In a globalised, digital world, we get used to the planet behaving like a village, with consumer apps spreading like wildfire seemingly overnight. For instance, messaging service WhatsApp is used by more than two billion people in 180 countries around the world. Of course, rolling out complex, sophisticated real estate technology, systems and processes is nothing like scaling a consumer application, and yet we are still seeing skewed expectations around the ease and speed of expanding technology such as Yardi Voyager to new markets.
The unfortunate outcome of these unrealistic expectations goes beyond missed timelines and overshot budgets. Delays can impact the adoption of the system itself, and, in the case of Yardi Voyager, undermine the value of a core operating pillar of your commercial real estate business. Having your people fall back on manual, time-intensive spreadsheet-based alternatives will impact the accuracy and timeliness of your data along with the efficiency of your operations and will inevitably affect your reputation in the industry.
There is good news though, it is possible to complete a Yardi Voyager project on time and on budget. Yardi is a mature property management system with the capabilities and momentum to make it a good technology choice to meet your global needs. To make your Yardi Voyager project successful outside of the US, you must tackle the expansion with precision, ensuring the project is designed and managed by seasoned professionals.
Extending the reach of your Yardi Voyager platform
Unlike consumer technology such as WhatsApp or Netflix, Yardi Voyager cannot be cut and paste into new markets seamlessly. This is simply the nature of its functionality and its purpose, as well as of the complexity of the industry that it serves.
Yardi has worked tirelessly to internationalise the platform, however, it can’t possibly roll out a product that supports every single idiosyncrasy and detail of all real estate markets around the world. For instance, for all the opportunities that you know emerging markets offer, they are a technical challenge. In new markets where Yardi’s take-up is still growing, or the assets involved are still small, it is understandably difficult for it to justify the investment needed to accommodate all the minutiae of local requirements. Additional complexity is that nascent property markets often see rapidly changing and formalising legislation and regulations. Things change faster than Yardi can hope to keep pace with. But this doesn’t mean you can’t take your Yardi implementation into these complex markets.
Yardi makes available an international version outside of the US, with additional plug-ins, configuration and country packs containing purpose-built customisations to meet the local language, currency, tax authority requirements and so on. And in our experience, these internationalisations do much of the heavy lifting, but you likely will need to develop additional specific customisations to get your installation across the line.
Each country needs its own plan
There is often a temptation, when expanding across regions such as Europe, to group countries into regions that seem to be conceptually connected: the Nordics, central and eastern Europe, southern Europe etc. For investors with large, cross-border portfolios, this seems like a good way to manage Yardi Voyager implementations.
Unfortunately, this seldom works out. The reality is that in Europe, you can drive 30 minutes in one direction and find yourself in a unique real estate environment with specific requirements for reporting, paying suppliers and the checks required, etc. For instance, property ownership via a mutual real estate company (MREC) is unique to Finland. On the other hand, in Norway, tenant invoices need to be sent as machine-readable, system-to-system files (e-invoicing), and not by email as is typical elsewhere.
As these nuances and idiosyncrasies emerge over the course of your implementation, it can derail projects that were designed to treat countries as a group, causing them to take longer, cost more, and be more painful.
From the start, you need to plan and budget to do the technical work to meet the requirements of all stakeholders in every country you’re operating in. Each country needs to be treated with time, respect and attention, even if the portfolio consists of a single property.
The human factor
The critical factor in any technology rollout is the human element. How your people embrace and use the technology is the thing that makes the difference between seeing the efficiencies and ROI you were promised, or not. Further, with multi-country portfolios, you need to carefully balance local requirements with achieving standardised outputs and data.
Differing local business culture is another reason why countries should be treated independently and not rolled up into groups. Business characteristics such as flat vs hierarchical management systems determine whether you deal with people at the coal face of the organisation or not, and also how smoothly decisions are made. The local team’s appetite for working around obstacles and ‘MacGyvering’ solutions can also impact how a project is planned and run.
Painfully slow, stop-start implementation projects can lead to project fatigue amongst the in-house teams, plus waning confidence in the business about the value of Yardi and the capabilities of the technology or project teams, causing adoption to drop and people to revert to their old, familiar ways of working. Getting the human factor and change management element of any Yardi Voyager installation right is essential to a successful project.
If this sounds disheartening, it shouldn’t. It is possible to get the operational efficiencies, reporting capabilities and ROI that Yardi Voyager offers in international implementations if you enter them with eyes wide open to the potential challenges from the very start.