A review of MRI Ascend London 2020

by | Feb 21, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

If you’re an MRI Software user, you’re probably aware that the International User Conference recently became known as MRI Ascend. The new name, we were promised, would signify an “even bigger and better show than ever before”.

So, to find out whether or not the revamped show lived up to its billing, we dispatched our radiant Helpdesk Team Leader, Lewis Flisher, to MRI Ascend London. His report—which you can read below—is essential reading for anyone considering attending a future Ascend event.

Lewis's Agenda

Lewis Flisher, Helpdesk Team Leader

Day 1

  • Kick Off
  • Please Sir, I want some more…residential management data
  • Platform X, MRI Living & MRI @ work – an ecosystem of solutions for PMX
  • Advanced tools to help MRI PMX users elevate their financial and property management operations
  • Evening reception

Day 2

  • Keynote speech by Mark Stevenson
  • What’s new and what’s planned for MRI’s Commercial Suite
  • Best practices for the finance office
  • Using MRI Application Studio
  • Close

Day 1 – kick off

On a bright, sunny morning in February, I leapt out of bed excited for day one of MRI’s best conference, MRI Ascend London 2020! I’d heard good things about past MRI user conferences, so I was looking forward to experiencing it for the first time. After a fairly painless drive-train-run-tube-walk to etc.venues in London, it was time to start MRI Ascend off in style…with breakfast.

MRI Ascend London 2020 breakfast

What a spread! I could already tell that it was going to be a special event.

After the first feast of the day, I joined 700 or so other people in heading into the “Opening presentation” featuring a succession of MRI’s leadership team. All-round excitement was the name of the game. We heard from Dermot Briody, Patrick Ghilani, Arik Kogan and self-proclaimed “aged James Corden”, Trevor Youens.

Each demonstrated how MRI’s open & connected philosophy was coming to fruition in different parts of the business. All encouraged us to find out how the partner products and services could add to the MRI core offer.

Morning sessions

After the opening presentation, the day was filled with a wide range of breakout sessions on subjects that span the MRI ecosystem. There really is something for everyone. As I head up the Helpdesk at TopUp, I feel it’s important to keep abreast of developments to the external environment as well as to MRI systems. So, I chose a mix of sessions accordingly.

First up for me was: “Please sir, I want some more…residential management data”. Andrew Bulmer of The Institute of Residential Property Management, took us through the ins and outs of the fast-approaching changes to legislation, building safety and construction and how PropTech will change the game for real estate professionals.

• Legislation is changing to be geared more towards tenant needs, rather than landlord needs, since Grenfell.

• With changes to the Extension of Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, landlords will now be forced to carry out improvements work on their properties or they can be sued for damages.

• Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards are also changing. Since 2018 all new tenancies had to have a minimum of an E energy rating, but from April no existing tenancies can be less than E.

• Extension of Tenant Fees Act – This means landlords and letting agents cannot charge fees other than rent, deposits, holding deposits and charges for defaulting on the contract – with additional restrictions on how much tenants must pay.

Andrew really showed his passion for the changes that need to be made to keep the people of this country safer, to have more say in what they want and what they need. It helped put some of the MRI developments into context. Fantastic all round.

Next up…lunch.

Ascend 2020 bento box

I could talk about lunch for the next coming years, but I know that’s not what you’re here for. So, instead, I’ll say how useful it was to have some time to talk to clients and peers and to see interesting partner products on display at the stands. (And that lunch was great!)

Afternoon sessions

After lunch, “Platform X, MRI Living & MRI @ work – an ecosystem of solutions for PMX”. Richard Layton & Rob Kearsley headed this one and my main takeaway is that: if you’re not already on Platform X, it really is time to consider upgrading.

MRI @ work

Richard & Rob enthusiastically showed off the vision for MRI and a raft of new features that already make work life easier. In RM, for example, you’ll get flexible rent dates, proration & step-ups. In CM, you’ll get stuff like multicurrency recoveries & bad debt reserves being automated. X5 also marks the release of V1 Web Security Console.

Afternoon break…you know the score…food.

For my final session of the day, “Advanced tools to help MRI PMX users elevate their financial and property management operations”. Our very own, Dean Nixon, kicked this session off with a presentation on one of our own products, eConnect: an advanced email & communication tool for real estate systems.

Dean presenting eConnect at Ascend London 2020

Now, I’m SURE you’ve heard of eConnect already, but if you sign up for a webinar you’ll find out how to save literal days on sending bulk correspondence to your clients from MRI Software (and a whole lot more).

After Dean’s fantastic presentation, Hasan Zakzouk & Richard Layton provided huge insight into the diversity of MRI products that help make users’ jobs easier. This included a deep dive into some tools for budgeting, forecasting & job cost. It was a must-see session for anyone who wants to increase productivity, optimise performance and, generally, have more free time. (That’s pretty much everyone!)

Evening reception

Day 1 ended with an evening reception. You know what’s going to happen here. Many people who work hard…finishing earlier than usual…live music…free beer and wine…

Day 2 – back again!

I didn’t so much leap out of bed as got out of bed with a cracking headache. Still, Day 2 of MRI Ascend London 2020, was ahead of me! Arriving in Central London a little worse for wear, it was TIME FOR BREAKFAST!

MRI Ascend London breakfast 2020

Have I mentioned how good the food was?

With belly full and enthusiasm at an all-time high, I was ready for the first session of the day: the Keynote speech by Mark Stevenson. Mark is one of the world’s most respected thinkers on the interplay of technology and society and, although he focuses on the future, he is NOT a futurologist. He is also not afraid to lay down a challenge.

The general thrust of Mark’s speech was that the world is in chaos and we’re destroying the planet. Somehow, he managed to make it relevant to organisational culture & innovation. It was a thrilling 90 minutes of the good, the bad and the ugly and really got us all thinking—and talking—about how we can be better at innovation and better as people.

Morning break…food…you get it by now, I hope.

For the final morning session of the conference, I decided to attend “What’s new and what’s planned for MRI’s Commercial Suite”. Diane Mthimkulu & Hasan Zakzouk took this one and showed off the improvements and updates to PMX. The new service charge updates alone made this session worthwhile, while I was also really impressed with the UX, usability and productivity updates. Rather than clicking 800 times, you’ll only have to click three times, which means more table tennis time.

Afternoon sessions

Lunch…was alright, I guess? Almost got you—it was as wonderful as always!

For the penultimate session of the conference, I attended “Best practices for the finance office”. Richard Layton & Hasan Zakzouk were back for this one, showing off some impressive new features and functionality such as Inter-Company postings, calculated journals & investment management.

MRI Ascend 2020 intra entity accounts

Inter-Company postings has always been something underutilised with MRI and gaining knowledge for this one will ensure we’re giving the best possible support for our clients. Once again, Richard & Hasan’s knowledge will help myself and my team on a daily basis.

So, time for the last session, while feeling a bit like there couldn’t possibly be anything better to come. How wrong I was!

There was some BIG NEWS in the session “Using MRI Application Studio” with Rob Kearsley and Ron Steijger. The BIG NEWS was that Application Studio will be replacing MRI’s Flexibility Toolkit.

Web Design? GONE.

Report Design? GONE.

Workflow Design? GONE!

Why is this important? The Application Studio will allow MRI users much more flexibility in terms of getting data in and out with APIs. Users will be able to create custom reports/pages/task that pull information from MRI solutions as well as outside solutions too. Something that’s been asked for a lot is a way to import daily exchange rates. This currently can only be done manually. With an API you can contact your bank of choice and, if they have an API, pull all that information through to your MRI instance, safely and securely—and saving hours of your time.

The bad news is that the Application Studio is in the pre, pre, pre, pre-stages of development and will not be available to partners or clients until sometime in 2021. So, if you need any help with data before then, you can always give us a call.

Nevertheless, from the get-go, Rob’s passion and excitement for the Application Studio really came out. You really can tell he cares where the Application Studio is going, and its quest in giving the client/partner as much flexibility as possible. The new inclusion of API functionality in MRI is welcomed and everyone in the room was very impressed. It wasn’t the food at lunch, but it was very close.

Final summary

Team TopUp at Ascend 2020

So that’s it…the end of Ascend. What would I say to someone thinking of joining the next one? 100% go for it. First of all, for the food and drink. Secondly, because it’s a lot of fun. Thirdly, and most importantly, to gain vital information about the MRI platform. You’ll learn:

  • how to get the most from your current platform
  • the future of MRI Software and forthcoming developments
  • valuable information about property trends, legislation changes and how these will impact your processes in future
  • about all the partner services and products that add to the ecosystem

The effort from the whole MRI team to make the conference as informational, and quite frankly, as fun as possible is impressive. I can’t thank them enough for a great show and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for MRI in the next year and beyond. So, here’s to MRI Ascend London 2021!

And that’s it…the end of my review. How did I do? Feel free to email me to ask any questions about the conference, our MRI Software consultancy or Helpdesk services or to tell me to stick to my day job.

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MRI Ascend London 2020 took place at etc.venues, 133 Houndsditch on 12-13 February 2020. You can find out more about future MRI events on the MRI website.

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