Jon Loomer is a senior product specialist at insightsoftware.com who has more than 20 years of JD Edwards experience, including eight years as a consultant helping clients customize ERP systems. His background includes work as an auditor in the construction industry and as a controller for commercial contracting, homebuilding, and land development businesses.
Manage Properties, Not Data
It’s important for property managers to have an overall picture of their portfolio, but cumbersome tech systems can make property information confusing. Here’s how to find the right solution.
January 21, 2016
Real estate management companies are required to keep track of an enormous amount of property information, including rental data, leases, occupancy information, billing activity, legal documents, and security deposits. Frankly, the list goes on and on. That’s why it’s imperative to be equipped with tools that will make that data and information work for you.
Without the right solution in place providing quick, real-time access to property data, brokers and managers are at risk for making decisions based on old or incorrect information. Not only is it important to have an accurate picture of current property activity, but being able to look into the future of your marketplace is also crucial.
The good news is that there are modern solutions specifically designed to provide real-time data access. These solutions create one single version of your property and business data so there’s consistency throughout your entire organization.
Before choosing a system, consider how it will be used and what problems it will address. Too many attractive solutions fail after launch due to improper integration with existing technology and systems. And trying to deploy a new solution too quickly will end up forcing users into old unproductive patterns, like massive data dumps of information and Excel spreadsheets with no controls. You simply can’t run a high-performing real estate business on stale data and spreadsheets.
Many traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems are too cumbersome for firms today. These systems may require IT assistance to create reports, which can take too long and deliver stale, static data. Plus, extracting data into spreadsheets can introduce human error, produce inconsistent results across the organization, and propagate inefficiency.
On the other hand, many real estate management companies have invested a lot of money in high-end business intelligence solutions, but the result can still be stale data that may no longer reflect the current situation.
In order to be highly successful, real estate managers need to be able to find the information they need when they need it. This includes access to current and future rent rolls with lease detail, critical dates and looming deadlines, and currently occupied and soon-to-be-vacant units. Management also needs the flexibility to view summary information with the capability to find additional details when required.
So, look at the existing tools your team is using, and ask yourself:
- Do you struggle to create and use meaningful rent roll reports?
- Can you easily generate unique reports for each stakeholder or property owner’s requirements?
- Do you have full visibility for lease expiration details across all properties?
- Can you easily analyze properties’ occupancy and vacancy status?
- Can you simply project cash flow rates?
If considering these questions gives you a feeling of dread, it may be time to upgrade to a more modern planning solution that can handle the demands of your current real estate business. Look for these five basic criteria when choosing your next solution.
The tool that will work best for you should make it easy to integrate your ERP data and your planning solution. Integration ensures your budgets and forecasts are never separated from your actual numbers.
Too many planning solutions still require you to export summary data out of the ERP and into a spreadsheet, a data warehouse, or the cloud. This duplication puts a limit on real-time access and risks competing spreadsheets, version control problems, and reconciliation issues. It’s a mess.
Old hierarchical structures are giving way to more collaborative ways of managing business. Instead of passing requests up and down the chain of command, more employees are responsible for their decisions. When everyone can recognize business drivers and contribute, your modeling becomes far more realistic.
Make sure the planning solutions you’re considering include centralized, user-managed forms to keep everyone on the same page. Also, make sure you can set underlying forecast drivers and assumptions upfront.
With everyone working together on the same freshly gathered data, it drives better performance throughout the organization. Key decision-makers will have more accurate, relevant, and up-to-date information to establish that competitive edge.
Property management companies must be able to compare results against forecasts on a daily basis. This “continuous planning” concept eliminates the month-end chaos that so many organizations struggle with.
The best solution will not only plan efficiently but also provide detailed analysis when needed. Make sure your system enables staff to drill down into transaction details because when that’s not possible, employees can’t actually see what’s driving their numbers. Once again, they’d be forced to export transactional data from the ERP into spreadsheets in order to investigate the causes of variances. Data delivery should be simple and clear with the option to investigate data down to its source.
Agile business planning relies on up-to-date information from as many sources as possible. With the right collaboration tools, more employees or agents can contribute data. Couple this with the growing Internet of Things that offers a torrent of real-time data, and together, these could join with ERP data to build modeling scenarios and provide transparency into portfolio and individual property performance and forecasting.
The latest solutions can effortlessly automate these processes, pushing consistent real-time property data into standard company spreadsheets and sending the results straight back to broker-owners and managers. With this level of automation, you are on your way to achieving the power of predictive analytics.
Finally, don’t be dazzled by a stunning list of features offered by some modern solutions if they don’t work for you. Time, money, and energy will be wasted on a tool if it is clumsy or difficult to use. Then, your management team will become wary that solutions may become unsustainable, and employees will understandably grow reluctant to try anything new.
The more easily and naturally a solution delivers its benefits to employees across the organization, the faster it will be adopted and provide its return on investment.
The Perfect Real Estate Solution Is Out There
Seek out a system where employees in your company could get the information they need without reliance on the IT department. Make sure the solution includes a quick setup time and you train your team thoroughly.
Many reporting solutions can be installed in a matter of hours, using report templates specially designed for the real estate sector. You, your agents, and your staff could begin reaping the benefits from day one.
Imagine your lease managers having instant access to move-in and move-out activity for any selected property. They’d have access to historical, current, and future real estate data in real time. With immediate access to receivables and collection activity, analyzing tenant activity and status would no longer be an insurmountable challenge.
The perfect solution for your real estate company is out there. Just remember what your company needs: integration, collaboration, analysis, automation, and sustainability. When you find the right system for your business, your employees will soon be asking: “Why didn’t we fix this problem sooner?”