Leading Business Applications For Brokerage!

Posted On Tuesday, 25 February 2003 10:01 Published by
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Last week's Advisory recognized 10 Brokerage firms for their spirit of innovation.

Last week's Advisory recognized 10 Brokerage firms for their spirit of innovation. Much of that innovation is centered around the Internet and the ability to automate once time consuming tasks. This week, our focus is on a few of the application solutions for business processes that are being rethought and redesigned.

At the heart of automation is a well-run business. After all, it is not about the technology but rather the business results that come from the automation. In a Brokerage operation, the two most apparent goals of automation would be financial success, or profitability, and client satisfaction. You cannot have one without the other.

Over the last four years, our industry, as well as the rest of the world, has changed their focus on the Internet from a basic way in which to market your organization, a web page, to the foundation of sophisticated business applications. One of the most powerful attributes of the Internet is that you simply need a browser to reach out to any computer without a complicated installation. In the old days of client/server applications, you needed an army of technical people to install the applications and replication of data was difficult, time consuming and expensive. To make matters even worse, most of the effort was spent on making the technology work and not in fixing the business problem.

IBIIS, or Internet Based Integrated Information Systems, are finding their way into every major business organization in the world, including Brokerage. These systems are allowing Brokers to access their company's system from the office, at home, the client's office and even from the car using a new browser equipped mobile phone. This is a dramatic shift from the days of having to go back to the office to get a particular piece of information. With IBIIS, an organization can now offer mobility never seen before. The end result -- more efficient and effective brokers, hence, greater profitability and higher customer satisfaction.

The following list represents just a few of the business software applications we are finding in today's more progressive Brokerage operations:

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Allows for client data to be aggregated and organized. It also allows for small teams as well as the entire organization to share contact data. The technology is here, it is Brokerage culture that is holding up the adoption of this solution. A growing number of Brokerage companies are implementing CRM solutions with great success. This will ultimately force other, more traditional brokerage firms to consider the concept. These new systems allow for centralized calendars, e-mail integration and contact information with shared notes. For those Brokerage organizations not yet ready to share all the contact notes, sophisticated security allows for some but not all to see the note details. Once an organization understands the cost of unproductive Brokers, CRM systems become a requirement. A quick analysis of how much it costs a company every time 100 brokers change a client's address in 100 separate copies of ACT will convince even the most uninterested individual that shared CRM solutions must find their way into Brokerage companies in the near future.

Transaction / Deal Management
It is hard to imagine a Brokerage firm not using this technology. Back in 2000, many firms signed up for this because it was the hot topic of the day and their clients were demanding it. The reality was, once the deal was signed, no one used it. Today, more and more firms are legitimately becoming dependent on this business solution. At the most basic level, this software allows an individual to track a project's team members, milestones and tasks, as well as have access to the documents in the transaction. Because these systems are Internet-based, it is also now very easy for the client to sign in and have restricted access to the deal information center. These systems also allow for integration with e-mail systems for easy updating of contact notes. As organizations become more familiar and successful with these deal-tracking systems, best practices in the form of project templates can be implemented.

Pipeline / Business Prospect Management
Considering the size of the deals in the Commercial Real Estate industry, it is amazing that management has not paid closer attention to solutions to track their pipelines. It is still not unusual for companies to barely track business that is expected to close this month. Deals popping up the last day of the month are still phenomenons that occur. With more and more pressure being put on those who run the business, Pipeline Management products are becoming more popular. These systems allow the Broker to see and manage his/her own business prospects, while the local manager can see the office, the regional manager the region and top executives can view and analyze the entire organization. A good pipeline system will allow you to track by client name, deal type, dollar amount, expected close date and probability. Not only will this allow an organization to run more efficiently, it can also be used as a quick demo to the prospective client to show how you operate the company, possibly resulting in additional business.

Automated Marketing Systems
On a recent visit to Sperry Van Ness in Southern California, we were shown one of the most compelling Internet applications we have seen in quite some time. Their Internet Based Automated Marketing System takes the concept of organized/integrated marketing to a new level. Even before a deal begins, a Broker can enter information into a Web-based form. Once completed, the system will automatically create a postcard, summary sheet, proposal, full package, CD-ROM multimedia presentation and a Web page. This is all done in a matter of minutes, not days. This system is supported by a centralized group of individuals who make sure the Broker's every need is met. The efficiency of this new system speaks for itself. The Broker has access to extraordinary marketing material before the deal even starts, at a very competitive cost to the company. In this situation, everyone wins, except the company who is generating their marketing materials one at a time in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Property DataBases
Almost every Brokerage firm in the country struggles with the concept of collecting data. While some would argue that they rely on 3rd party vendors to provide their data, closer investigation shows they still gather and organize an inordinate amount of information in the deal process. Having come to this realization, some are deciding to rely on Internet Based Property Systems to collect and store property data. Even if they do rely on 3rd party providers, the data they collect on properties themselves should be stored in a centralized firm database and not individual copies of Microsoft Excel and Access. The Brokerage firm's collective, historical knowledge is invaluable. Basic property information, photos and comps are all the different forms of information that can be held in this database. The more sophisticated products can also integrate with other applications such as pipeline reporting, commission management, portal publishers and more.

Once again, it is not about the technology but rather how firms use the technology to improve their businesses. The Brokerage sector involves a great amount of information handling and exchange. Because of this, they are perfect candidates for automation. At Realcomm 2003 in Chicago, we are going to dig deep into the success of the innovators and see what new standards are being created. The 'Brokerage Mega-Session' will explore all the latest best practices that will redefine the Brokerage practice for the 21st century.


Publisher: Realcomm
Source: Realcomm

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