Today is the final day of a highly successful RETCON 2023 conference. Yesterday I attended an engaging session about analytics featuring some senior leaders from the multifamily industry. It was one of the more insightful BI panels I've seen in recent years, touching on familiar themes: How data flows between different systems, how to maintain and use metrics and how to get users to leverage the BI capabilities that companies create.
First, The Systems
Much of the early discussion was about how different apps in the technology stack need to talk to one another. Scott Pechersky, the chief technology officer of RPM, shared his familiarity with these issues, as RPM's platform comprises multiple different property management platforms and mission-critical apps whose data is essential to analytics.
Nobody familiar with multifamily will be surprised to learn that much of the discussion was about data ownership and how imperfect integrations compromise data and analytics. What was also interesting, though, is the increasing importance of being able to sync data so that multiple systems contribute reliable data to BI platforms.
That has always been a priority for multifamily, but as I discovered during the research for this year's 20 for 20 White Paper, it now seems to be a bigger priority than ever. The observation in the research is that companies' BI projects are increasingly driven by the desire for the specific insights that BI delivers.
The BI section of 20 for 20 lists a set of individual examples from the 20 interviewees in answer to the question: "Tell me something new that you found out about your business that you couldn't have without BI." The examples were great, and interestingly they were all examples of correlation. Companies were trying to figure out how "X" drives "Y" in their businesses. That's quite different from the more mundane reporting requirements that executives described in previous years' interviews.
Companies must correlate information from different systems to learn more about the things that drive their businesses and ultimately make decisions. Hence the issue of how data flows through organizations and how we organize it seems to be a bigger priority than ever.
A Single Source of Truth
The leaders on the panel talked about the importance of BI as the single source of truth in their organizations. The panelists all seemed to have experiences of multiple systems yielding different, non-matching versions of the same statistic.
Stephanie Brock of Waterton used the example of reputation scores as a statistical "resource" held in the BI platform, from which diverse users can create various metrics and dashboards. While each analysis may reveal a different insight, the underlying data is always the same. That is a key feature of BI, as opposed to reporting generated by disparate systems.
Donald Davidoff, the CEO of REBA, talked about the concept of "Analysis at the speed of curiosity." Once standard metrics are reliable and widely available so that analysis that would previously have taken hours or days now takes only seconds, the organizational appetite for knowledge grows rapidly.
That observation matches another finding in the BI section of 20 for 20. Some of the more mature operators are gearing up for an environment where the volume of analysis will grow exponentially. Because the analytics are likely to include an increasing number of data elements, processing will become more resource-intensive, which has led some operators to revisit the technical architecture of their platforms. Again, it is curiosity that is driving IT activity, which is how BI is meant to work.
Securing The Buy-In
Finally, Cindy Clare of Bell Partners talked about the need to focus on dashboards to gain organizational utilization of BI. She described a cascade of viewership from the C-suite to property teams where the content in the dashboard is tailored for each user. And while each dashboard is different, the underlying metrics are always identical.
Interestingly, Clare stressed the need to understand the utilization of each dashboard so that BI teams can constantly remove the least-used metrics and ensure the maximum relevancy of the content in the dashboard. User buy-in has always been one of the key elements of a successful BI project.
With fee managers on the panel, there was a discussion of the pros and cons of providing BI access to ownership partners. The view was that sharing access saves the operator time as partners perform their own analysis and hence have fewer questions for property management teams. Experience seems to show that this benefit outweighs the risk of attracting too much scrutiny.
So far, RETCON 2023 has been a great conference. There is enough good content on offer that this will probably not be the last blog that I write about this event!