Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Software Review: Property Management III

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Software Review: Property Management III

Article excerpt

The recent introduction of RealData:s Property Management III program is a matter of good news, bad news. The good news is that the program provides meaningful improvements in the qualities of lower priced property management programs. The bad news is that the program comes up short in some basic functional areas.

The program, which is designed primarily for residential management, is available in both a DOS and a Macintosh version. The program is accrual based, unlike many in its price range. The accounts receivable and accounts payable are automatically posted. Strengths

Every software program has some areas in which it is stronger than, Weaker than, or on a par with its direct competitors. Property Management Ill (PM3) has more areas of strength, and more areas of weakness, than most programs in its market niche.

The fundamental strength of PM3 is that its structure and design are whole and of a piece. This structure adds support to RealData's most prominent selling claim that it is easy to learn. The program has not yet been remodeled, patched, and reworked.

Another major strength that facilitates easy learning is the professionally prepared manual. It has several elements of ideal documentation: a good implementation and set-up guide, a concise tutorial, charts showing the work-flow sequences, a reference section separate from the tutorial, clear field descriptions, and several other elements.

The reference section contains several "how to" chapters, which are particularly helpful for the new user Each of these includes three major sections: "Purpose for Procedure," "Planning for This Procedure," and "Performing This Procedure' " The planning section differentiates the minimum required data to perform the task from optional data that may be added.

Still another element contributing to the program's ease of learning and use is the on-line, context-sensitive help system. Pressing the F1 key produces narrative help information on the screen for most of the data items.

Another strength of the program is the availability of edit reports prior to posting most batch entry operations. Current, past, and future tenants can be maintained. Almost all reports can be directed to screen, printer, or file.

Weaknesses

The fundamental weakness of PM3 is that its design is under-ambitious. Too many functional areas in the program are unnecessarily cumbersome. For example, in posting a cash receipt, the usual method is to access the tenant by name or unit number and then allocate the payment to the tenant's open charges. In some programs, if the payment is equal to the balance due, only the check number need be entered; all else is automatic.

In PM3, the user must go through a ridiculously outdated procedure. First, the only access to a charge is to enter the transaction number previously assigned by the system to the charge. That requires a printout or copy of the tenant statement for reference. Second, only one charge item may be seen and processed on the screen at a time. Third, neither the total amount for the payment nor the check number is provided for in this process.

The manual also has some deficiencies. Most importantly, it leaves several procedural issues unexplained. The writers did not anticipate some important questions that users would have. For example, where are recurring invoices edited? Why is "fiscal month to close" available as a prompt?

Other weaknesses include:

Monthly closing is required prior to opening a new month.

The user must separately enter each tenant address even when they differ only by unit numbers.

* Entry of an NSF charge and a fee requires two separate changes instead of a simple distribution.

* Late fees must be entered separately for every tenant.

* Functions such as recurring-charge generation and late charges must be run one property at a time. …

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