2013 was a busy year at Clareity Consulting, both for our standard services and our strategic endeavors.
We performed one of our most popular and proven services, the MLS Selection Process for many markets, including Knoxville, Northern Alabama, Memphis, Charlotte, and three boards in Canada. At one point this year, we were handling seven selection processes simultaneously. There were also several selections we started in 2013 but which are not yet complete. Some have said that MLSs shouldn’t switch and that member satisfaction doesn’t easily recover, but based on post-transition surveys we can call BS on that. We don’t see the trend of MLSs evaluating their options and sometimes changing vendors slowing down in 2014.
Gregg and Matt spoke at numerous industry events during the year helping broker and agent audiences understand new technology and critical issues facing the industry. A hot topic again last year for brokers was strategic listing syndication, due to critical changes and developments with large publishers. Clareity facilitated several MLS merger processes and conducted strategic planning sessions for associations, MLSs, and technology companies.
Clareity continued to perform VOW Audits (and sometimes IDX audits) for clients. In 2013, it still seems shocking how few VOWs are compliant on first review. We were also called in regarding some unusual uses of IDX data that we will no doubt be revisiting more publicly in 2014 if they are not resolved. Some of these uses made it clear that MLS Policy needs to revisit IDX in 2014 – specifically what it means for brokers to “control” the display and if the current language, created perhaps too hurriedly in 2012, is sufficient to address the spirit of IDX.
We also saw a lot of action performing Security Audits. One of these was needed after an industry organization had suffered a security incident, but most thankfully were preventative. Implementing usable security policies (especially “BYOD”), physical security procedures, and timely security patches for operating systems, server platforms, and installed software seem to be common areas needing improvement, but each client has unique challenges beyond that. For MLS, association, and broker clients, as they outsource more functions (including AMS and accounting hosting), more of their risks are more difficult to control. Thankfully, Clareity has always included at least a base level of SaaS and third party software review as a part of its audits, and this is bringing issues to light. But many SaaS and software contracts (negotiated without help from Clareity) are woefully insufficient to manage the risk and too few SaaS providers are doing a good job without customer oversight.
Clareity drove our industry forward on information security in a variety of other ways in 2013, including a continuation of the NAR-sponsored information security workshops, topical speeches at MLS and association events, and a series of articles written for the Canadian Real Estate Association, some of which will inspire similar U.S. oriented articles in 2014. If you’re not familiar with Clareity’s Real Estate Information Security Center, please visit it and share the articles with others.
2013: The Year of Strategic Pro-Bono Work
Starting at the 2013 MLS Executive Workshop, Clareity kicked off two major industry-strategic efforts which took a lot of resources.
The first effort was working with Distil Networks to customize their anti-scraping technology to work for the real estate industry – that’s always harder than folks offering generic solutions think it will be – and then working to get the industry to adopt anti-scraping technology. We count our efforts as a successful start, as a number of MLSs have implemented the system for their public-facing systems and we’re starting to shut down some scrapers and maintain monitoring on others for evaluation regarding legal action (more on that soon). But we need to see much more implementation on MLSs’ public-facing systems (including framed IDX and client collaboration tools) in 2014 to be really effective and finish building out the industry-wide intelligence network. We may have to change our approach to make that happen – watch for it in 2014. But please don’t wait to adopt anti-scraping technology – visit Distil Network’s real estate industry pages for more information or give Matt Cohen a call (612-747-5976) to answer any questions you might have that are stopping you from taking the next step.
The second effort was working with Claude Szyfer, a well-respected intellectual property and anti-trust attorney from New York to start up REDPLAN, an association owned and run by its members for the purpose of protecting the intellectual property of member companies. Anyone who has ever started up a non-profit knows how much work goes into that kind of effort. There was strong membership growth in 2013, and many others budgeted to join in 2014. Most importantly, Darity Wesley, a veteran real estate information attorney, was hired to administer the organization, so Clareity won’t have to be the main driver of REDPLAN going forward. REDPLAN is still looking to round out its board of directors, and you can expect to see some great progress in 2014.
Other Strategic Projects
Clareity worked on a number of other strategic projects at many levels of the industry. We helped the Realty Alliance establish Fair Display Guidelines to reduce friction between larger brokers and MLS public facing web sites. The guidelines were inspired by the “Broker Bill of Rights” Clareity drafted in 2011. Our efforts to inspire next generation technology and MLS features, including our long efforts to push for “next gen” client collaboration and mobile features are coming to fruition with a number of vendors. Our efforts to bring MLSs together to operate more efficiently are going well. And, we continue to work with clients to innovate, often starting with strategic planning but engaging at a variety of levels in the innovation process.
Clareity looks forward to continuing its efforts, both paid and unpaid, on behalf of the industry. We want to thank our clients and others who allow us to participate in their success. Many thanks to Inman News for naming Matt Cohen to the “Inman 100 – The 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders” in 2013 and naming Gregg Larson and Amy Geddes to that list again in 2014.
We’ll soon be sending out our MLS Satisfaction Survey – thank you to all of the MLS executives who help make it the most significant survey of its kind every year for the past 13 years. Likewise, we look forward to meeting with 200 of you at the MLS Executive Workshop in March 2014, where we kick off next year’s efforts and discussion topics. As the event grows closer, we will be finalizing the agenda. We already have some great research done, but if you’re planning to attend and want to suggest a topic, it’s not too late. The reason we keep the agenda fluid until close to the event each year is to make sure we have the most timely and important topics. The Workshop is, as usual, close to capacity – so if you haven’t registered, don’t wait any longer!
Thanks again for everything in 2013 – especially to our clients and those who have worked with us to make our more strategic efforts successful. We’re looking forward to an amazing 2014!
Gregg Larson and Matt Cohen
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