Blog November 26, 2018

Will the real open platform please stand up?

By Mandira Mehra

Here’s a quote you’ve probably heard before: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” At MRI Software, we gladly accept the compliments, but the impersonations have gone a bit too far.

We are proud to have led the revolution in bringing flexibility and openness to the real estate software industry. Our open and connected product strategy is the result of 47 years of collaborative relationships with our clients and partners. That’s why we raise our eyebrows when our competitors abruptly change their market positioning to make similar claims, while at the same time, we pat ourselves on the back for being the first to introduce a winning approach for the real estate market.

By now, you probably know that the software industry is trending heavily toward open technology platforms. Think IBM’s acquisition of Red Hat and the Salesforce acquisition of Mulesoft. Open platforms that play well with others are good for business because they give clients more control and flexibility over the software – which we think is only fair, because they’re paying for it.

A brief history lesson

When Patrick Ghilani took the reigns as CEO of MRI Software in 2014, we reinforced our declared mission: to be the first in our industry to go all in on an open platform. Later that year, we had taken action on this promise with the launch of MRI Information Exchange (MIX), enabling our clients to exchange data between our solutions and third-party or custom applications through secure APIs.

By the 2016 Realcomm conference, the word was out. In an interview with Pat, Gerry Katzman, host of Conference Live, said, “You guys went open platform. It’s a risky maneuver. It presupposes that your user knows things that you don’t know.”

That’s right. No more ‘best of breed’ solutions. Consumers want what’s best for them. And being truly open is about more than mere interfaces or data integration. It’s about application integration and interoperability. It’s about the Single Experience™, when users will move back and forth between software applications from different providers without even realizing it.

Lip service

Today, the real estate software industry has reached a tipping point, and our open and connected mission has not changed. But, interestingly enough, several of our competitors have implied that they have changed quite a bit – but have they?

If you believe the marketing messages of others in our industry, they are suddenly fully capable of providing the power of choice through true openness and integration with other providers, even though they have positioned themselves as a ‘single stack’ solution for the duration of their years in business. But is it really a choice when clients can only choose from that provider’s own solutions? We think not.

With increased market demand for open platforms, and unsubstantiated claims of openness, how do prospective clients know what to believe? Organizations evaluating and comparing software providers are challenged to find the truth. But, not to worry — earlier this year, we offered some guidance in our blog, “10 qualities of providers that embrace open technologies.”

Often imitated, never duplicated

Healthy competition is always good for the market; however, any marketer worth their salt knows the value of competitive differentiation and unique positioning. That’s why we launched a new brand identity in 2017 reflecting MRI’s commitment to give our clients the freedom to take their business where they want to go with comprehensive and flexible software solutions built atop an open and connected platform.

And, while we’re a bit miffed to see competitors jump on our bandwagon and claim that they, too, are “open,” we remain confident in our heritage as the founders of the open software movement for real estate. We’re years ahead of competitors that will need to rewrite their code base and rebuild legacy products to bring openness and flexibility to closed enterprise software systems. What’s more, at MRI, being open is both a technology and an operational paradigm. Our Sales, Support and Development teams closely collaborate with our partners to provide joint solutions that meet the unique needs of our clients. Partners play an essential role at our annual users conference, and the MRI ecosystem was on full display earlier this year at our 2018 International Users Conference in Atlanta.

The misleading messages from other solution providers confirm the market demand for open platforms. Our concern is that it also creates confusion about whom to believe. It’s to be expected that the competition will seize the opportunity to claim that they also provide openness, choice, and flexibility. For MRI clients, this should sound very familiar. And for those of you who aren’t yet familiar with us, we look forward to helping you sift through the promises to find out what a truly open platform really looks like.

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