Will our industry direct its future or wait for change to move past us?

Volunteers and staff at AAR have been hard at work for several months developing two major projects: ARBI (Arizona REALTOR® Business Interface) and AZMLS (statewide MLS).

In August, AAR’s board of directors approved a plan to purchase ARMLS, a first step towards statewide MLS. However, the plans hit a snag in September when AAR received notice from SEVRAR that it would not sell its interest in ARMLS. Despite this setback, the momentum and enthusiasm for AAR’s statewide MLS keep growing, and we will continue to explore the options for moving this project to completion for the benefit of our statewide membership.

ARBI is a separate initiative from statewide MLS and is on track for a rapid development cycle. The data integration at the core of ARBI should result in significant improvements in efficiency for our members. You can read more about this project below.

AAR’s goal is to empower members to meet the challenges of tomorrow by harnessing the changes all around us today. Let us know what you think. Weigh in via the comments section below or email statewidemls@aaronline.com.

Tom Farley
AAR Chief Executive Officer

What is the Arizona REALTOR® Business Interface (ARBI)?

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Arizona REALTOR Business Interface Concept Mockup

Click to view a larger version of this image.













Here you see a mockup of what ARBI might be.  While the final result will look different, this diagram illustrates key features.  The virtual pathways at the extreme right of the diagram signify the many possible two-way channels into the dashboard, including MLS and public records, digital maps, electronic forms, digital signatures, Realtors Property Resource™ (RPR™), transaction management, iMapp, broker back-office support, third party applications and more.

A series of user-defined panes or windows represents views into all of the agent’s business tools.  Pending activities can be clearly seen and acted upon.  Near the bottom, a row of alert windows presents critical communications from the broker, MLS, association, etc.  Finally, at the bottom is a row of user-defined buttons allowing users to move seamlessly into the full application without entering additional passwords.ways at the extreme right of the diagram signify the many possible two-way channels into the dashboard, including MLS and public records, digital maps, electronic forms, digital signatures, Realtors Property Resource™ (RPR™), transaction management, iMapp, broker back-office support, third party applications and more.

Behind the scenes, information from all of the key applications is merged and redistributed to eliminate endless re-entry of the same information and decrease errors.  Although completely unseen by users, this data-integration is definitely the most complex portion of the ARBI project.  You may ask, “Why hasn’t this happened sooner?”

AAR’s approach to providing meaningful business services is to offer “best-of-breed” products in terms of security, usability and value.  This usually means different vendors.  Each vendor offers its own portal for data integration, but that means 14 MLS systems with each of three separate systems equals over 40 individual integration projects!  It’s no wonder that it’s taking so long to get all of the information flowing back and forth. Plus, it gets even more complicated: today, if a member wants to purchase CMA software, a mobile or iPad app, there is no guarantee that the software will work with their local MLS or even worse, multiple MLSs.  Vendors must obtain permission from one or more associations and possibly pay additional fees.

This approach is outdated and is difficult for vendors and members.  Consider the dilemma faced with, say, a CRM (customer relationship management) vendor… dozens of expensive integration projects with different vendors for one state?  Not happening. Enter ARBI, the “traffic cop” for all the information. With ARBI, AAR can now leverage its clout with its vendors to push them toward developing for a single interface.

At this point, it becomes clearer why a statewide MLS with one vendor makes so much sense with ARBI – one vendor, one integration and all MLS data in Arizona flows!  A CRM or mobile marketing vendor would then be able to code for one standard and be able to offer an integrated product for nearly 40,000 Arizona REALTORS®.  That said, ARBI is important enough to stand alone, which is why AAR leadership chose to put it on a separate development track.  ARBI has been funded and will be completed, regardless of the status of Arizona MLS.

ARBI gives you:

  • A single place to start a transaction – saves effort.
  • Information auto-fills into other applications – saves effort and improves accuracy.
  • A single place to check status for everything – saves time and effort.
  • One central place to get information you need from the broker, the association, industry news sources, even the Department of Real Estate – saves time and effort.
  • One username and password – saves your sanity.

Where are we now?

We have a sense of urgency in bringing ARBI “to market.”  The design team has decided on a “rapid application development” approach that presents a usable product to members at the very earliest date.  This technique is increasingly common with development of all size projects.  In it, a quick prototype release and long, open beta period brings a usable product to market quickly, then allows user input to shape ongoing development.

As mentioned, ARBI refers to not only the interface (the user screen), but the underlying technology that makes it all work.  The project will probably be developed in stages, beginning with the user interface (pictured) with stable, but basic underlying technology and moving into a refined user interface refinements with deeper technology development to enable further features.  Most of the technology changes will be invisible to users – users will just see more and more features as the system develops.

ARBI funding has been approved and ten major developers (including MLS vendors, e-forms vendors, transaction management vendors and general application developers) have been contacted to assess their interest and capabilities.  The ARBI Workgroup is working through proposals and determining the best course of action.

Moving forward…

Actual development should begin before the end of 2011.  Depending on a number of factors, members may see an initial version by the end of June 2012.  As mentioned, the approach will be to release new versions rapidly over the first year or so, refining and enhancing ARBI based on real user input.


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