Here’s a secret you shouldn’t tell your children: The fable of the tortoise and the hare is quickly becoming obsolete.

In today’s world, where information moves at lightning speed and market dynamics can shift overnight, companies must be ready to respond at a moment’s notice. Being slow and steady—especially in the multi-family business—will not win the race to be the best.

Consider the scenario facing dozens of companies right now. Single-family foreclosures are skyrocketing, and former homeowners are now clamoring for an apartment wherever they can find one. Executives must decide whether or not to rent to candidates with foreclosures in their credit histories. Whatever the strategy, these firms will need to make immediate changes to their resident screening systems so that they can face the challenge head-on.

Or how about the archaic way in which many property managers still interact with their residents? The vast majority of apartment communities in the country still rely on bulletin boards and door-to-door flier distribution. Some have upgraded to e-mail newsletters. Yet, busy residents want easier access to information. They want to be able to get online, submit service requests, sign up for community activities, or find neighbors interested in a game of pick-up basketball. And they want to do it all within a matter of minutes via high-speed Internet connections.

As Gen Y and Echo Boom renters begin to crowd the pool of potential residents, the demand for such easy-to-use, intuitive technologies will grow. These residents want to check the availability of units on their iPhones, complete a lease online at 2 a.m., and text the property manager with their move-in dates. And unfortunately, most of the multifamily industry isn’t quite ready to deliver those capabilities.

Historically, the industry has been slow to make these broad-sweeping changes to their IT systems—whether in the form of resident screening, revenue management, or a fully integrated back office platform. In the last few years, that has changed dramatically. Technology is top-of-mind for many of the industry’s best and brightest leaders, especially as they seek to emulate the successful customer service and revenue models employed by the hospitality industry.

Yes, there is merit to investing the time and resources necessary to implement the right technologies for your business. It’s imperative to know the ins and outs of every system before you deploy it across your portfolio. And testing new software and management programs on a small-scale is wise protocol for even the largest, most nimble firms. But in these hurried times, firms must be able to conduct due diligence without losing momentum or potential renters.

In this, our Annual Technology Report, we take a look at some of the pressing technology challenges facing the industry and how multifamily players should respond. We talk to and glean insight from leading IT officers. And we offer guidance on some of the areas that are most relevant for your businesses today.

Indeed, for years, the multifamily industry was slow and steady when it came to embracing technology. Now it’s time to be fast and fierce. And this issue will help you do just that.