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Nov. 12, 2012

Special Report: NMHC OpTech 2012

By Diana Mosher, Editorial Director

Dallas—The “platform” is becoming one of the most important business models of the new millennium, but it’s not a foolproof recipe for success, according to technology expert Phil Simon, who kicked off the NMHC 2012 OpTech Conference and Exposition. Sharing insights from his book The Age of the Platform: How Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google Have Redefined Business, Simon defines a platform as an ecosystem that quickly and easily “scales and morphs and incorporates new  features, users, customers and vendors and partners.”

These four companies, which Simon refers to as the Gang of Four, “have built the world’s most powerful and effective business platforms by having a different mindset and constantly redefining what they do, how they do it, what they could do, how they could do it, with whom they do it, how each piece interacts with other parts of its ecosystem and the world at large,” says Simon.

Simon adds that in order to build an enduring platform, a company must strive for foresight, agility and the willingness to let third parties participate in their business. “Insular companies are unlikely to build a great platform,” he says.

Today many start ups as well as large businesses are exploring the platform concept by building and integrating a useful “plank” (product, service or community).

Another topic of interest on the first day of the NMHC OpTech conference was risk management. During a peer-to-peer round table, apartment operators discussed the importance of vetting coverage of third-party vendors. They stressed the necessity of looking at contracts to ensure vendors have the correct coverage for cyber liability and other issues they might not be aware of.

Not all vendors have a risk manager; however, you can involve a member of the senior management team. Don’t just give vendors a list of the coverage you require. It’s much more effective to get involved in their process and explain why the various requirements are needed.

In terms of renter’s insurance, the industry is reporting higher implementation rates and more widespread acceptance by residents. This is not resulting in lower commercial insurance rates, but it can be a huge selling point for apartment owners. So track every dollar recovered through renter’s insurance and turn that into PR for the risk manager.

Guidelines for dealing with a data breech were also discussed. While there are currently no federal guidelines, there are 46 state laws on the books. This will continue to be an important issue for apartment owners and operators, especially as attorneys are expected to increase the number of class action suits. A federal standard is being looked into, and NMHC will be seeking feedback from its members on whether this is something they’d like the organization to advocate on their behalf.

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