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Computer systems & technology: where to draw the line.

In our world of exploding computer system technology it is extremely difficult to keep track of the newest technologies, the most recent advances and who is offering the latest and greatest. Through the maze of processing at millions of bytes of data per second, integration, satellite communication, graphical functionality, program interconnectivity, windows multi-tasking, optical scanning, stacked charts, and sophisticated financial reporting/-analysis, it is easy to understand the general confusion and worse, get caught-up in it.

However, one thing remains clear, you have a job to do and you must do it well! System enhancements employing new technology should help you towards that goal.

Systems run your business and can integrate many different facets of your organization. Integration between management, accounting, brokerage, lease administration and corporate provide the ability to share desired information and assess the performance of your organization's departments, properties and agents, identifying areas of profitability and cost over-runs.

Large volumes of information can be quickly processed with minimal steps. Data is on-line providing the ability to be responsive, and can be queried, reported and analyzed to better control and improve value to your assets.

Features such as the ability to perform sophisticated queries, selecting specified criteria and either report or merge this information into other systems such as WordPerfect or Lotus are productive tools. Sending late or lease expiration notices to your tenants is now an easy process. Identifying potential real estate buyers in a defined market of a certain class of real estate within a specified budget and any other criteria, - combined with mail merge for marketing, - is as easy as a few key strokes. Most software developers promote their new technologies attempting to set themselves apart from their competitors with new advanced feature sets like user definable fields, pop-up windows, hot-keys, improved menu system etc... My advice is to note the features but focus on the benefits, asking "Will these features benefit me?"

The true purpose of a system is to simply access, process and report on your information quickly, efficiently and accurately, thereby making your job easier and you more productive.

Computers and the accompanying systems are tools. When those tools take too much time to setup, maintain and perform your responsibilities, they are no longer tools but impediments. When technology brings you beyond the point of productivity, technology has become superfluous and a cost.

Too often the feature(s) that attract a user to a system will be offset by an unforeseen trade-off. For example, property owners and managers need the controls and audit trails offered in a good property management accounting system, but are then buried in voluminous paper (reports) that some systems may require as part of its protocol. Similarly, a "state-of-the-art" management system may offer more detailed information, user definable fields, menus and custom reports, which on the surface are quite attractive but in reality burden you and your staff with additional input and ongoing updating.

We all would love to be more productive and have tools that would make life easier. Unfortunately there is no short cut in selecting a system. In order to establish your best system you must take the time to envision and understand what you need from a system. Then and only then will you be able to select a system that will best fit your specific needs.

I have found that the best test is the end-user, not fancy demonstrations featuring a lot of "bells and whistles" nor eye-catching advertising campaigns. As a technically based system integrator, who has sold and serviced industry prominent property management software, I can assure you that businesses typically select their system based on what their competitors are using, rather than focusing on their operational needs and overall goals and objectives. While market share is important, it is nothing more than a flat statistic at a certain point in time and doesn't take into account whether the users are happy or stuck with the system.

What is overlooked are the basics. As a systems consultant, my success is based on recommending, supporting and servicing top quality solutions that are reliable and get the job done quickly and efficiently. RAISH is a property management accounting system that does not have a large marketing staff nor a lot of "bells and whistles," but caught my attention because 99 percent of its client base "wouldn't trade it in for the world."
COPYRIGHT 1994 Hagedorn Publication
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Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Technology; tips on selecting business computer systems
Author:Seckler, Philip S.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Mar 30, 1994
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Next Article:State-of-the-art software essential to building managers.

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