Report From OpTech 2011

by Katie Sloan

Dallas— NMHC hosted its annual OpTech event this week.

Dallas — The multifamily industry gathered in Dallas this week as the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC) hosted its annual Apartment Operations and Technology Conference & Exposition (OpTech). OpTech featured an educational and networking environment for multifamily professionals to explore new operations and technology-related products and services.

The event opened Monday night with an opening session and networking welcome reception. The opening general session featured Jack Uldrich, global futurist and best-selling author. Uldrich discussed how the Internet is creating a new type of customer and why social networks are essential anchoring tools.

Tuesday morning featured peer-to-peer roundtables and breakout sessions focused on various topics including: apartment insurance costs, developing an industry measurement standard for marketing and social media effectiveness, cloud computing, and the future of telecommunications technology.

One of the key roundtable discussions was focused on purpose-built technology for the student housing sector. The discussion was led by Kirk Preiss of The Preiss Company. The group discussed the challenges student housing owner/operators face regarding their property management software and databases. The current industry options were designed for conventional multifamily, and it is difficult to adapt these systems to the unique operating demands of student housing. Most of the owner/operators in the room admitted to patching together current systems already in place, which has made for inefficient operations. Both the owner/operators in the room, as well as the vendors in the room agreed that if the student housing industry wants to continue growing, something needs to change. Although a smaller niche of the overall multifamily industry, the student housing sector is viable and strong, and therefore needs specific enterprise solutions.

The OpTech conference continued with a session focused on Integrated Approaches to Business & Technology. This session was moderated by Scott Wesson, chief information officer of UDR Inc. The session focused on how apartment companies are becoming dependant upon technology to assist them in nearly every aspect of operations at all levels -– from back office to front office.

Mobile and Wireless Connectivity were additional topics covered at the OpTech conference. Jared Miller, vice president of marketing for The Bainbridge Companies led a panel discussion focused on mobile technology, and how to communicate to your residents. Steve Sadler, vice president of strategic business services for Post Properties led a session on meeting growing resident demand for wireless services. Both are timely topics for the student housing industry.

Attendees were also able to connect with exhibitors and sponsors during the networking luncheons and receptions held in the expo hall.

The OpTech conference continued Wednesday, with sessions focused on Revenue Management, Payment Systems, Risk Management, and Bed Bug solutions.

The conference finished with two key general sessions. First, Rick Graf, president of Pinnacle, led a panel discussion regarding the property management office. The leasing office is still the hub and core of resident services. The panel discussed how functionality of the office has continued to evolve. Finally, OpTech concluded with insight from a leader from a different industry. NMHC President Doug Bibby interviewed Jeff Martin, founder and CEO of Tribal Technologies. Martin is a former Apple executive and was one of Steve Jobs’ direct reports. He provided his insights on how companies can embrace mobile technologies so they don’t lose their competitive edge. Attendees learned how the future of eCommerce will affect all industries, particularly the multifamily industry.

Mark Aden


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