best-in-breed tools. The impact of proptech is optimized when access and controls are centralized.
• How does the product fit into the existing workflow? A fully integrated system will seamlessly expand the capabilities of the existing workflow, reducing the amount of required training and support. An interfaced product could necessitate that the user switch back and forth between applications. It may also function completely differently than native software, requiring product-specific training and potential dual data entry.
• What steps are required to synchronize and exchange data? An integrated platform will automatically update across the system in real-time with a single data entry, whereas a software interface will require either periodic updates in multiple locations, or regularly scheduled synchronization. Timing is key here as a lag will result in potential data inconsistencies.
• Is mapping maintenance required? While truly integrated proptech shares codes with existing applications, interfacing products may need to be mapped in order to enable syncing and transfer data, and those mapping directories need to be continually monitored, maintained, and updated.
• Is the solution scalable? Integrated products automatically scale alongside the property or portfolio, unlike interface-based proptech which typically needs to be manually updated on both sides of the information bridge as the property or company grows.
Examples of integrated proptech solutions
By fully integrating, proptech enhances the prospect and resident experience at multifamily communities.
• Virtual and self-guided tours revolutionized the industry, however, it is integrations with PMS platforms and access control solutions that take the prospect experience to the next level.
• Resident payment portals drastically streamlined onsite operations and rent tracking, but it is when those portals were paired with integrated deposit replacement solutions and CRMs that a truly comprehensive and collaborative system is created.
Proptech should improve operations while streamlining workflow, rather than adding unnecessary steps to the process. True integrations are the most direct route to enhanced capabilities, automated processes, and a new set of efficiencies for apartment operators. Property teams with the right tools in their tool kits are more productive, and finding products that play well together in one sandbox creates a significant competitive advantage.