I know it’s a bit early to start the ‘year in review’ but I’m going to take some time off toward the end of the year – something I don’t usually manage but this year I’m making it a priority.
2012 has been a great year at Clareity Consulting. After so many years of consulting, I continue to learn and grow with every project, and I’m ever so grateful to my clients and to my partner, Gregg Larson.
The core of my business has always been facilitation of technology system selection processes – and this year I was able to assist clients selecting MLS, public records, learning management, and document management systems. Through these processes, I keep on top of the latest technology so I can better advise my clients – and it’s not just what I learn from the vendor through the detailed RFP and resulting proposals, but seeing what different users respond to during demonstrations. It’s not about the techology, but how people respond to it and use it that’s important.
- Demonstration Day During MLS Selection
I also learn so much by performing member surveys, about the association and/or MLS service and the products provided. A question I sometimes get is why we don’t include members in the “MLS Satisfaction Survey” we put out to MLS Executives each year and the answer should be obvious to anyone who has ever done a member survey – members all too often don’t differentiate between what the vendor provides and local implementation decisions, rules, and service. And member perception is also based on many decisions that MLSs make about initial and ongoing training, and how well the MLS continues to market the benefits of the system to members. Sometimes when there’s local dissatisfaction with the MLS system, it has nothing to do with the vendor at all – and it’s more a matter of planning what the local MLS organization needs to do differently. Anyway, member surveys provide invaluable insight for my clients – and for me – but I know better than to take them out of the local market where the numbers have context. I’m also grateful when MLS and association executives answer Clareity’s surveys – often I learn things that help me help all of them in turn.
Product Management is an area where I also derive great satisfaction – helping vendors and MLSs building their own technologies figure out where to expend their effort, improving usability and current features while looking toward the future. I have a notebook full of ideas that no one is doing yet – ideas that are often informed by my survey and system selection work. I love to break out a few ideas for my tech clients to implement – and I love being able to see my ideas spread out over the industry once they are reflected into the software everyone is using.
MLS Cooperation / Regionalization has been a big trend in the industry lately, and I’ve been honored to help move a few groups forward, one of them in collaboration with another wonderful industry consultant, Kevin McQueen. Here’s a little free advice when it comes to MLSs working together or merging – do not focus on picking technology first, because that’s not where the deals blow up. Focus on ownership, governance, and money flow – those are the “Should we get married?” questions, and technology is more “Let’s pick a couch together!” Groups that move out of order have often ended up with their “couch” on the curb, and if they’ve overcommunicated too early, it can be very embarassing. I like to help groups deal with the tricky initial questions – I can bring a lot of perspective and help clients avoid the pitfalls that have befallen others. Also, my detail oriented nature comes in handy at the end, working with MLSs and their attorneys to make sure all the necessary agreements are in place and are smartly crafted to ensure a good relationship for the parties moving forward.
It has been a great year for Strategic Planning – making sure that MLSs and Associations are thinking ahead and have aligned their mission with their strategies, tactics, and action plans. I learn so much working with MLS boards and staff – working together to answer the challenges they face all the time brings me a lot of joy.
A lot of MLSs are starting to gear up their data licensing compliance audits – especially for IDX and VOW sites, and some outsource compliance to me entirely while others just use my services for the parts they aren’t good at (i.e. security auditing, anti-scraping testing). I have never audited a VOW that was compliant out of the box, before working with them extensively to help bring them into compliance. And IDX sites are out of compliance about 50% of the time on average. Our industry has a lot of work to do in this area – if rules aren’t enforced consistently it creates terrible risk.
Speaking of terrible risks, I’m still very busy with Information Security Audits and Security Workshops, the latter sponsored by NAR. I’m doing my best to reduce the risk across our industry – but it takes everyone stepping up and doing their part. One of my MLS clients had a good idea – they require anyvendor they send data to to have a security audit and address issues before they give them the data. But MLSs and Associations themselves have risks that need to be identified and dealt with – and just because you outsource software or hosting doesn’t mean it’s not your problem – if your organization hasn’t had an audit in the past two years – call me! Please also spread the word – I’ve posted many useful security resources here, in the Real Estate Information Security Center– it’s a long page (keep scrolling) and I’m always adding to it. Feel free to re-print or re-post articles or excerpts with attribution – you can even use them as content for your Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.
- Lock Down Those Printers and Workstations!
There’s one kind of work I do that honestly, I dislike doing because it’s very stressful, but I do it when I have to – and that’s getting involved in legal cases as an Expert Witness. At least I only take the jobs when I believe it’s on the side of right. This year Clareity turned down some of this type of work – once it was a class action suit against an MLS – we didn’t think the case had merit.
Every year I have one key deadline: the MLS Executive Workshop at the end of February and beginning of March. If you’re an MLS Executive or staff person and haven’t been to it, you have no idea how much content we pack into those days and how much fresh research we do to provide participants with material that will be talked about all year long. This year we have at least 150% of the content we need already and it’s more a matter of editing it down to fit the Workshop!
I think most folks know that what I like more than anything is giving back through blogs and more in-depth articles. Here are some to check out if you’ve missed them:
I’ve also written a chapter for Stefan Swanepoel‘s annual Trends Report – he asked me to write on a very challenging (third rail) subject – but you’ll have to wait for the report to be released next year to learn more!
2013 promises to be more exciting than ever – I’m working on all sorts of semi-secret and super-secret projects that will benefit the whole industry in a big way. I can’t wait for the new year.
Love to you all!
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