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.

43 Responses to Big News

  1. Dan Woolley says:

    Huge win for you guys – congratulations! I’d heard rumors, but this is great to see.

  2. Greg Swann says:

    I haven’t even finished reading yet, but I wanted to stop to shout: Beta dibs! NOW I’m interested in being involved.

  3. Ding dong the witch is dead, which old witch, the wicked witch. Ding dong the wicked witch is dead …

    Imagine that … and MLS where Firefox actually works.

  4. Jay Thompson says:

    Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I know, ’cause I just got a HUGE shiny gift!!

    You have just made my day/week/month! I’m stunned, stunned I tell you!

    If you need **any** help, let me know.

    Next time your in town, let me know. Swann will buy the drinks…

  5. John Wake says:

    “Imagine that … an MLS where Firefox actually works.”

    I thought that was illegal!

    (Now if somebody would just bring the Top Producer user interface out of the disco era.)

  6. Ron Sephan says:

    No doubt in my mind this will be a huge success for both FBS and ARMLS RealtyWEB.NET (NEFMLS) picked FBS because they are the BEST!

    Congratulations!

  7. Steve Belt says:

    SWWWEEEETTTT!!!!

  8. OK, I’m jealous! How do we make the same thing happen in Cleveland, where we’re just getting ready for them to dump the latest Tempo upgrade on us (NORMLS MLS)?

  9. Peter Lupus says:

    I love it. I have heard it was changing; it is good to finally have some news that is little more concrete.

  10. Thanks for the update.

  11. I think it is great. Can’t wait to use it. It should make our lives eaiser.

  12. Greg Swann says:

    > Swann will buy the drinks…

    Damn betcha! I’m starting in a couple of hours without you.

  13. OUCH! I just figured out how to get some information from the new iMAP! ;-> Hope the tutoring, accompanying the program is S-I-M-P-L-E for those of us who are ‘ever-so-slightly’ technology challenged!!!

  14. Will the antiquated thought processes go out with the old system? Will you make it flexible enough to change with changing markets? There are such happenings out there you know….short sales, foreclosures, other out of the norm listings. Hope the new system will recognize the “real” estate world as it is and not as it was in the what John Wake terms the “disco” era! Change is good.

  15. Nadina Cole-Potter says:

    Evidently a lot of agent computer geeks have a lot of complaints about Tempo. As an agent who represents buyers in mostly commercial transactions, I think Tempo is a dream compared to CoStar (overpriced, clunky, ala carte pricing, and no automated listings to buyers) and LoopNet (no automated listings to buyers without the listing agent contact information included, poor comps reporting formats, superficial comps reporting).

    As for ARMLS replacing NetValueCentral with iMapp — it wasn’t broken and the change isn’t helpful — again, it’s clunkier, it’s impossible to tweak comps reports, it’s more difficult to set up a search, refined searches disappear. I certainly hope that this next ARMLS “fix” is really warranted. As an IE user — because that is the standard for us non-geek agents — I don’t find the interface with Tempo in searching listings to be difficult.

    I do find the Tempo data entry for listings to be totally maddening and an excessive time-suck. I would love a system where I filled out the listing data once on the Zip Form version and with the touch of a button (Send to MLS), it could be transferred automatically. It would save several steps of seller review and lots of data entry time. Do that and I’ll quit complaining about having to change.

  16. Nick Bastian says:

    I hate to wish my life away… but, can’t wait for an improvement of the current system.
    Thanks!

  17. [...] FBS Blog Conversations about the MLS industry, creating software, and employee ownership. « Big News [...]

  18. Shawn Meissner says:

    Congrats. This is a big win for a great MLS software company. Can’t wait to pull Phoenix’s data from a FLEX MLS sever..

  19. MICHAEL PETERS says:

    It’s about time we got something more up to date.
    I just hope we’re not going to be saying ‘FBS UGGH!’
    Fingers crossed and Good Luck!
    Dazzle us.

  20. To everyone wishing us well, thank you!

    Kathleen: The new system will allow ARMLS the ability to add new data fields.

    Nadina: Though we don’t auto-populate from Zip Forms, there is a function that allows you to enter and save an incomplete listing and then print it out in a format for signature by your seller as part of your listing presentation. Then, when you return from the presentation, you can finalize the listing without having to double enter any data.

    Michael Peters: Undoubtedly there will be features you and others don’t like. On balance, though, I’m hopeful you’ll find the system helpful to your business.

  21. Carol Onder says:

    Would you please let me know who is presently using your system?

  22. Our customers are shown on this map.

  23. Change is good. Attended several MLS meetings at SAAR. Stopping going because I tought it was a joke, given that there are too manh owners of the MLS database. Congratulations on mating elephants. IF you need Beta testers, I would love to help.

  24. Fantastic! I am looking forward to July 1, 2008!

  25. Eric Lee says:

    Is there anywhere to see a sample of what flexmls’ system looks like or how it works?

  26. Eric, we’re working on some videos to give you a preview. We don’t have a demo site generally available because the best way to view the system is with real data, which, of course, is confidential to our customers. Keep an eye on http://www.pretexchange.com, which is a site set up by Phoenix area bloggers, for more information in the coming weeks and months as we go through the conversion process.

  27. MattL says:

    Congrats on the win, FBS!

    -Matt

  28. Teresa Cole says:

    Thank you for the update!! Change is always hard, but is a need in today’s ever changing market.

    Well stated – Kathleen Liles; “Hope the new system will recognize the “real” estate world…” –— I couldn’t agree more!!!!

    I am excited about the new system and look forward to using the total system.

  29. Largissimo says:

    Congrats to FBS on the win, but remember that this would not have been a win for you had it not first been a loss for ML. Be certain you understand why ML lost ARMLS so that you don’t wind up repeating the same mistakes:

    a. Usability — less “disco” as people here say, more “post-neobop”
    b. Flexibility — customizations/changes to existing functionality must require config/metadata changes only, NO code changes, preferably performed by the Association staff and not by you ( = fewer support calls!)
    c. System uptime — a couple of sigmas at least
    d. Data reliability — validation checks on data should prevent nonsensical entries coming from anywhere, or should alert and/or fix them automatically; e.g., carports on $10 mil homes or 4 car garages in trailers (which actually happened).
    e. Security/Privacy — goes without saying
    f. Service/Support — this is your real business, not creating software
    g. Business continuity — a sound, regularly tested DR is a no-brainer
    h. System scalability — volatile markets mean volatility in the distribution of data in the system; watch for emergent performance problems, and be able to proactively solve them, rather than reactively
    i. Prove it — place metrics ans results publicly on the web on all of the above to demonstrate your success without anyone needing to ask you for

  30. paul welden says:

    I never had too many negative issues with marketlinx. One feature which I use most is the client gateway (personal website for each client & their property searches) instead of multiple emails. I wonder if flexmls will offer something comparable. My reason for concern is that with 56,000+ properties on the market, each client may receive hundreds of properties & each subsequent email could result in the same number. It will be very difficult for the client to remember which email had the specific property they were interested in, especially if that client receives multiple auto-notify email with a multitude of properties in each one. any response will be helpful in calming my nerves. thanks.

  31. Paul, flexmls Web will have a client gateway function as well. I believe it will be different than what you had in that it will require clients to login, but it will track new and favorite listings for each client.

  32. John Wake says:

    Michael,

    If you ever get bored, could you do a little video on that feature?

    Just a few days ago, Dru and I were wondering about what the Client Gateway replacement would be like.

    We know it will be good but it would definitely help my planning if I could see what it will look like.

  33. Tiffany Cloud says:

    Wow, I am with the others, and would love a sneak peak at the user interface. Just curious, how will you get all agents trained on the system in the month of June? Will you have online turtorials? Will we have a chance to ‘play’ with the system and practice researching, inputting listings, setting up searches, etc…?

  34. Tiffany, check out this video for a sneak peak. Regarding training, the MLS will be offering in-person training at a variety of locations as well as online and offline tutorials. You’ll be hearing more from ARMLS in the coming months.

  35. Nadina Cole-Potter says:

    Aiiieeee!!! Tried the sneak peak video. Loaded indicating 100%. Then nothing. Does this mean I need a video card? New software? GMAB!! Come on folks, a few simple HTML screen shots would do.

    Remember when Detroit was castigated for “dynamic obsolescence”? Well, the IT world is worse! I am sick of being oversold the “newest and best thing” in technology or technology services that my business can’t afford to be without! I still can’t save a refined custom search in iMapp, or LoopNet. Google Maps still gives incorrect directions with no link to a place to report the errors. Will our new MLS system be the same? Lots of bells and whistles and no fundamentals?

  36. Nadina, if you’re just looking for a few screenshots, you can see a few on this post. Also, if you want to try the video again, clearing your temporary Internet files first may work.

  37. Will this conversion of ARMLS from TEMPO to flexmls® Web MLS system include a transparent transfer of the clients I have in the TEMPO System to whom I have regularly scheduled property e-mails?

  38. Jorgen, your contacts will be converted but the saved searches for those contacts likely will not. There’s more info about client gateway conversion on this post.

  39. toni says:

    When I edit listing information, it does not show up on my computer. It does show up on other users’ computers. Does anyone know how to correct this? I contracted flex support and they were not helpful at all. Thanks.

  40. Toni, please elaborate on what you mean “does not show up on my computer”. Are you using flexmls Web or flexmls PC? Where in the system are you looking for the information and discovering it not there? Thanks.

  41. Paul Bartoletti says:

    Well now that there is a week under everybodies belt using the new system, why are there no comments here. Problems abound. Can’t edit search results to go from pending to sold w/o a whole new search. Great stuff.

  42. Paul, you can edit the search by clicking the Edit Search tab and the status field will be in the list of criteria. If not, click on the quick search tab and use the green plus (+) sign to add the field.

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