Agents for O'Conor, Piper and Flynn are being introduced to the next wave of technology, which President of Operations Ramsey W. J. Flynn is calling a "re-engineering of the practice of real estate."
OPF hopes that its "Worome" program, announced last week, will allow its agents to accomplish anywhere many of the computer-related tasks that usually have been confined to the office. Flynn said agents will be able to access the company's main file server in Timonium and to use the "OPF Navigator" to compile contracts, make marketing presentations, interact with various offices and associated OPF companies and even search the multiple listing service.
The concept is not unique. Coldwell Banker Grempler Realty Inc. agents can insert disks in their personal computers and download programs to access its Omni 2000 software. OPF's system uses local access to the Internet as the conduit to its server.
"The benefit of using the Internet as your connectivity is that no matter where you live -- or let's say someone is on vacation in Florida -- make a local call into the Internet and boom, they are into our server here," said Brian Rogers, OPF's chief financial officer.
"It's not just showing technology," Flynn said, "it's changing the way we do business.
"If I have a Notebook or a laptop [computer], I really can work anywhere as long as I can get to an Internet provider and get
through to O'Conor, Piper and Flynn's server."
The OPF Navigator is the company's in-house computer program, tailored to meet the needs of management, sales associates and staff. Flynn said OPF Navigator, which contains 70 programs, branches into various menus that will take a user to whatever program is needed.
"The theory here is we want the agent to get out of the box," Flynn said. "We want them to change the way they've done their business and their thinking, and recognize there is a customer out there that is demanding different things today than they demanded 30 years ago."
Rogers said that approximately 20 percent of OPF's 1,700 agents have signed up for the program. But as the expected participation grows, it raises questions about the amount of time agent will be spending in the office, where the chatter on the street often leads to listings and sales.
"We will redesign how we will communicate," Flynn said. "The reason for the agent to come to the office [will be] for programs for training, programs on how to use new technology so there will be a change of the way an agent will function in their offices, and the management will change the way they manage those associates.
"The agent cannot isolate themselves and say, 'I'm going to do all my business from my home office.' That will not totally work. They will be able to do more, and do it more efficiently by adapting it into their lifestyle and time."
It also raises the question of the future of the office. As more sophisticated technology comes on line, will companies such as OPF seek to cut their overhead, consolidate and have their physical offices evolve into more of a virtual office?
"It [office space] will be used differently," Flynn said. "I don't know if it will lessen. I think we have to grow through this. I think you will find the functionality of the space in the real estate office of the future will have other usage. You will go into a room to make your mortgage application through technology and that will be a different use of a conference room, as an example. For me to say that it's absolutely going to less space, I'm not sure of that."
But what Flynn, as well as Rogers, is sure about is what the "Worome" program will do.
They foresee an agent who will not be absolutely captive to an office. They imagine an agent who, when called by a buyer who wants to put in a contract, can put together the necessary paperwork at home -- or even in the car -- and deliver it more quickly.
And they envision those contracts -- since they are frequently updated and computer-generated -- to be essentially free of errors.
Pub Date: 12/14/97