Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Selecting Software

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Selecting Software

Article excerpt

The On-site Manager's Role

Successful on-site property management depends, to a great extent, on exceptional information management. Using computer software is a necessity for the property management team that wants to stay competitive. However, the purpose of computerization is not to replace people or jobs; software is only a tool to facilitate sound decisions.

Nevertheless, selecting an exceptional onsite property management program is vital for all levels of management, from the on-site manager to the property owner. Accurate information from on-site operations is essential, and the ability to pass it smoothly and accurately to all levels of management is key.

However, it is unlikely that everyone involved in the selection process will have the vision to understand at the outset what property management software could do for the business. Some may see the computer as a solution to myriad business problems, not realizing the limitations of the technology. Others may see the computer as a typing assistant, not realizing its potential in their offices.

For all involved in selecting property management software, there will be a process of learning. Throughout the learning and evaluation process, these newfound insights must be compared against the company's needs. Before making a decision, it is absolutely essential to understand what you need the software to do for your business. Regardless of endorsements, low price, bundled training, or long feature lists, if the software does not meet your needs, it is not a good investment.

The On-Site Manager's Role

Although the central office makes the final decision, the property manager and the onsite manager-referred to in this article as the on-site management team-must be involved in the software selection process. The on-site manager is an indispensable member of this team. He or she can combine observations during the trial period with knowledge of onsite needs to recommend a package that best meets the tracking and reporting needs for the day-to-day business operations.

The on-site management team can also work with the central office to define customized reports that meet business needs for all levels of management. "All" is the key word; software operation and reporting should provide the information the on-site team needs to excel as well as meet the needs of the home office. If the on-site management team is not encouraged to participate in the software selection process, this usefulness will be much more difficult to achieve. The on-site property management team will be using the program every day, so it needs to be right for them.

What to Look For

The highest principle the on-site management team needs to consider when evaluating on-site property management software is: Does the software facilitate a partnership between the on-site management team and central office personnel. Features to look for include:

Easy Access to Property Management

Information. The property management software should provide easy access to information about tenants, property, and employees. It should track data, retrieve information, and perform calculations without error. This information should be available at the user's fingertips; not force him or her to hunt for vital data.

Ease of Connectivity. The software should provide automated communication between the sites and the central office. Furthermore, the software should provide information, both on-screen and printed, for each level of management.

Ease of Learning. The software should be easy for the entire staff to learn. Can the onsite staff determine most of what they need to know without having to call for help? If a software problem occurs, can the on-site manager or the office staff solve the problem without having to call the vendor?

Focus on Key Areas of the Business. The software should automate key areas of the business and help remind the office staff of day-to-day priorities (Figure 1). …

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