Everything I ever needed to know about efficient property management, I learned in Kindergarten. Uh hmm, please bear with me. Yes, apartment management systems, especially at the property level, are old-tech and manual and arghhh…painful to look at sometimes. Property teams are incredibly ingenious at problem solving, creatively working around insufficient tools. Whiteboards, literally dry erase whiteboards track unit make-ready scheduling. Little Johnny rubs a shoulder on that a few times during staff, and you have a problem.
There is trouble on the playground [insert ominous music here].
But let’s be realistic here. Ingenuity is often born of necessity, and the innovators are solving these problems. As we think about how technology should influence property management efficiency, we can fall back on a few childhood lessons; treat people nicely, let everyone play the game, and dream in the clouds.
Be Nice to People
First lesson, find systems designed to be people-centric at their core. We are in the people business after all. That should be easy right? Actually no, the vast majority of legacy apartment property management solutions have data structures designed around places, specifically units. That might make sense until you realize the complexity of the life cycles of people. People are prospects, applicants, residents, maintenance techs, accountants, leasing agents, asset managers, marketers, C-suite… Units don’t change, people change.
For example, prospects become applicants and hopefully residents. They might not qualify for one property, but can be safely steered to another. What if they move from one unit or property to another? Or, maybe your staff members change roles. A unit-centric architecture can cause a team to work around these issues. Workarounds mean we did not treat our friends fairly when we chose that software solution. So, dust off your britches and find a core apartment management system designed for real people, then make sure they play well with others.
Share the Sandbox
“Does your child play well with others?”, asks the school counselor.
“Um, no ma’am my precious little one charges tens of thousands of dollars a year for integrations that never seem to quite meet his friends’ needs.”
Gosh, that’s not nice!
On the contrary, an open-source core apartment management stack encourages innovation and collaboration. The beauty of an open system is that operators and technologists can jump in the sandbox to create valuable solutions that work well for all the “people” inside a multifamily operation. They work together, removing the swivel chair, making solutions more user-friendly and broadly accessible across staff member groups and residents alike. And once you have managed that, make sure your solution is playing in the clouds.
Play in the Clouds
This is an easy one. In order to maximize efficiency, make sure your property management stack lives in the cloud. It is hard to believe how many of the playground meatheads still require you to use on-site servers to play the game. So, what happens when apartment operators need upgrades? You got it, each individual client must be touched to upgrade their servers. And it gets very complicated when operators are on different versions of the platform, multiplied by…a lot. Cloud-based platforms are much more nimble. They allow your diverse and geographically dispersed user groups to stay ahead on the latest version of software. The cloud is the sandbox today’s innovators are playing in and welcoming others to join them.
So, what have we learned? Be kind to people, share the sandbox and dream big in the clouds. Basically! We have entered a new era in property management technology. One where we can find great efficiencies by focusing on people first, solutions that work together and freedom from server racks. Okay, so now that we have solved that problem, where is my Blankey? It’s nap time.