MRI Software International Users Conference 2018 – EMEA
At the end of every year, we willingly submit ourselves to a whirlwind tour of industry and partner events. The last event of 2018 was a very first – the inaugural MRI Software International Users Conference in London.
As MRI’s longest-serving partner in Europe, we at TopUp decided to join the party as a gold sponsor. This meant that we had an exhibition stand and, as well as the opportunity to attend a wide variety of speaker sessions, we were able to talk to MRI users, staff and other partners throughout the day.
The conversations I had with attendees were just as valuable as the excellent speaker sessions. So, rather than simply recap the sessions I attended, I thought you might like to read some observations from my whole MRI IUC experience. I hope you find it useful.
Open and connected is king
“MRI Software is the open and connected platform” was the key message – and it was a message that attendees could not escape:
- Pat Ghilani, MRI’s CEO and a consistently smooth operator, placed the message at the heart of his opening speech.
- Dermot Briody, MRI’s Executive Managing Director, emphasised the importance of the message while reflecting on a momentous year for MRI.
- Russ Butler, MRI’s Chief Technology Officer, confirmed the concept as a central tenet of MRI’s strategy going forward.
The senior MRI team wanted us to be clear that they are committed to providing customers with a flexible platform and a “rich partner ecosystem“. You only had to look around the exhibition space to see that this is not just hot air: it was filled with partners invited to attend, speak or display their own products to MRI customers.
Mandira Mehra, MRI’s Chief Marketing Officer, is fiercely proud of the philosophy and she told me confidently why the open and connected approach benefits everyone involved:
- end users benefit from increased choice of products available (“endless possibilities”)
- partners benefit from increased access to potential customers
- MRI Software benefits from more and happier customers.
I think you can call that a win, win, win situation.
The key to an open platform
If you’re wondering what makes an open platform possible, aside from the mentality, it’s largely down to something called an Application Programming Interface – commonly known by the acronym: API. APIs essentially allow two different applications to communicate with one another.
In his session on “Leveraging open platforms for maximum impact”, my colleague Dean Nixon, likened an API to a waiter. When you visit a restaurant, a waiter takes your order and delivers it to the kitchen, before returning to your table to bring you the food you ordered. That’s essentially what an API does – but with data.
Efficiency <3 Service
There’s always a balance to be found between high-quality service and maximum efficiency. With my marketing hat on, I tend to lean towards the customer and service. Yet, conversations at our stand generally turned quickly to efficiency and cost.
In fact, even in a session on the potential for AI & machine learning in real estate, the audience seemed more interested in the potential to remove labour rather than the potential to improve services. (I’m sure I could see £ signs appear before attendees’ eyes when Richard Belgrave of Leverton said “AI does not get tired”.)
I understand the need for efficiency, of course, but I can’t help but feel the primacy of cost savings restricts possibilities somewhat.
Fortunately, a number of MRI partners at the show put service at the forefront of their pitch. I was particularly heartened by a conversation with Alex King, CMO at Fixflo, about the importance of their Customer Success Team to the implementation process. Alex explained that Fixflo are not just concerned with getting the technology working, they’re also concerned with making sure that users benefit from the platform as soon as they can. The idea is that the sooner a new user is up to speed, the more that user will use the platform; the more the user uses the platform, the sooner the business will realise the benefits of the product.
So, it seems that product/service and efficiency can go hand in hand after all!
A laggard or just immune to hype?
It is commonly said that real estate lags behind other sectors in terms of the adoption of new technology and I think that’s broadly true. Yet, I’ve also decided that real estate folk are very good at simply ignoring the hype.
I came to this conclusion during an interesting panel discussion hosted by Andy Birch (MRI Software’s Head of Product Management) on the “latest technology trends affecting the real estate industry”. The wide-ranging conversation covered AI, Machine Learning, Cryptocurrency and Big Data and a recurring theme was the general lack of adoption of related tools in the industry.
— TopUp Consultants (@TopUpConsultant) December 5, 2018
The panellists concluded that this is, in part, because real estate folk favour practical and light touch tools that quickly give them what they need. This conclusion was bolstered by the vast turnout for a presentation on a Microsoft Excel reporting tool, Spreadsheet Server.
Yes, that’s correct – the hottest product session at the conference was a presentation on a Microsoft Excel add-in!
If, as it appears, real estate folk are only willing to buy-in to solutions that provide tangible benefits, I guess that supports MRI’s approach of allowing you to easily connect the solutions that best suits you. When the next “must have” tool has proven to be more than hype, if you’re on the MRI platform, you’ll be ready to take advantage.
Those are my observations from a very enjoyable MRI Software IUC in London. It’s a big show and, although not quite the size of the MRI IUC in USA, I still missed more than I saw. So, I’ll be keeping an eye out for other points of view and summaries of the varied instructional sessions and product demos. If you’d like to know more about the show, then please do get in touch or watch the short video below for a flavour of things.
- The real estate finance department capacity problem, and how you can fix it - 17 March 2020
- A review of MRI Ascend London 2020 - 21 February 2020
- Protect your real estate correspondence – before it’s too late! - 19 December 2019