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Web/Software Integration.

Many property management companies today face the daunting task of maintaining two or more databases (one for your property management software, one for your accounting software, one for your Web site, etc.). And even if your software solution consolidates your property management and accounting into a single suite, you are still left manually updating your Web site's database every time a change is made through your management software--essentially twice the work.

If your business foregoes these daily maintenance activities, then your Web site may become "out of sync" with your actual business data. Many property management companies rely on their Web site to market their properties and services to new tenants and owners. They cannot afford for their Web site to become essentially obsolete. However, if you focus all of your effort on maintaining current data, then your business stops growing altogether. This problem has left many property managers wondering, "Isn't there a better way?"

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There is. It's called Web/Software Integration (WSI) and it's giving businesses an edge over the competition by streamlining their database maintenance activities, improving business agility, and guaranteeing that their Web site is always up-to-date.

Dave Staun, Business Development Manager at SuperNet, an Ohio-based IT company, states, "Any management company with a Web site should seriously consider Web/Software Integration. In an industry as complex and competitive as property management, WSI is one of the big keys to success."

What is Web/Software Integration?

The goal of WSI is simple--to consolidate your Web site and property management activities into a single process. What exactly does this mean? Suppose one of your tenants moves out of an apartment. With a single click of the mouse, you can declare that rental unit as vacant within your management software, which simultaneously updates your Web site to make that unit 'available' to prospective tenants searching online for rentable properties. If someone fills out an online application for that rental unit, your Web site instantly loads the application information into your management software, creating a new prospect in the process.

WSI allows any database update made through your software to immediately affect the content of your Web site, and vice versa. This feat of efficiency is achieved by eliminating your Web site database, and instead, having your site communicate directly with your property management software.

In order to implement WSI, two things must be true: Your management software must be programmed with a "back end" capable of communicating with your Web site, and second, your Web site must be properly coded to communicate with your property management software. Not every software solution allows for Web site integration, so if you use third-party software, it is important that you ask your vendor if this feature is available--and to what capacity.

Property management software companies that allow for WSI typically offer Web-based applications that can be "plugged in" to your existing site to leverage the power of a single, consolidated database. For example, an application called Owner Web Access lets owners view up-to-date financial information about properties, run reports directly through the company Web site and even make contributions online. Another Web application allows tenants to make payments online; those transactions are immediately processed by an electronic ACH provider and recorded by the management software. Tenants can even submit work orders online and view up-to-date account information pulled directly from the company's consolidated database.

Streamline your daily business operations

First and foremost, WSI can lower your cost-per-unit management expenses considerably by eliminating redundant database maintenance activities.

Lee Porter, president of Birch Management states, "[WSI] allows us to perform the duties that we need to perform to be successful for our clients versus simply doing tasks."

After Birch Management implemented WSI, their property managers were able to make updates to the consolidated database and have those changes automatically reflect on the company Web site. The time saved allowed them to focus on marketing new units and reducing vacancies.

Companies that integrate their Web sites with their property management software also experience faster unit turnaround and improved business agility. Time lost is money lost, so the longer it takes you to get a recently vacated unit back on your Web site, the longer it takes you to find a new customer for that unit. WSI automates the process of adding available units to your Web site so that you are always aggressively marketing your properties to new tenants. WSI can also help with the processing of online prospect applications.

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Another advantage of WSI is the reduction of tenant-and owner-related questions. Some property management companies find themselves inundated with occupant account questions and owner requests for reports and other information relating to their properties.

"Tenants and owners want to be able to access 'live' data concerning their accounts, not stale or summary statistics. This can only be achieved by integrating your site with your software," said Staun, of SuperNet.

The purpose of these "plug-in" Web applications is to offer tenants and property owners a controlled "window" into their live data as it exists within your property management software. By giving occupants the power to view their own account information and allowing owners to run their own reports and conduct business online, you can free your employees from spending all of their time answering their questions instead of focusing on more mission critical work.

Moving forward

While larger property management companies are the ideal candidates for WSI, any business looking to streamline business practices or guarantee data integrity in all aspects of the company may be interested in this service. To be sure, such companies will find they can move from business maintenance to business growth overall.

Chris Griesinger is documentation and courseware developer for Rent Manager.
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Title Annotation:Industry Partner
Author:Griesinger, Chris
Publication:Journal of Property Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2010
Words:955
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