by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, RESO
Welcome to “Three Questions,” an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards with a goal of humanizing the tech side of the industry, fun included.
This week, we explored some big topics with Dr. Mathew Kallumadil, Vice President, Technology & Innovation, at Stellar MLS, including the path toward standards internationalization, making enterprise-level changes and staffing up for success. Enjoy!
Q1: Your experience appears to embody the international flair that we aspire to at RESO. From London to Tokyo to Edmonton to Orlando does not fit the typical profile of today’s MLS leadership landscape, where experience in hyper-particular local U.S. markets is useful currency. Is there something to be gained from a more international perspective?
Mathew: I think so. As an example, the idea of a national IDX came up at a recent T3 Sixty conference. It’s an interesting idea, but it’s already a reality in Canada and has been for a long time.
How does it work? Why does it work? I can bring a long-term view to that conversation of what a national IDX can do to the real estate space in the U.S.
Case in point, you start with a national IDX and may get successful in some markets. At some point, that national data feed will cannibalize local data feed offerings.
When you get a choice of a national IDX vs. a local IDX feed, some factors to be aware of are price, speed and licensing. It largely works in Canada because of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) being a trusted body. They get all the data across the nation to supply realtor.ca.
In the U.S., perhaps Realtors Property Resource (RPR) could facilitate it or Constellation1 or REdistribute. Interesting politics could emerge. The key will be around licensing.
RESO’s place in something like this could be in defining which fields are nationally required.
Q2: You have worked on data initiatives in the health and petro-chemical sectors prior to landing in real estate. What, if any, major differences are there in how technology is governed in these industries, and are we on the right track in real estate?
Mathew: At Shell, I worked for IBM along with Deloitte consultants on an SAP conversion that took 10 years. These are international initiatives. Everyone is held to a certain standard of expectation.
There is a for-profit mindset at these places that keeps people moving in the right direction. If the MLS industry is serious about large initiatives, it will have to buckle down and do the work. It’s harder, but the outcomes make a measurable difference.
Q3: At Stellar MLS, you have about 1 staff person per 850 subscribers. Employees fall into a wide variety of categories, including executive, business development, project & product management, communications & marketing, administration, support and more.
Stellar is the third-largest MLS in the country, and, by the way, the largest full supporter of the RESO Web API, so I was wondering if that 1 to 850 ratio is a good model for larger MLSs to pursue, and how does technology play into the ability to cover more ground with fewer people?
Mathew: You can’t point to that ratio as an isolated number. There has to be some context applied to it. There are different teams, like support, that might take a lot more staff. You must look for different things at different times – a whole new department, for instance.
You have to think about what your strategic goals are as a company – is data and insights your strategy? You may want to invest in a business intelligence (BI) team. For lower-revenue organizations, you may want to partner and create a lean team to fulfill that.
That said, adding teams and new things is not a scalable model. So deriving efficiencies in processes and from new technologies could help with scaling. Whichever way you go, you do not want to dilute the customer experience.
As an example, we did not have an internal ticketing system. Now we use Zendesk. But it’s not so much about getting a ticketing system. It’s about being able to offer Zendesk’s Knowledge Base. It’s a new channel that contains a collection of articles and answers that are available to our customers that do not want to call or email in. And that segment is significant, whilst allowing us to scale our services.
There is also a level of artificial intelligence (AI) built into it. If someone sends us an email, a reply email now goes beyond saying thank you and suggests articles that may answer the question. So there is a chance to solve a customer’s problem before it takes time from our support staff.
It’s exciting to have these opportunities as a growing business with forward-thinking leadership.