Until two or three years ago, when fee managers and owners implemented property management software, it was the organization’s accounting staff who were the major, if not exclusive users and beneficiaries of these programs. Although a significant function of the software involved reporting on operational concerns such as vacancies and lease expirations, it was the accounting staff who completed most, if not all, of the data entry as well as report generation. As a result, the primary focus of the software gravitated to managing the financial affairs of the company with secondary consideration given to meeting the needs of the other staff’s roles.
How times have changed! New Windows® based property management software now focus on more then just accounting and operational issues. In fact, a few new programs provides functionality that assists every member of the property management office team to better organize business critical information and execute their responsibilities more efficiently. These staff members include administrative support personnel, leasing agents, property managers, executives and of course, accountants. Considering the unavoidable limitations of now obsolete DOS based programs, it is difficult for most Property Management professionals to conceive that a single piece of software can offer heretofore-unimaginable benefits to such a diverse group of staff positions. However, because of the integration of new relational database technology, programs can now, more then ever, deliver on the promise of enterprise wide increased productivity.
One tangible example of new productivity gains can be attributed to the property management software functioning as a centralized electronic filing cabinet. Currently in most property management offices information about buildings, units, leases, tenants, and owners is stored in a variety of forms and locations including hard copy in files, electronically in word processors and spread sheets, and mentally in the minds of the property managers. A potential problem exists when a staff member needs to find information quickly. Due to numerous and possibly adhoc storage methods and locations, retrieving the desired information could take minutes or even hours. Even more disconcerting, if a property manager has changed firms, the desired information could have inadvertently left with her. In an effort to eliminate this problem, well designed property management software features a centralized relational database that captures and intuitively organizes all business critical information regardless of its origin or content. The information not only includes the basics such as lease dates, charge amounts, etc., it also includes electronically storing or filing all incoming and outgoing documents and correspondence. Documents can include letters, faxes, memo’s, photographs, maps, floor plans, CAD information, site plans, leases, etc. Thus, when a member of the property management team wants to find any bit of information concerning a person, place, or thing they only need to look in one software application and have the ability to find the document, regardless of its origin, in seconds. To this end, it should be emphasized that well designed software also includes varying degrees of contact management capability. The software should offer the ability to record and report on all discussions, impressions, action plans and follow ups as they relate to anyone you deal with daily.
The benefits of a centralized, relational database designed for enterprise wide information management are numerous: First, a central database eliminates redundancy of data entry as information is only entered a single time in one application. This alone could result in substantial timesaving and productivity gains. Second, the database streamlines the organization as one software application becomes the focal point for all data entry, organization, analysis, reporting and communication. As such, staff do not have to guess where information resides and because of enhanced ease of use, whoever wants to access and report on data has that ability to do so, provided they have proper security access. This gives more autonomy to all staff as they do not have to rely on colleagues from another department for report generation. The integration of contact management functionality either compliments and works in conjunction with 3rd party contact management products or eliminates the reliance on them altogether. Along the same line, the software becomes a central tool for revenue generation as it becomes a strategic application for the leasing agents.
With a much broader application of this software across the organization, property management companies should give much thought and consideration as to how the deployment of these new programs will impact existing workflow and how roles may change to take maximum advantage of these new technologies.
(as published in the Canadian Journal of Property Management, December 97/January 98)