We can outsource almost everything in our lives, from our accounts to our cleaning. But how do we go about finding the right IT solution for our real estate businesses?
First things first: when it comes to outsourcing your IT you’re looking for a managed service provider. This is instead of a ‘break it and fix it’ option, where you’ve just got a person you call when something goes wrong.
A managed service provider will cost more than an on-demand option, but in the long run it brings far more benefits to your business and will allow you to get a more tailored experience.
Andrew Herrmann, Director of EFEX, says the first thing you need to keep in mind is that your needs as a real estate professional won’t be the same as other offices, and you need to make sure your provider can match them.
“You need to ensure your managed service provider understands the real estate game. Agents don’t work nine to five, so neither should your IT, print and voice provider. This includes weekends,” says Andrew.
Next you need to make sure you’re getting the right model for your business. Andrew recommends an operational expense (opex) model over a capital expenditure (capex) model.
“Renting, leasing or subscription-based models allow agencies to keep money in the bank as opposed to sitting on the office desk depreciating. Not only does this help with cash flow, this also allows scalability as the business grows,” says Andrew.
Taking on a managed service also allows you to opt in for upgrades and refresh strategies, which is something you should look for. New is often better; and while you might pay a little more for upgrades and new hardware, ultimately it’s often worth it.
Along that line, make sure you take advantage of the offers from your service provider. There’s no point wasting your time doing low-value activities like fetching toner. A good provider will have all your tech needs answered before you even knew you had them.
Agents don’t work nine to five and neither should your managed service provider.
One of the things you’ll need to consider when you sign up to a managed service provider is your soft cost loss. Andrew says agencies should be careful about falling for short-term savings which lead to long-term problems.
“The soft cost of not having a printer when you’re trying to get a contract signed, or a phone dropping out when you’re trying to book an appointment, isn’t just the time of someone running down to the local stationary store or redialling the potential seller; it can ultimately be what wins or loses you the listing,” says Andrew.
“Ensuring you have service levels agreed and redundancy solutions around all of your technology infrastructure will ensure you aren’t in this predicament ever again.”
Once you’ve selected the provider you want to go with, Andrew recommends having them complete a technology infrastructure audit. In this process they might find ways to save you, and your business, money, or be able to identify outdated technology and practices which are having a detrimental effect on your work.
The most important factor in your decision is allowing flexibility for you and your office.
“Find a solution that changes with your business. We all know real estate markets can move up and down, so choose a solution that moves and adapts to your changing environment,” says Andrew.
By carefully weighing up the options before you commit to an outsourcing solution for your IT, you’re less likely to face issues down the track and spend more money fixing them. While a managed service provider might command a higher cost, there’s a reason they do – and that reason could be what saves you buying a new printer in a panic on Saturday morning.