The empowerment of choice

From ice cream to software, humans want choice.

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When you have the flexibility to choose, you typically will. Choice invokes freedom, individuality, and a personal expression of will. Mostly it allows us to follow our own personal tastes and meet our own specific needs. Just ask Baskin Robbins, home of the 31 flavors. The company has created more than 1,000 flavors of ice cream, and they still continue to innovate and provide more choice to their patrons. Why? Because it keeps ice cream lovers coming back for more. And it satisfies the desire to improve and out-do the last flavor.

Choice, and the ability to combine multiple flavors has not been a common strategy when it comes to enterprise software.

Traditionally, IT departments want to limit complexity by focusing on fewer technology providers. The result is a vanilla solution. One flavor does not fit all.

Such internal strategy is rooted in the belief that application integration is difficult and costly because each integration needs to be custom built and software providers don’t work well together. Conventional wisdom would have you believe that getting everything from one place has to be better and easier than involving multiple software providers.

At my company, however, we believe clients want, need, and deserve choice and flexibility. The real challenge in providing such options is that it is seen as a threat to the very strategy that has gotten other large property management software providers to the place of comfort in which they find themselves today. Having invested in many products to create these solution stacks, most providers see openness and choice as potential erosion to their business.

Such trepidation often rises from a focus on what is good for the software provider, and not so much what the apartment owners and operators need or want.

Lack of competition creates a vacuum of complacency. Providers are not driven to innovate or think out of the box, but merely stretch the one great flavor they have. The problem is, it’s still vanilla.

The inherent risk is that if you make it easy to choose with a spectrum of alternatives, then your one great flavor, vanilla,  may not be selected. Why sell more flavors  if just vanilla is good enough?

Because vanilla is, well, vanilla. And because the business of multifamily is far more flavorful and complex. My team accepts and embraces this risk. In fact, we believe that owners and operators should have the ability to choose the best solutions for their apartment business, instead of adapting their business to the solution they are buying. In fact, with greater and greater complexities facing owners today such as regulatory requirements, one set solution is downright risky.

We believe it’s critical to have the flexibility and nimbleness to wrap around an owner’s objectives with a strong set of solutions. We encourage owners to pick and choose according to their needs and objectives. At the same time, we offer a very robust partner network in the property management software space so as to provide unparalleled flexibility in the solutions we implement—conforming to, and supporting, existing business processes.

One such effort is MRI’s Partner Connect program, which provides easy access to technology experts who focus on an owner’s individual business. They work tirelessly to refine their unique products and become the innovation leaders in their respective fields.

Our strategy is simple: we don’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades. We prefer to focus on providing the best property management software possible while providing the flexibility and choice to work with other product providers—creating a solution tailored to our client’s individual requirements. We provide access to a bevy of flavors that allow apartment owners to make smart choices.

By creating a collaborative and robust partner network, and by providing pre-built integrations to these partners, we have addressed the two issues that typically work against providing choice. We want you to pick the flavors that you want, not the ones we think you should have. Like the best ice cream cone, the best portfolio of applications is the one you picked, not the one that someone else thought you would like.

Author: Brian Zrimsek is the chief products officer at MRI Software LLC. He is an internationally-recognized thought leader on enterprise applications.