10 reasons property management needs a digital transformation: part 1

Property management takes many forms. It could be a commercial property with many different types of businesses as tenants. It could be a collection of single family homes or a multi-unit apartment building. It could be a student housing property with a unique set of needs and circumstances, something I myself have some experience with.

There are, however, quite a few things that are common among the various forms of property management. You have tenants to take care of, staff to supervise, facilities to maintain, and files to manage.

Wouldn’t it be nice to manage your people and your properties without having to manage mountains of paper along the way? Even if you have started down the path of digital transformation, does your system today actually make you smarter and more efficient than paper?

Wouldn’t you rather manage the people and property you’re responsible for rather than the processes?

To help get the conversation started in your organization, there are 10 ways enterprise content management (ECM) can completely change your approach to property management and bring your processes into the 21st Century.

In this first installment, we’ll take a look at the first five:

  1. Make property inspections easier

I still have memories of the dreaded “RCR” or Room Condition Reports, a three-layered carbon copy form that never seemed to come clear all the way through. We used these forms to assess rooms both at move-in and move-out.

Sure, they are straightforward, but what happens when you need to attach a picture? You use your phone and transfer it to a computer, print it out, and hope it’s clear.

What if you could use that same phone (or tablet) and attach that picture to an electronic form? What if you can automatically add to the tenant’s file based on a few keywords? Any disputes become easier to manage and the process of compiling those move-out condition reports becomes far more efficient by removing those extra manual steps.

In the student housing industry, there would be hundreds of these reports every summer. The sheer volume alone makes this a big win for those types of organizations. 

  1. Connect your accounting and leasing systems of record

Whether you use Yardi, MRI, or even something homegrown, these systems don’t always talk to one another well. Maybe there is a nightly update, but you cannot see related information between the two.

I remember having to go all the way to another office to see accounting information about a tenant because all I could see about their leasing information was in a different system. In a different office.

What if I could perform a simple double-click on a tenant’s last name and get every relevant document about that person’s rental history? What if I could use that same action to get a report of what rent they owe or damages that have been assessed? What if I could see relevant correspondence about those collection efforts without pulling a physical file?

Getting that information at my fingertips would have been very helpful and ECM can streamline that information access by integrating with your core systems.

  1. Make paying the bills easier to free your staff

Quick: name every unique vendor that sends you a monthly invoice. It’s a lot, right?

It could be all the utilities you deal with, your maintenance suppliers, service organizations that perform cleaning, rug service, cable, internet, or services and amenities like a fitness center or tanning bed. There’s landscaping and snow removal that occur seasonally and contractors that pop up when things get hairy with the physical property itself.

These folks all send out invoices and they all like to get paid on time.

Even if you have locations across the country, you can make this process more effective for your teams by incorporating ways to automate the capture and routing of those invoices to ensure you pay what is owed, verify method of payment, gather the needed approvals, and issue a payment. Instead of relying on paper files, your staff onsite or in a central office can benefit from having electronic copies of invoices to map to the relevant purchase order and then document that proof of payment, all while maintaining the security of the information being viewed amongst all your team members.

  1. Your staff and tenants need to handle contracts

How many pages is your lease? Is the only copy your tenants have access to a physical copy they have to hope they don’t lose? Can they electronically sign a lease agreement?

When I was still in leasing, if I wanted to track who had looked at a lease, I had to rely on a “check in/check out” log to do so, and even then I couldn’t see the specific parts of the file they had looked at or when they did so. Additionally, storing and managing the retention policies for these leases was time consuming.

With a true ECM platform, you can manage all of this without relying on physical file cabinets or trudging through a storage room to find a file from three years ago. As for retention, you can set timers to adhere to local, state, federal, and company policies for preserving and destroying documents without having to hire a service or take a staff member away from their assigned duties to clear out old files. 

  1. See the full view of your resident and applicant files

Back in the day, we used a physical checklist on the inside of a person’s file to track what parts of the application were missing, communications with the applicant, and to store any relevant documents. While the checklist was helpful in keeping us on track, I still had to pull the physical file to see what was missing, and even that wasn’t always accurate. I cannot tell you how many times the document marked as missing was in fact in the file or vice versa.

How much easier would it be to audit what is missing from those files by pulling a report that showed missing required documents? With the right ECM solution, you can accomplish this with the click of a mouse instead of pulling the files themselves and creating a working spreadsheet.

Why not take the guess work out of it? Relying on the physical files doesn’t help you manage your information, only the file itself.

These are my first five reasons why property management needs to undergo a digital transformation. In part 2 of this series, we’ll take a look at how going paperless empowers you to accomplish more with less, even when you’re not physically in the office.

This blog post was originally published on Pulse.

Joe Russo

Joe Russo

Joe Russo is a Strategic Account Manager at Hyland. Currently, Joe also writes for Factory of Sadness, a Cleveland sports website operated by Fansided, and The OnBase Blog. His work has also appeared on Mic.com and The Fraternity Advisor.

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