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The misconception is that the ability to transfer data between systems qualifies as integration. While it’s a solid start, the transference of data is akin to watching a game on television as opposed to being there in person, where one can absorb the ambience, visit the concession stands, and move about freely.

The multifamily industry has largely been composed of closed systems that perform a specific functionality and don’t play well with others. But more than ever, the industry is learning that true integration can result in streamlined operations and create several new layers of accessibility.

True integration occurs when software can genuinely access and take advantage of the full functionality of other tools within the software platform. That’s opposed to, say, a vendor that can access resident record information from a property management system, but can only view a list of information, such as name and unit number.

In that type of mild integration, the user cannot make updates or otherwise modify information. This creates extra work for the user, who has to manually input or make double entries. Without full integration, it's simply information sharing without enabling action from the system.

“One surefire way to slow down on-site processes is by working in disparate systems,” says Trevor Riley, senior vice president of product for Entrata. “When you’re constantly toggling back and forth, relogging in, and trying to remember multiple passwords, processes become extremely disjointed. With the technology now available in the multifamily world, teams should never have to endure anything of the sort.”

Granted, apartment operators want to have control over which external sources can access a system and to what degree, but the ability to provide true integration will extend the capabilities of an organization. Fortunately for the apartment world, proptech providers are offering this type of solution.

As such, some of the industry’s leading software providers are gravitating toward a true integration model. This enables an exchange of data between systems, allowing mutual clients to choose the available solutions that work best for their needs.

But like anything tech-based, operators should be extremely diligent during the vetting process when considering a true integration component. Questions operators should ask when considering a solution include:

  • How will the provider respond when there is trouble with the system? What support resources will I have access to?
  • How flexible is the system setup? Does it allow for configurations based on roles within the company?
  • How responsive will the provider be after I've signed a contract?
  • How quickly can the provider adapt their technology to meet the changing needs of the industry? The pandemic has underscored the need to modify on the fly and have the ability to institute quick updates and modifications.
  • The time component also comes into play. How often do data transfers occur? Am I going to be able to access the information I need in real time?

“You can never be too careful when vetting a new technology partner,” says Valerie Gibson, IT director of property management for Mill Creek Residential. “We take every possible precaution and explore every potential angle, because nothing is more frustrating—and potentially damaging—than partnering with the wrong platform. The ability to truly integrate allows both entities to perform to their full capabilities.”

True integration creates solutions and increases possibilities for on-site teams. It allows property managers and organizations to operate their leasing, resident, marketing, facilities, management, and accounting operations in one place—without the need for separate logins.

“Ideally, all the data your teams might need should be easily accessible,” Riley says. “When you’re forced to download or upload reports into separate systems, that doesn’t happen. Open integration platforms equate to immediate accessibility, and they give users the liberty to choose the technology and software that best aligns with their needs.”

Additionally, a property’s ability to truly integrate with third-party providers allows access to the full functionality of their platforms. In this open API, short for application program interface, a community can quickly access delivery services, contractors, smart-home providers, repair services, and any other integrated vendors that might visit the community.

Multifamily is shifting its mindset regarding information sharing from one that prioritizes privacy to one that is becoming eager to share and extend its capabilities. While every company and provider in the industry has its niche, the industry as a whole can benefit from having the ability to connect with those capabilities.