Big News

We have some big news we’d like to share and as I’m not much for press releases, I’m going to make this an FBS Blog exclusive and see how far and fast the news spreads:

Arizona Regional MLS has entered into a three-year contract with FBS for our flexmls® Web MLS system to replace the current system.

(Let’s pause for a moment here so Greg Swann, Russell Shaw, Jay Thompson, Jonathon Dalton and the many other Phoenix area bloggers who may be reading this can wipe the coffee from their screens.)

Yep, that’s right, come July 1 of next year, ARMLS members will be logging in to a new MLS system. Why not sooner, you might ask? Well, that brings me to some more news I think is exciting. I believe FBS will be breaking new ground here as an MLS vendor, because our intent is to blog about the conversion process step by step, and many steps there are. Here’s a brief outline of just the major milestones for the conversion:

  • October 30, 2007 – Complete system setup and planning discussions with ARMLS.
  • December 31, 2007 – Initial data conversion will be complete by FBS, ready for internal testing.
  • January 31, 2008 – FBS testing of data conversion will be complete and ready for ARMLS review.
  • February 28, 2008 – ARMLS review of data conversion to be complete.
  • March 31, 2008 – Data conversion clean-up following ARMLS review to be complete, and data feeds ready for third-party testing.
  • April 30, 2008 – ARMLS review of custom programming to be complete.
  • May 31, 2008 – FBS to resolve all open issues for the start of training in June.
  • June 30, 2008 – All user training to be complete.
  • July 1, 2008 – Go live.

This may seem like a long time in today’s Internet time, but there are a lot of people who depend on the MLS system for their livelihood. This not only includes agents and brokers but many third-party vendors (IDX vendors, Realtor.com, lockbox vendors, etc.) who will have to change their systems (hopefully only slightly) to point at our RETS feed and work through other integration issues. There are many, many people working with ARMLS data and providing them lead time to integrate to our system is critical, which brings me back to why blogging about the conversion is important.

I’m pretty sure this conversion is going to be written about by several prominent bloggers. If they log on to the system after the conversion and hate it, we’re going to hear about it. If they log on and love it, hopefully we’ll hear about that, too. But my main hope is that we can engage many in the process each step of the way, so that we can get feedback throughout and make corrections as we go.

For example, I know Greg’s going to be wondering about Safari support, so here’s the deal: flexmls Web works well with Safari except for our custom report writer. We hope to add Safari support for the custom report writer, too, by changing to a different rich-text editor but, to date, rich-text editing in Safari has been a challenge to support. Of course, Mac users can use Firefox, which we fully support (along with IE, uggh), but we also understand that browser of choice is important. To that end, the major upgrade we’ll be releasing on November 1 will further extend our commitment to cross-browser support (can I again say uggh about IE?) with our new mapping and search interface.

We know there are going to be lots of other questions like this by many throughout the conversion process, and so we want to try to communicate broadly and deeply about our progress and challenges all along the way. We know that we have to get this right, for ARMLS, their members, and ourselves. It’s taken me awhile to get to this point, but this is a HUGE win for FBS! At 39,000 users, ARMLS is one of the top five largest MLSs in the world. We’re humbled by the confidence ARMLS leadership has placed in us and we’re going to work our tails off to earn that confidence and trust.

In addition to working hard, though, we also hope to work smart, and smart for us is the RE.net. We know we can learn better and faster if we engage, so we’re engaging through the FBS Blog. There’s no faceless company doing this conversion. It’s me, Michael Wurzer, along with Greg Kilwein (Chief Software Architect), Kelly Prichard (Support Manager), Colleen Phillips (System Designer), John Jeppson (Conversion Programmer), Sarah Lovaas (Report Designer), Steve Schlangen (Account Executive), Melissa Brown (Lead Trainer), and so many others at FBS with many talents we’ll be bringing to bear on this conversion.

Our team will be working with the committed people on the ARMLS staff, led by their new CEO, Bob Bemis, and many agent and broker volunteers to make this a success for everyone. The current Board President, Abe Schwarz, incoming Board President, Gary Cumiskey, and many other volunteers took time away from their paying work to choose the best solution for ARMLS. The review process was rigorous, including consideration of all the top MLS vendors, through many presentations and review sessions. We visited ARMLS twice (remember this post?); Abe, Gary and Bob Rucker also visited Fargo to meet our staff and see our offices and data centers; and there were many, many hours of review and consideration put in by these and other volunteers in between.

Of course, I believe all the work and review ARMLS committed resulted in an excellent choice in FBS but now it will be our actions that prove them right. So, we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work, and we’ll be posting about that work here as we progress — and we welcome those interested to the conversation.