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7 Features Your Business Intelligence Platform Needs
(Second in a two-part series on the challenges of creating a good data platform and what rental housing companies can do about it)
In the first part of this series, Why We Need More From Rental Housing Business Intelligence Solutions, I wrote about the challenges with the rental housing industry’s approach to data and business intelligence (BI) and how options for good platforms were, until recently, fairly limited. I promised to discuss more about what good business intelligence platforms can do and the seven key questions you should ask yourself when evaluating BI options, so let’s dive right in.
In more than 20 years of working with rental housing data platforms, we’ve found that there are four critical success factors (CSFs) that all rental housing companies (multifamily and single-family) share:
Maximizing rental revenue.
Probably the single biggest driver of valuation growth, data on maximizing rental revenue involves a lot more than just occupancy, availability, and leased rents. You’ll want to know gross rents, effective rents, change in rents vs past periods and rent trade-outs (lease-over-lease changes) vs both prior and succeeding leases. And there’s plenty of other data that drives rental revenue, e.g., days vacant, days on market, lease expiration profiles, renewal data, etc.
Proactively managing expenses.
Obviously, you’ll want to have your general ledger data. You’ll also want to be able to navigate up and down the nodes of your chart of accounts. You’ll need to be able to compare budgets, forecasts, and any other scenarios that have been part of your financial planning and analysis activities. And you’ll want to be able to calculate important statistics like cost per lead, cost per lease, cost per turn, cost per service request, etc.
Effectively convert leads to leases.
Doing this well requires tracking all steps of the marketing and sales pipeline: leads, tours, applications, cancels/denials, and move-ins. You’ll need to quickly access conversion metrics throughout that pipeline as well as the “cost per” metrics mentioned above.
Provide great customer service.
This CSF creates several important metrics to follow. The most obvious are things like service request counts, open service requests, and time to complete statistics. But don’t forget other key data that reflects how well you provide customer service. That’s why your data model should include survey scores, reputation management data, etc.
7 Features For Evaluating BI Options
Now that we’ve discussed what a good business intelligence platform should contain, here are the seven key things to look for when evaluating BI options:
1. Data modeling.
A good BI platform models every metric at its most granular level. This “future proofs” the platform as it allows users to aggregate and filter data later in ways that may not be anticipated today.
2. Flexible user interface.
One of the benefits of a custom BI platform is the ability to create dashboards however users want to (and have the skill to build them), so any good BI platform should provide this capability.
3. Extensible back end.
It’s your data, so a good BI platform will allow you to extend the database or otherwise bring complementary data into your BI ecosystem.
4. Published dashboards.
While you want the ability to build or modify your own dashboards, one of the challenges of bespoke BI is that you literally start from scratch. If buying a solution, then evaluate the breadth and depth of the “out of the box” functionality which can quickly accelerate your progress.
5. Power-user access.
That handful of associates (often only one or two) who are highly skilled with tools like Excel and are the “go-to people” whenever there’s an analytical question to answer need direct access to the entire data warehouse. Usually accessed through a tool like Excel, this allows them to do ad hoc analysis to answer any question.
6. Ability to manage data that isn’t in a system of record.
Many companies have important data in spreadsheets, word documents, pdf files, or just in an associate’s head. Your BI platform needs to allow for a “data steward” to enter and maintain important data that is not in a system of record.
7. 24x7x52 access in the cloud.
This should be table stakes in today’s cloud-driven IT world.
Technology has finally advanced to a point where rental housing owners, managers, and operators shouldn’t be prevented from getting the data they need when they need it, and in the format they need. Measure your options against these seven things to look for when evaluating a business intelligence platform and your teams will be making better decisions, faster, in no time.