[Ed. Note: The following article was originally published by the CAI Utah Chapter. Mike also spoke about this topic in his keynote at their Technology and Community Management Luncheon.]
Throughout the preceding decades, savvy managers have leveraged new technologies to save time, build efficiency, and gain a competitive advantage. In the 1980s the PC came onto the market, and with it came a whole array of tools and applications to manage communications, accounting and reporting. Prior to the PC, managers were using typewrites, desktop calculators and ledger cards. Could you imagine if your PC was taken away and you were forced to use a typewriter again? How much time would you lose? How many more staff would you need?
Community Management Is a Labor Intensive Business
There is the need to manage the daily affairs of communities: receivables, payables, inspections, etc., which are inherently time consuming.
Add to the mix working with homeowners, colleagues, board members, vendors and attorneys. Nearly every one of these interactions is a live interaction, a phone call, an email or a face to face exchange; all of which require your staff’s time.
So the challenge the community management industry faces is finding ways to reduce labor elsewhere from day to day. You can fire some clients, but that has an adverse effect on your top line. You can reduce the services provided through your management contract, but that might force clients away. You can also look to outsource key functions that are time consuming – and that is definitely worth thinking about (and another article all together). Lastly, you could look to technology to reduce your staff workload. That’s what we’ll unpack in this article.
The advent of the mobile phone in the 1990’s changed the way we work. With inexpensive mobile phones and service came the ability for managers to keep a certain level of connectedness in the field. Before mobile phones, managers would have to jot down notes to call vendors when they returned to the office, find a payphone, or knock on a resident’s door. With the mobile phone, managers began to save time and become more efficient when they were in the field.
So, looking at today’s technology landscape we have to ask ourselves: “What technology is going to make the biggest impact in community management?” What is that technology that we will look back on in 10-20 years and cannot imagine living without (much like we do our mobile phones and the PC)?
There are two answers to this question and they are linked together: “the Cloud” and Smartphones
The Cloud is just another way to say data storage on the Internet.
All day, every day, we’re using cloud computing: online banking, file backup, shopping, connected apps and so much more. One of the main use-cases for the Cloud for small businesses is to replace your internal IT, yet so many small businesses are wary to do so.
Putting key systems/data in the Cloud has a number of benefits for management companies and managers:
- Access your data anywhere you have an internet connection.
- Focus on your core business and worry less.
- Replace capital expenditures (CapEx) with more budget friendly operating expenditures.
- Provide improved security for sensitive homeowner data.
- Leverage the scalability of the Cloud to grow as your business grows
So the Cloud can help management professionals tackle efficiency and labor issues by removing internal work and enabling staff to work remotely. It also offers potential revenue savings by eliminating costly CapEx. And most importantly, it empowers management professionals to focus on what really matters: taking care of communities, instead of focusing on internal IT hassles.
Hand in glove with the Cloud are today’s amazing mobile devices: smartphones.
To say they are ubiquitous doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface for how widespread and embraced these devices are in our day to day lives. Consider this image comparison: the first at the papal announcement of Pope Benedict and the second at the announcement of Pope Francis. Stunning, right? Smartphones have become indispensable in just eight short years.
So how should management professionals be using smartphones to save time in community management? There are a number of functions worth considering:
- As community binder for on call managers
- Accessing board member’s data
- Viewing reports/financials on a phone or tablet
- Writing Work Orders while in the community
- Access Control for security personnel
- Managing AP and approving invoices
- Performing inspections in the community
Let’s unpack that last bullet point to illustrate the time-saving benefits that smartphones offer. Let’s say you manage ten communities. Let’s say, on average, that these communities are 15 minutes away from your office. Assume also that you visit those communities twice a month, and that keying in the data post inspection and generating communications takes about one hour.
If using your smartphone means not having to return to the office, not having to rekey your data, and still being able to get your records updated and communications out the manager, in the scenario above your would save 1500 minutes per month or 25 hours!* That’s real time savings!
So let me encourage you to take a look at the Cloud and utilizing smartphones in community management. Talk to your technology partners and strategize with them what options make the most sense for you. Perform a time study internally to know where you can stand to save time. This is an amazing time of change in the technology landscape and you can improve your company’s efficiency with a smart technology strategy.
* 10 communities X 2 times per month X 75 minutes saved per visit = 1500 minutes per month
Mike Hardy has specialized in technology and web-based software for over 15 years. Mike is a founding presenter at the CAM Profitability Conferences, where he speaks on technology and how it affects the community association management industry. Mike is a graduate of Radford University and has degrees in History and Political Science, and is currently the President and CEO for TOPS Software.
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