Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Survey of Property Management and Accounting Software 2001

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Survey of Property Management and Accounting Software 2001

Article excerpt

From the boiler room to the board room, the pressure is on for real estate companies to improve communications and efficiency, as well as increase revenue. In many instances, leading this charge is a relatively new addition to the executive management team, the Chief Information Officer (CIO). The CIO is seen by many as holding the keys to unlocking a company's potential by successfully navigating the company through today's complex world of Web-enabled management systems, shared system/service providers and non-traditional "front office" systems.

For many real estate companies, the ability to realize the potential benefits to be gained from these advances in technology begins not with their Web site, but rather with the back office financial accounting, property management and reporting systems. The functionality offered by many of today's real estate-specific software applications is enabling companies to expand the size of their portfolio with fewer back office resources, while simultaneously providing more meaningful and timely information to owners, tenants and employees.

In general, the approach to selecting financial accounting, property management and reporting applications has changed little over the years. The process begins long before any discussions with software vendors take place. Companies should be sure that they truly under stand the specific business problem or opportunity they are trying to address. Many companies rush to purchase and implement software applications with little consideration or planning for the larger task of preparing the organization for the business and process changes that must simultaneously be made in order to frilly realize the expected benefit.

The Selection Process

A successful software selection generally includes the following activities:

* Identify the Project Sponsor. This is the executive or senior-level person who will champion the project within the company, provide overall leadership to the project team and has final decision-making authority.

* Establish a formal project management and control structure to ensure that the project's overall goals and objectives are met, consensus on major decisions is achieved, issues are appropriately resolved and activities and tasks are satisfactorily completed within the company's timeframe and budget.

* Clearly define the business objectives being addressed by the company, including the impact of those objectives on the company's strategic business plan, organizational structure, personnel needs and technology infrastructure.

* Compile a list of functional requirements for other internal groups directly and indirectly impacted by the project.

* Develop a "long list" of potential software applications that may meet the company's needs.

* Reduce the "long list" of potential software applications to a "short list" of two to four applications based on the company's functional requirements.

* Select the vendor "finalist" using a combination of company-specific scripted vendor demonstrations, responses to requests for information and in-depth vendor evaluations.

* Negotiate the contract(s) to purchase and implement the selected software, hardware and third-party services with the selected vendor(s).

* Present the project team's findings, conclusions and recommendations to the Steering Committee for review and approval to move forward.

Evaluating Vendors

Identifying the vendor(s) that meet the majority of the company's functional requirements is only the first step in the selection process. Vendors that meet the majority of these functional needs may not be the best choice if the vendor's financial stability, customer support or ability to provide future enhancements is in question. The in-depth evaluation of software vendors is both a qualitative and quantitative exercise requiring extensive research. …

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