With more than 1,400 total attendees at this year’s MRI International Users Conference (IUC) in Atlanta, it was the largest MRI forum ever. LEVERTON was one of the many partners and sponsors this year and it was an amazing four days, packed with networking and interesting general sessions about the latest updates in the MRI Software ecosystem. On top of that, new MRI innovations such as the release of the new web-based accounting solution for the real estate sector, the Debt Management for Real Estate were introduced.
Attending this year has been very special for LEVERTON, as we were awarded the official MRI Software Partner Product certification and our plaque was waiting for us at our booth - thank you, MRI!
The MRI Revolution- Bold, Ambitious, and Innovative
One salient takeaway we had from this year’s conference was that MRI has nurtured a special community of partners—a family of strong technology companies and problem solvers who enable customers to find holistic solutions and integrate into a robust, powerful platform.
The opening speech by Patrick Ghilani, the CEO of MRI, further confirmed that MRI, with its over 140 partners, 81M+ MRI API calls, and 37% connected ecosystems, is a CRE tech leader and steadfast in its mission to continue to be bold and ambitious. MRI’s commitment to always be on the forefront of innovation and deliver high quality products and services was emphasized further with Patrick’s simple, yet powerful message: “We’ve got to keep raising the bar”.
The mission of the user conference is to address how technology is an ally to the real estate industry helping to solve its biggest challenges - manual processes, inflexible reporting, data silos, regulatory standards, and illusive property and asset management. As mentioned by Russ Butler, MRI’s CTO, technology has changed the way almost everything that is being done in real estate: from having maintenance lists just a couple of clicks away and residents and tenants submitting requests via their mobile devices, to investors being able to gather real-time feedback on their portfolio performance.
Russ Butler also shared the excitement about new technologies as AI and RPA becoming more mainstream to impact the way work in real estate is being done: “These technologies are driving a pace of constant opportunity (and) constant change (and) you (need) to have a platform… that enables you to adapt quickly.” And luckily MRI has that platform – an open, flexible, secure, and reliable platform.
This year MRI presented its inaugural MRI Innovation Awards to honor MRI’s clients and partners that realized meaningful business impact. We would like to congratulate the Partner of the year, VTS, and CBRE, for winning the Flexibility Award.
Day 2 at the MRI IUC started with a very special keynote speech presented by Aron Ralston, known for his best-selling book “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” which inspired the Oscar-nominated movie, “127 Hours.” It was a pause-and-think moment when Aron said that while he was being hijacked by a crisis, he was at the same time elevated by the will to love which in the end made him survive. Aron’s key message on embracing the boulders that keep on coming in life resonated strongly with the audience. Whether it be in personal or in a business setting, the hardships we face at times can in fact be turned into blessings.
Technology Accelaration of Retail Real Estate
The changing face of the retail industry, and how investment organizations face technology challenges, were some of the interesting panel discussions that we have attended. Both issues must come to grip with the acceleration of the real estate industry by technology.
During the Retail discussion group, Kimco and Phillips Edison & Company addressed key market challenges and explained key issues from a retail client perspective.
The discussion centered on how real estate companies are transforming more and more into data-driven companies and are incorporating scientific data collection models to reposition their property and evaluate the tenant mix. In addition, they are identifying ways to re-develop retail space as they look to find new, experimental ways to work with assets. The panelists agreed on the need for:
1. Re-evaluating existing processes in terms of human capital and software
2. Analyzing large volumes of dispersed data that need to be merged and filtered to make sense out of them
3. Strong data-based forecasting that enables more accurate revenue and costs for each development project
Big data, Blockchain, and AI
The huge impact of data in real estate also resonated strongly during the panel discussion with our CEO, Abhinav (Abe) Somani, on challenges facing investment organizations and how they will adapt to current and future technologies.
As mentioned by another panelist Ray LeBrun, the Managing Director at CohnReznick, “The most valuable assets besides our buildings are data.” Real estate companies are being more and more successful in overcoming the first and main data challenge - the capturing of data from various places and starting to even introduce third-party data besides internal ones. The second data challenge that many real estate companies still struggle with is to successfully make use of the data. Asking the right questions of the data and turning into meaningful actions is still an upward challenge. As noted by Abe, to be successful with big data, companies first need to find one specific problem or use case that they think can be solved by big data and then complete the appropriate stress tests.
Josh Malinoff, Principal at REdirect Consulting, presented an interesting example on blockchain and how the tokenization of real estate could make it easier to buy and sell parcel of buildings. He also indicated that many investment organizations are still in a “wait and see” moment as blockchain as a technology is still under development.
The panel mentioned that there are real opportunities for investment organizations to implement some form of AI already - whether it is in building and facility management or lease administration. ”The good thing about most AI implementations that we are currently seeing is that you can achieve something between 20-30% of efficiencies on what you are doing today, the AI can help to fill a couple of fields, answer a couple of questions faster, notify you that some process has not been done properly or is missing some key components - whatever those things are, it can be an assistant and helps you along the way.” said Abhinav Somani. Artificial Intelligence should also be interesting for real estate investment organizations to adopt, as they can be prepared and armed with information, rather than caught blind-sided by tenants who are already utilizing big data analysis and at times can move much faster than traditional real estate companies. Technology trends are affecting the tenant side just as much as the landlords.
The panel ended on a positive note for any investment organization. Today, unlike 10-20 years ago, piloting and fully implementing a new technology is much easier than ever before. The barriers of adoption are less and deployments can be done faster by framing out a small pilot or doing a proof of concept before rolling out a solution at large scale.
It was very interesting to see that despite some initial fears, this approach to technology adoption is being embraced more and more. Many of the attendees we met during the MRI IUC have been open-minded towards new technology trends, willing to educate themselves on technology solutions that can accelerate their existing processes. They also appear genuinely excited to try new ways to do things as they are well aware that technology can enable them to remain competitive and grow faster.
We’re excited to have been part of the MRI IUC 2018! It was a great experience to be among so many innovative technology partners, that each in its own way, are solving the biggest real estate challenges and likewise great to be among forward-thinking customers ready to embrace new ways of doing things.
Thank you, MRI, for another great user conference and see you next year!
Abhinav Somani, CEO, LEVERTON; Patrick Ghilani, CEO, MRI Software; Vyom Gupta, COO, LEVERTON