Survey of Property Management and Accounting Software 97

Article excerpt

One of the most critical decisions facing real estate organizations is finding the best way to use technology in support of real estate management. At the core of almost all information systems for property managers is the financial accounting and property management system. With the seeming plethora of packages available, what is the right choice for your organization?

The process of selecting the package that best fits your needs can be difficult. Some general steps to follow in evaluating and selecting alternatives are:

* develop high-level criteria and screen packages from a short-list of alternatives;

* define detailed requirements;

* evaluate your short list of alternatives through the request for proposal (RFP) process, vendor demonstrations, and vendor site visits;

* call and/or visit vendor references;

* perform cost-benefit analysis;

* select the alternative that seems to provide best fit;

* plan for design and implementation of package;

* conduct software contract negotiations; and

* arrange for implementation assistance (i.e., internal or consultants).

This article will assist you in the first step of this process, developing the short list of alternatives. The software overview and comparison matrix of property management packages should provide a strong starting point by helping you identify the various "players" in the industry and giving you a feel for the functionality that these packages support.

As noted above, the typical selection process requires significant effort. It is not our intention that a package be chosen solely from the information provided here.

Selection Criteria

Over 50 property management software companies were initially contacted and invited to participate in this article. Of the 30 companies that responded, we have profiled 20 software packages in this article. The omission of a particular software package indicates only that the company chose not to or was unable to respond.

The software packages represented support various functions of property managers. Certain packages focus on residential property management, others on commercial property management, while some support both. Likewise, some packages specialize in operational functions of property managers while others are integrated applications encompassing organization requirements (i.e., accounting, human resource, etc.). As you can see, property management packages cover a wide spectrum of choices. Your company's specific requirements and needs must be the basis for determining which software package is a fit for your organization.

Other Considerations

There are a number of items that are not addressed in the article that should be mentioned and included during your evaluation. Some of those items include:

Performance requirements: The number of users, location of the user base, and transactions, volumes must all be evaluated to ensure the system will support your needs.

Security requirements: Depending on the size and type of your organization and on your operating strategy (i.e., centralized versus decentralized), security may be extremely important. Each system supports different levels of system and application-level security. Your security needs should be assessed against both the application software and operating system.

User interface preferences: The user interface is a key consideration in selecting a system. For example, some software companies have developed products with graphical user interfaces (i.e., Microsoft Windows), while others remain character based. Define and assess your company's existing system strategy combined with specific user interface criteria against each package.

Distributed data/remote capabilities: Based upon your organizational structure, you may prefer that specific functions and/or types of data be maintained in different locations. …