Best Practices

Top Questions to Ask When Evaluating CRE Deal Management Software

John Ledger

7 min read

Your commercial real estate (CRE) deal management software needs to go through a job interview. It’s important to know which features your firm needs from its deal management software. Getting the right answers starts with the right questions. Use this handy checklist to vet CRE software before making a decision!

What Is the Compatibility with Other Platforms (Outlook, Box, Excel, and More)?

CRE investors don’t have time to jump between multiple platforms. Integration with all core business-management software is essential for ensuring that your CRE platform can help to speed up deal flow. When you’re pulling data and documentation from silos, you’re running a disjointed process that is more likely to be less efficient, prone to compliance errors, and bad for the customer experience.

What Does the CRE Deal Management Implementation/Onboarding Process Look Like?

Know exactly what you’re signing up for! The onboarding process affects every team’s ability to be productive and responsive. Your software provider needs to be able to provide clear timelines and expectations regarding what you can expect for deal-making interruptions and access restriction during the switch. If you’re unable to communicate a clear plan for how the change will be implemented then expect to get panicked feedback from your teammates. It’s also imperative to ask about the support level provided during onboarding. Will your software provider act as a consultant to help make the process as painless as possible?

How Does Collaborating with People Outside of Your Firm Work?

A well designed CRE deal management software should fling open the gates instead of locking you in. Robust security features with various permission levels make sharing and collaborating within the platform possible with people inside and outside of your company. When having conversations with software vendors, the focus should be on how acquisitions teams are able to share progress with partners, vendors, and various other stakeholders. It’s also wise to ask about sharing data off the platform. In some cases, software is a walled garden that doesn’t permit outside access. Other platforms actually allow users to distribute paid licenses for external users. It’s imperative to verify that you won’t be paying out of pocket every time a new role is added.

What Other Similar Companies Use Your Platform?

Your software choice is part of your positioning strategy. Getting an understanding of how companies in your category are successfully using the same platform allows you to decide if it’s suitable for your needs at your current scale. While large corporations may be using specific platforms with high name recognition, it’s essential to understand that the developers behind those platforms are designing features for the giants. Trying to fit into the large footprint of major enterprises may not be the best idea. Shift the focus to platforms that prioritize scope-appropriate features for companies at your level.

Is Data Entry Automated? What is the Origin of the Data Entry into the CRE Deal Management platform?

Accuracy and security are on the line when a CRE deal management software platform handles automated data entry poorly. Companies using offshore data entry as a service don’t always provide visibility and awareness about data origin. You need to know who has access to your data. In addition, transparency over the data-automation process allows you to get accurate estimates for how long it takes for your data to become available and usable for your staff. If a software platform is offering AI-driven data entry, ask about accuracy rates. Your software provider should also be able to quantify the data points covered.

There’s also a secret in the software industry that you should be privy to when selecting software. In the debate between human-driven and AI-driven data entry, the answer is actually both. The ideal solution is an AI-driven system that loops in human intervention. Don’t accept the substitute of a vague “data-entry script” that are sometimes used in place of high-quality artificial intelligence.

Where is the Pricing Coming From?

Ask for specificity about pricing models to ensure that you’re not spending money on features your company doesn’t need. Software solutions are often bloated. When getting a quote for implementation, ask about scaling down to shed features that you don’t need to achieve your business goals. It’s also vital to inquire about user price tiers. Are the power user roles such as an analyst priced the same as a passive user role like an executive?

How Will the CRE Deal Management Platform Grow with Your Team?

While you don’t want to sign up for CRE deal management software that’s “too big” for your company, you also don’t want to get stuck with software that can’t grow with your goals. You need to purchase software for the company you want to be to at least some degree. These are the questions to ask:

  • Will the software support a growing team without high per-user costs?
  • Does adding more users slow down performance?
  • Will the software support growth in deal flow?
  • Can interfaces and data prioritization change as the business focus changes?
  • Will the software vendor regularly assist with reevaluating software fit?
  • Will the software vendor provide solutions for refining features to fit evolving needs?

Investing in software you’ll outgrow in a year, five years, or 10 years is costly. It’s not just about paying for a new program. Firms lose untold amounts of productivity when employees have to switch away from the platforms they’ve become proficient in after years of integrating system-specific features into their workflow processes.

How Are New Features Rolled Out?

You need to know how tumultuous new product rollouts will be for your company. Software companies are constantly expanding their features. However, not all of them are experts at gentle rollouts that create as little user disruption as possible. Ask for a blueprint for how software updates will look in real time that answers these questions:

  • How does a software vendor prioritize adding new features?
  • Do your product suggestions update the product roadmap?
  • Does your current pricing include the latest features? Will you be faced with an upsell for new features?

It’s critical to grasp the business model of the CRE deal management vendor you’re vetting. Some software companies base their business models on upsells. As a result, they’re incentivized to roll out premium paid features that are necessary in order for your basic edition to function.

How Does the Platform Align With Your Team?

Software isn’t universal. If a vendor is trying to sell you a flat platform that isn’t customizable for your industry, you’ll lose opportunities for building insights with user-specified screens and inputs. Generic “business” software can’t address the complexities of data entry from OMs, CRE specific workflow, underwriting, and other steps required for real estate.

How Flexible Is the CRE Deal Management Platform? Can It Go Beyond Acquisitions?

Many CRE deal management platforms are focused entirely on acquisitions. While the software can be helpful for getting the deal done in the moment, it offers no analytical benefits for better future performance. That means you’ll need to design a different solution for the task of automating the look back of “actuals versus projected” financials to help with future decision making. In addition, a platform should be able to help you work through refinancings, dispositions, and more.

Many CRE platforms fall short because they don’t combine cutting-edge, AI-driven solutions with the customizable features small and medium-sized CRE firms need to thrive. It shouldn’t feel like your team is fighting against your software! Make sure your CRE vendor is able to offer a platform that positions your firm with the tools and insights needed to lead in your category.

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