When Yardi CRM launched in the fall of 2010, it was targeting what it saw as a lack of industry-specific CRM within the commercial real estate broker industry — or to be more precise, CRM functionality that was integrated into a property management system.
While standalone CRM applications — even lightweight ones that reside in the cloud — can work wonders for small and medium-sized businesses, it is pointless for this particular industry to have CRM functionality without the accompanying client and building data that resides in the property management database, said Kim Maddox, product manager for commercial management and commercial CRM at Yardi.
Some competing applications did offer this functionality and even integrated into an accompanying property management application, she told CRM Buyer, “but the integration was not as closely coupled as ours is.”
Tight integration is essential, she said.
“Deals are negotiated through the lease life cycle, and typically the CRM solution keeps the data separate,” Maddox explained.
“Unless there is an interface between the two, key data would have to be rekeyed. And because terms have been audited in the leasing system, there needs to be a high confidence that the data is correct when it moves into the CRM system and vice-versa,” she said.
Even when interfaces are used to connect the two applications, the results can be less than satisfactory, noted Maddox. “These wind up being more of a data push into that property management system or CRM application, and you always risk that formatting won’t be the same, such as table structure. And integration can still be an issue as well.”
The Case for Industry-Specific Apps
To be sure, there is a certain self-serving element to this argument: Yardi CRM is tightly integrated, yes, but only with its own product, Voyager.
Still, there is an intrinsic value to customers that is common with industry-specific applications, observed Mitchell Kramer, SVP and senior consultant with the Patricia Seybold Group.
“Basically, if you are using an industry-specific app instead of, say, a Salesforce.com, that is because you want to get as close as possible to the industry terms and industry and client data. It doesn’t make sense to start from scratch,” he told CRM Buyer.
Yardi prides itself on the industry-specific nature of its workflow and feature set.
For example, the information about leases in the property management system that are coming up for renewal can be pulled via a deal wizard, Maddox said, allowing the broker to start working on the renewal long before it is due.
The application has also integrated the CRM database into its budgeting and forecasting model. Say a broker is working on a lease that’s expected to be renewed. The system can forecast by what percentage it is likely to close, and then include that forecast in the building’s property management budget projections.
The same functionality also works for leases or deals that are in process and not yet in the property management system, Maddox said. “It will still project the probability of closing, pull them out of the pipeline if the probability is high enough, and place them in the budget and forecast function.”
A Mobile Piece
Yardi CRM can also be accessed via a mobile device — there are applications for both the iPad and the iPhone — allowing brokers to take the system with them when they are working in the field, as they often are, Maddox said.
“The application will sync between the device and our Voyager application, pulling the relevant leasing data onto the device — as well as contact and deal information,” she said. Brokers can also enter data onto their devices and have it sync with the database at the home office.