Traditionally, the role of a CMS (Content Management System) is to quickly and flexibly manage the content of a website. CMS supports the work of editors, resellers, marketers, graphic designers, etc., often without any IT background, and therefore is essential in any type of business or organisation, whose website requires frequent updates. There is a number of free and commercially available platforms used to manage content, knowledge, and document flow – starting from the ever-popular Wordpress, up to Danish TYPO3, or DocuShare – an extremely powerful, commercial tool produced by Xerox, designed to manage information flow within an enterprise.
Commercially available solutions aside, there are many advantages of investing resources, time and expertise in building your own platform, tailored to your organisation's needs, reflecting your daily work pace.
“If you want to make sure the work gets done, do it yourself,” says Ian Daniels, business development manager at Hamilton May Real Estate Company. “We created our own CMS, which was customised in every way to suit our individual needs. We drew inspiration from one of the most famous British agencies – Foxtons, and their original BOS software, worth £2m. Working on self-contained tools allows us to remain independent and always one step ahead of our competition”. The company’s special team of three software developers was responsible for upgrading, updating and creating system’s new functionalities.
IT as a branch develops at a very fast pace, rendering may technologies obsolete as years go by. The language in which the platform is being developed may not have an immediate impact on the software’s end user, but it is of great importance to its developer. “In 2017 our CMS – even though still robust – slowly becomes insufficient as our main management tool,” says Mr Daniels. “The technology in which we have written our current software has already aged, so even a slight modification requires many additional hours of work. That is why we – as a team – decided to build a completely new software tool, which would allow us to maintain the flexibility required to easily adapt to the ever-changing needs of the market”.
A modern real estate agency must enable its employees to easily expand their online property portfolios, update listings, and even enhance their pages with additional features, such as direct links to specific locations, or content-rich descriptions of the most attractive neighbourhoods in the given city. The obsolete architecture of the content management system makes such changes time-consuming and requires attendance of several employees.
Exporting data to real estate portals or automated keywording, which makes the listings recognisable by Google's algorithms, is simply not enough. In a flourishing 21st century real-estate market, flexibility and tools for fast data aggregation and analysis are crucial. CMS 2.0 must be not only function as an external tool, but it must also allow agents, business departments, and marketers access to Big Data. “Accurate aggregation of real estate data will allow us to analyse the market in even greater depth. This in turn will affect our strategic decisions and will also streamline the work of the entire marketing department. All of our employees are involved, as we consult them regarding the project’s final set of functionalities,” says Ian Daniels.
The brand cooperates with investors who then develop their portfolio of properties available for rent. The profile of such client resembles that of a prosumer [producer/consumer], who brings resources to the market, rather than a traditional consumer. That is one of the reasons why the new CMS will have a login system available for the property owners, allowing them to keep track of their statistics and offer views, compare prices in certain neighbourhoods or even in the same building, as well as access the technical and administrative details of the lease process, which remains a crucial field of property management.
Of course CMS 2.0 would be impossible to create without the participation of great software developers, fluent in the latest versions of programming languages. Moreover, it is equally important to invite experienced and ambitious salespeople, focused on their goals. All efforts should be based on two assumptions: the system has to be optimised and it has to be adaptable. In the end, it’s a tool designed to help keep customers updated and properly serviced on a day-to-day basis. It is anticipated that the entire project will take 18 months to complete. We hope this story will inspire you to develop your own solutions.