A factor that tends to be considered when choosing an MLS service provider is how many customers they have won or lost recently – particularly when some of those customer losses are large, costly, and well-publicized.

And if that is not a formal consideration, when an MLS vendor looses a major customer, it is often on the mind of sourcing MLS organizations. In fact many companies that I have spoken with over the past 12 months have actively excluded some MLS vendors from their short list due to rumors or reports of customers lost. These types of metrics tend to work against the large players as they have more contracts and therefore, if they run at an industry average failure rate, they are most likely to have more failures.

Large companies that probably do the most MLS projects, are likely to have the most failures (assuming that their failure rate is the same as that of their competitors) – and this works against them. I have actually heard people say that they would never have one of their systems because of this!  And this does not only refer to those companies – you could switch in any MLS services vendor’s name here as the sheer number of projects they work on means that they are likely to have more problems too (as very few MLS projects go perfectly). If the failure rate is 1 in 10 (and this is just a guess) then a vendor that has undertaken 100 installations will have more failures than one who has undertaken 10…

In my humble opinion, focusing on failures or project problems is a short-sighted view. Project failure is rarely the fault of your MLS services vendor – even if it is, it is your fault for not managing the process effectively and pulling them up before it turns into a failure. The only time when the partner is to blame is when they promise to do something that simply is not possible – and again, they are probably just responding to your impossible requests.

The hidden factor that seems to separate the average from the excellent in MLs implementations is not their ability to avoid failure, but how they respond to failures and issues when they invariably do happen.

So therefore when you speak to client references (which you should do before undertaking a major project or outsourcing a large chunk of your MLS) focus more on the problem resolution aspect and less on the rate of failure or the number of issues – for you will have issues no matter how much planning and prep work you do! What you will find out in the process can be hugely valuable when looking for the right partner.

Projects do go off the tracks. And while I have no empirical data to prove this, my gut feeling is that the number of failed projects has decreased significantly over the past few years as project implementation methodologies improve, MLS departments are closer to the business to ensure project alignment, and project sizes have decreased (or at least implementation times have shortened). It is how you and your vendor respond to the issues that will define not only the outcome of the project, but how much grey hair you get along the way.