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Decentralization and standardization: the manager's view.

Decentralization and Standardization: The Manager's View

Decentralization of computerized record keeping requires two partners-the owner and the manager. Two fee property managers who oversee buildings for Traveler's comment on the process of decentralization.

Bob Frankel Executive Vice President Bender & Company Livingstone, New Jersey

Although Bender & Company had used computerized property management programs for many years before the Traveler's implemented its standardization program, the new requirements did produce some changes.

Before implementing the Skyline system, our Traveler's property had essentially been compiling site data in a batch mode and then sending it to our main office for processing. As a result, our central office personnel were comfortable with computerized accounting, but our site managers were only accustomed to doing computerized word processing and budgeting at the properties.

When Traveler's informed us of their plans, we decided to carry decentralization one step further and reposition most of the data input and processing directly on site. This decision gave our site managers much more timely access to property financial and lease status reports; they had the information when they needed it instead of once a month from the central office.

Shifting data entry to the site also allowed the property, accounting, and asset managers in our main office to become more review-oriented. They can devote more time to analyzing ways to improve property performance. Accuracy is also ensured by our manually checking the relationships of items in various property reports we generate.

We still provide mandatory checks and balances on site by sending out managers from the central office to review the property's records for two days each month. Our accounting functions are still very much centralized, but all of the dynamic lease and accounts receivable data reside primarily at the individual property.

Because the property we manage for the Traveler's is near our corporate headquarters, we still go on site and cut payables checks. If the property was further away, we would probably have linked the site computer to our main office accounts payable system with Skyline's "Skylink."

Our prior familiarity with using Skyline at other properties we manager did help us in implementing the Traveler's program. We had to run parallel systems for only 30 days before going live. Normally, I would expect to run a parallel manual system for three to six months. This double workload proved a terrible strain on our employees when we last replaced our own computer system, and we were grateful to avoid it. Softa's excellent training also helped make the transition easier.

The additional data screens that the Traveler's commissioned for Skyline also made our management work easier. We had previously tracked much of the data required by these new screens manually or with a Lotus spreadsheet. Now all the lease abstract and accounting information is in one easy-to-access database, with easy-to-read report formats. In addition, by incorporating more extensive lease and physical property information into the system, the Traveler's made it simple for us to know exactly what information they thought was valuable to review.

Thanks to their preplanning and the thoroughness of the Skyline trainers, we essentially have a turnkey system to meet their needs.

Glen Hanson Vice President Real Property Systems Denver, Colorado

Because almost all of our clients are institutions, our firm began using an IBM System/36 to track property management marketing and accounting functions in 1981.

When Traveler's elected to use a PC environment for its data processing, we felt that the 14 properties we managed for them required more regular input and processing than one or two PCs could provide. We purchased a 115-mega-byte file server and four IBM PS/2s as nodes configured in network and shifted our management record keeping for Traveler's properties to that operation.

The budgeting and accounts payable functions for all the properties we manage are still run on our IBM 36, and data from the PC network is rekeyed into the mini for the Traveler's properties. The absence of a reliable mini-PC interface also prompted us to operate our PC network in the central office rather than at each property. If the AS/400 interface, which would allow for a mini-PC link, becomes a reality, satellite computers at each site make more sense.

Our company had been asked by Traveler's to participate in the final software selection process, so we already had some familiarity with Skyline before implementation began. In addition, because our operators had previous computer experience, they shifted fairly easily from one program to another.

Initial installation and training spanned about six months, although the implementation was actually done in two stages. In phase one, representatives from Softa and Traveler's spent several days teaching our people how to input the property data. Several weeks later, when all the property information had been entered, they returned and worked with us in using the program. This schedule made sense because it allowed us to become partially familiar with the program's screens during the input phase and did not pressure us to accomplish all the data entry in a week.

The software start-up ran very smoothly, although we did have a few hardware glitches along the way. After installing a network, I am convinced that you need a qualified consultant to help put a LAN together. Because LAN equipment comes from so many sources, fitting all the pieces together requires a great deal of expertise.

At the same time, the network enables users to functionalize the accounting and record keeping for the properties and gives us a shorter turnaround for closings. The network also provides the option to expand by adding more properties or bringing individual sites on line.

So far, none of our other institutional clients have gone as far as Traveler's in customizing their property information. Of course, each client needs specialized reports, but we still generate them with the IBM 36.

From the client's point of view, requiring managers to use specific computer programs for reporting makes a great deal of sense. In this way, institutions can ensure that all their property data is complete and consistent. At the same time, if enough clients embrace enough different property management programs, it will put additional constrains on the fee manager.
COPYRIGHT 1989 National Association of Realtors
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Title Annotation:Travelers Realty Investment Co.
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Date:Sep 1, 1989
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