Step 4 - Design for Continuous Improvement
Continuous Improvement Plan
Green building is evolving fast and technologies, standards and products are changing too. It is important that any green MLS design team build a continuous improvement plan as part of a rollout.
Further, new technology and methods emerge each year, which is why an MLS's feature lists should be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure the latest technology and methods are reflected. The Green MLS Implementation Guide has an update plan and can be used as a starting point to keep track of the latest technology and methods.
Most MLS systems have several fields containing lists of features common to most homes in a region. By keeping these existing feature fields updated with current green methods and technologies, the MLS not only helps to promote green building and energy efficiency, but they also assist listing agents and sellers in taking advantage of the proven value of promoting the green attributes of a home for sale.
RETS Data Dictionary
Ensure that a place for your idea doesn't already exist. Always consult the latest RETS Data Dictionary for approved green fields before designing a new one. A specific feature may tie as an enumeration to a RETS-Compliant field which already exists. For example, a certification or rating system that you don't see in this toolkit can be added to the existing certification fields
The local green building and energy efficiency remodeling community can be a critical/useful resource to understand how fields listed in the Green MLS Implementation Guide apply locally. These experts can also identify further customization or clarification required to implement the fields successfully. The building industry will know how often proposed features are represented in the existing housing stock and in local new construction trends. They can also clarify how the local climate influences which features are most important.
The building community can also help with data for a business case that allows an MLS to prioritize when to implement proposed fields and enumerations. This approach makes the most of the technology spend, but also leads to better data in the system as users tend to make less errors with fields and enumerations that they use regularly.
Deployment and Testing
Any MLS change requires a fair amount of effort. It not only entails making actual MLS changes, but requires considering the changes that users (IDX web sites, for example) need to make their systems. Additional considerations are needed to update training materials and accommodate the end-users' learning curve.
Advocates for green MLS fields must understand how and when the MLS makes changes to its data. Timing your green changes with other planned changes to your metadata can reduce the efforts required. And by organizing changes to occur less frequently, your external data users' costs of ramping up for development can be reduced. Such consideration of their bottom line can aid in gaining cooperation in promoting important changes.
Placement of new fields also has to be well thought out. With some features, you may be incorporating new lookup options to existing fields. In this case, bringing the new features to the top of the pick list for a period of time can gain members' attention. To drive attention to the new fields, making them "required" (with a "none' option) will force members to recognize the new field(s) during listing input.
When it is time to test the new data structure, involving parties that can help foster adoption and acceptance can ensure a smooth rollout. For instance, by including the same green professionals you consulted during the planning phase for the rollout, you can ensure that the finished product retains its relevance. Also, interested members invited for a preview can be helpful in promoting the new system among colleagues.
Depending on the implementation decisions you make, maintenance, at minimum, entails updating of some fields. A minimal effort is needed to add new certifications and restrict input of certifications that have become invalid. If you opted to include specific green features, you will need to review them periodically. As they age, they could lose their green designation. New features will also need to be added in order to keep your feature lists relevant. If you opted for the more generic attributes, less, if any change, will be required.
Continuous Improvement case study – Portland