Board of Directors and Meetings
6 Condominium Management Tools
From the Spring 2023 issue of CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.
Condominiums Aren't So Different From Businesses
Boards and managers optimize for efficiency and effectiveness in our operations, and strive to deliver excellent service. Setting aside the allure of products specially designed for condominiums, there are some incredible tools that can equip teams to provide higher-quality service and reduce operating costs. Condominium teams should take care to research all options and select products that serve their needs and meet regulatory requirements; the platforms listed in this article are examples meant to provide a starting point for your analysis.
1. AUTOMATED AMENITIES BOOKING
Options: Skedda, CondoControl, Amenity Booking etc.
What they do: Booking systems for amenities and other reservations.
Why you need this: If your team spends more than an hour a week administering amenities, guest suites, or elevator bookings, your process may have room for improvement. An online platform, properly utilized, will automate all aspects of this process, including accepting credit card payments. Residents will love how easy it is to book and modify reservations. You can configure these platforms such that reservations occur without any action required from your management team.
Other notes: Implementing a solution will require some up-front investment of your time; someone on your team will have to establish and communicate new processes, customize your amenities list, and set parameters for booking.
2. TASK & PROJECT MANAGEMENT
Options: Asana, Trello, Microsoft Planner, Monday.com, Airtable
What they do: Online and mobile apps for teamwork and status reporting.
Why you need this: Condominiums should have a central location for the board and management team to track active projects, maintenance work, and escalated issues. Project management platforms host this in an easy-to-use platform with commenting and task management functionality, so everyone on the team can access the latest information. Used right, these systems can allow managers to eliminate a large part of the reporting workload, and will simplify team communication.
3. CORPORATE CARD & SPEND MANAGEMENT
Options: Float, Caary, Jeeves
What they do: Provide your team credit cards. Most providers have strong capabilities to protect misuse, and integrate with your accounting system and bank account.
Why you need this: Allow your condominium to pay by credit card (for example, for software subscriptions or online purchases), and eliminate the hassle of issuing
reimbursements to team members.
Other notes: With one option, Float, your condominium will receive a 1% cashback rebate for all purchases. You’ll need a CRA business number to register. It’s always great to use a Canadian product: many will be pleased to know Float was founded in 2021 in Toronto.
4. COLLABORATIVE & CUSTOMISABLE DATABASES
Options: Airtable, Baserow, Smartsheet, ClickUp
What they do: Platforms for organizing and managing information. Like a shared spreadsheet, but with database and collaboration features that make your workflows more organized and efficient.
Why you need this: Here are some example use-cases for condominiums:
- Organize and store your condominium’s contracts in a table with information like rate, expiry date, and attachments;
- Track the status of projects;
- Automate routine forms, such as contractor sign-ins; and
- Record incidents (such as elevator outages and maintenance work) to allow your team to track performance in these areas and manage accordingly.
5. SHARED INBOX OPTIONS
Options: Front, Freshdesk, Hiver
What they do: Provide a unified team inbox for communication to owners, residents, and others.
Why you need this: If you have more than one professional on your condominium management team, these platforms allow you to have a central inbox where you can delegate emails from. Your team will enjoy features such as: shared drafts, commenting on emails (as opposed to forwarding them internally), automated workflows, and analytics reporting. For larger condominiums, this will allow management to operate more efficiently, will give your team better insight into open issues, and will enable improved responsiveness to residents and owners.
6. WEBSITE BUILDING & HOSTING
Options: Squarespace, Mailchimp, Wix
What they do: Platforms to easily build and host a professional website.
Why you need this: Any condominium with more than a dozen or so units should have a website containing information about the property. For boards: this is your opportunity to make a good first impression on prospective owners and residents, and provides a platform for you to engage with the public (for example, if you need to issue a news release). For management teams: publishing frequently asked questions, contact information, and other information about the condominium will reduce the questions your team receives.
IMPLEMENTING NEW TOOLS
The hardest aspects of implementing new tools are not technical, but social. Here are some points to consider when adding a new system:
- Appoint a power-user. Pick a project lead who can allocate time to understanding and administering the new tool, and resolve questions from other team members. Depending on your setup, a board member can also fill this duty.
- Communicate value. Systems only work when they are used consistently. The surest path to consistent use is gaining buy-in from all team members. To earn this buy-in, ensure your team understands how the new tool serves the condominium’s interests and – better yet – how it can save time for team members.
- Understanding existing processes. Before implementing a new tool, understand who is involved in your existing processes, and how they work. The purpose is not to try replicate every feature of your existing systems, but rather to identify a) areas where a new platform may present challenges, and b) who will be most affected by a change, and how to manage that change.
- Encourage informed risk-taking. It is impossible to make significant progress without taking some risks. You may implement a tool and find out – for some initially-unknown reason – it simply doesn’t work within your condominium. Accept this risk, and mitigate it by developing a contingency plan, running tests, having a detailed implementation plan, and encouraging your team to be adaptive and resourceful. On a related note, do not allow a few edge-case or hypothetical scenarios to derail your plans: some exceptions are inevitable in almost every process, and can be handled as they arise.
Risk-aversion can be a significant impediment to progress within your condominium. Often, maintaining the status-quo is easier and safer than trying to change, making it tempting to decline opportunities for improvement. While in many cases, the safer option is the best choice, just a few bold (and calculated) choices can completely transform the value you offer residents and owners.
- Simplify. Resist the urge to find software that fits every nuance of your condominium or integrates perfectly with current systems; rather, adapt your processes to use technology as designed. Question the complicated, and challenge assumptions. For example, when I implemented a new amenities booking process at our condominium, we removed a complex structure of booking fees, deposits, and hourly security charges, and simplified it to a single fee for amenities reservations. Not only was this change a prerequisite for the new amenities booking software, but residents love it, and it is far easier to administer.
Businesses are taking advantage of web-based platforms to maintain organized and collaborative processes. Condominiums should do the same. Managers: seize this opportunity to demonstrate the value you offer your community, while at the same time simplifying your own workload. Board members: reward innovation, accept calculated risks, and provide guidance and assistance to your teams. The opportunities available are significant.
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