20 Years of Tech

By on Sep 28, 2018 in People, Technology

Celebrating 20 years, Yardi Canada has come a long way. As a leading innovator that delivers technology solutions to move the Canadian real estate industry forward, Yardi Canada focuses on helping clients thrive through every change.

We caught up with a few of Yardi Canada’s leaders to learn more about the company’s evolution. From DOS to Windows to Internet based web apps to mobile apps and now on to artificial intelligence, Yardi has always been there with a solution for its clients. Here are a few technological highlights from the past two decades.

A Unique Market

Mobility and the cloud might reign now, but it all began with DOS.

Introducing real estate companies to new technologies to improve business operations has never been an easy task. As Canadians, we tend to be a little more conservative when it comes to change. However, Peter Altobelli, general manager and vice president of sales for Yardi Canada, found it was easy to bring Yardi’s three DOS products to market: Yardi Basic, Yardi Deluxe and Yardi Premier.

“DOS was a great product to implement since it was reliable, simple and easy to use. It was a technology that property managers understood. Plus, it had all these great shortcuts, because we didn’t have a mouse back then,” recalls Altobelli. Altobelli set up Yardi’s first office in Canada in 1998, which started with four people and now has grown to a staff of over 200.

Today’s multitasking generation, accustomed to multiple windows and screens, would feel restricted with a DOS platform. But back then, users could accomplish single functions at a time quickly and efficiently. It was exactly what the industry needed as a catalyst towards more technology and innovation.

Moving to the Internet

At every innovative milestone, Yardi Canada has been ready for the change. Moving to the internet-based Yardi Voyager brought some growing pains. For starters, not many people were familiar with the Internet yet — so educating clients and prospects about an internet-based property management system was a challenge, and it was hard for many to wrap their heads around it. But the Yardi team was ready to take on the challenge of educating and growing the market.

“Back in the late 1990s, the Internet wasn’t what it is today. Web pages pushed out information, like electronic brochures. Now, data flows two ways,” Altobelli says.  Technology was clearly in the process of becoming more complex for the evolving Canadian real estate market.

Hosted in the cloud, the Yardi Voyager provides a powerful foundation on which companies can consolidate business-wide operations including consumer-facing services.

Lynn Topp, director of residential services at Yardi Canada, was a Yardi client before joining the company.  “Voyager’s data accessibility was the reason my former company, which managed 95 condo and several rental properties, purchased the system. With Voyager, we could push work out to our site and share information immediately. Previously, we needed onsite staff  to manually enter receipts, and all cheques and invoices had to be processed at the head office. Voyager changed all of that,” Topp recalls.

Online Services and Mobility

With new technology grew the need to be accessible at every point. In the past, the thought of working from your phone was almost unheard of. Now companies are encouraging employees to use mobile apps to enhance and speed up processes. Yardi was focused on innovation and dedicated resources to developing mobility. “In terms of development, mobility was a real challenge. There was a steep learning curve. Now we are at the point of mastering it. Mobile is the future,” says Dana Samargiu, senior software development engineer at Yardi Canada.

According to Rob Podlesnik, director of PSG, “Mobility was not immediately adopted in Canada. Canadian companies are more risk averse.” Teaching clients about the changing marketplace and its undeniable trends, Podlesnik said it was a matter of getting on board or getting left behind. “Now, mobility is expected.”

Topp couldn’t agree more. “Property managers have always had to be mobile, but before they did not have the tools we have today, the paper would just pile up. They would have boxes of paperwork in their cars, and when they got back to their offices they’d be in a panic to try and catch up with things.”

With Voyager, going paperless is now a reality. Workflows are automated, leasing happens online, payments and invoices are electronic, and reporting happens at the click of a button. “Employees don’t have to sit in an office anymore to get their jobs done. Mobility has allowed property managers to use their smartphones or tablets to complete tasks and get work done quickly. This has also reduced the amount of paper in this industry, which is really great,” Topp adds.

But not all tech products were challenging to develop or introduce into the market. In terms of market acceptance and adoption, Yardi Resident Screening was an easy solution to adopt. It offers comprehensive background and credit checks and automated rental recommendations, all built into the Voyager leasing workflow. It also provides reporting and analytics. “As soon as people heard about it, it was so easy to get them to understand that everything they’d been doing manually could be automated,” Topp recalls.

Topp also recalls introducing RENTCafé – Yardi’s marketing, leasing and resident services platform into the Canadian market. “Vacancy rates are low in Canada. You don’t have rental specials, you don’t have a lot of competition and unlike the U.S. market, we don’t re-price units on a regular basis,” Topp elaborates. However, the online resident services offered through RENTCafé have been a hit. They include online applications, payments and maintenance requests — all of which can be done at any time of day or night, which satisfies residents and saves companies money through automation.

Another growing trends for the Canadian market has been the introduction of user portals. With the overwhelming Millennial demand for online and mobile services, no real estate company can avoid providing them if it wants to compete and succeed. “Portals have become essential to property management. Today’s consumers make decisions based on their ability to do things online,” says Louise Steeves, product manager for Canadian development. “The Millennial generation needs and wants the mobile, full-service approach to all transactions,” says Podlesnik. This isn’t just about access but also customer service.

Podlesnik explained, “In the mid-1990s, companies were focused on renting to capacity and maintaining occupancy, not really looking for savings. Now, clients are looking to deliver online services, which not only make residents happy and promote retention, but also reduce operational costs.”

Looking Forward, Moving Ahead

While Yardi has led the industry in technology innovation, it has also been guided by clients. Key to its success and part of the company mission, Yardi maintains an open dialogue and uses client insights and feedback to develop solutions that keeps them ahead of the curve — and always anticipating what needs to happen next.

Podlesnik provides insight on client dynamics. “Our clients push us, but sometimes we push our clients. We always strive to help them better understand where the industry is headed,” says Podlesnik. “We really listen to them and build the technology that takes them where they want to go.”

And when it comes to development, clients needn’t worry about losing functionality they have become accustomed to in order to make room for the next big thing. “We understand stability is important to our clients.  We take backward compatibility seriously. On the other hand, it is also vital for us and our clients that our products are ready for new technology.  As a result, we gradually introduce enhancements and new features on a timely basis through our releases.” says Kwok-Kin Wong, senior technical project leader of programming for Yardi Canada.

When asked what he sees in the future for real estate in Canada, Podlesnik believes that energy management and integration, along with enhanced customer service including portals for investors and vendors, will be key developments.

Everyone agrees that tying end-to-end business processes back to Voyager is paramount. Having all operational information in a single database provides the greatest advantage for clients. Data is king, and being connected to it, with advanced business intelligence tools to analyze it to make smarter decisions, is necessary to succeed. It was true 20 years ago, and it’s truer than ever today.

Learn more about Yardi’s single connected solution for property management and discover where it can take your business.