Maybe it’s just software confusion that has people looking, wondering and scratching their heads asking about which software is the best and how they can get their systems to “talk to each other” or to generate this report or that one. The truth is, aside from the interface, many of the prevailing systems out there today do many of the same things. When clients put themselves into the mode of thinking that software can solve their problems it can be an opportunity to educate but it’s an uphill battle against a tide of marketing dollars spent to make it look about as easy as a diet pill…just buy this and you’ve found a magic cure. Further what they might think that they are looking for in a software can sometimes be found in their existing systems if they can change business process enough to generate the data the software needs to run in the first place. At a minimum, reviewing these processes is an important first step even if software procurement, data migration and new reporting are in the company’s future.
Entering the words “lease administration software”
in MSN’s search engine produces 652,824 responses
Using Google it produces over 11 Million!
Real estate software applications break down into a few neat groups. We’ll look at three here. First, there are applications that can be purchased and run on a company’s own network environment. Typically a license fee is paid once, the software ships and then there is an annual support contract that is a percentage of that up front cost. Opposite that model are the ASP’s (application system providers) that provide web access to the software on a monthly license fee basis but the application itself and the data are stored in their server environment. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models.
The next division is between applications that have built in accounting functionality and those that do not. The accounting based systems have an underlying general ledger so that when things like rent are “posted” or bills are “paid”, this debits and credits ledgers that run behind a number of the applications and can produce financial statements for properties or companies. Typically these systems are in place when a company has a lot of owned property and is or at least functions like a landlord or asset manager.
Finally, these applications can be grouped by features. Some applications are designed to take care of a particular function like lease administration or project management or property accounting. Others integrate a number of functions on a relational basis such as property and lease management (data, dollars and dates), transaction and project management (starts, stops, status) and facilities management (parts, places, people). Often though, and this adds to the confusion, because these applications morph from one area in which they are or were strong into the other areas where they have added features or functionality to make them appear as though they can also handle other functions as well…but do they?
Everyone has probably seen many different software demonstrations for different reasons. Despite a few horror stories where someone’s demo crashed or failed, these demonstrations are very enticing. Dynamically updating charts, colors, graphs, alarms, maps, links to web sites…. they practically run themselves (at least for the short time that the demonstration runs). At the same time everyone has also probably bought something they saw on television or read about, taken it home, gotten it out of the box and had that moment when they realize that “some parts are sold separately” and just maybe this thing isn’t going to work like it did on the commercial. That’s the problem with falling in love with features but not considering functionality because now you own it and the only answer might be spending more money on software development consulting time. Ouch.
The decision to replace the old spreadsheet and try to get information access the new way via portals or dashboards can be appealing and often leads business customers to their real estate broker for an opinion. This can be a great opportunity to demonstrate the ability to listen. What is that customer really trying to accomplish? There is a lot to consider and it certainly can start with what the customer wants things to look like when it’s all done, but should it start with Visual Lease? Virtual Premise? CoStar? Harbor Flex? Tririga? The answer is simple; Maybe.