My daughter has a difficult time making choices. It doesn’t really matter what the context of the decision is, she is afraid of choosing the wrong path. And as the number of viable options increases, so does her anxiety. The act of choosing is strenuous, and after the choice is made, the process of second-guessing can be as painful as the original decision. Can you relate?
It appears that “choice overload” is not an uncommon problem. In fact, Columbia Business School professor, Sheena Iyengar, discussed that in her TED Talk entitled, “How to make choosing easier.” While she took the perspective of the seller of goods or services in her talk, there was some insight that is useful for a consumer too.
One of the studies yielded the following insights:
- Average Americans makes over 70 decisions per day
- Average CEOs engage in about 139 tasks a week; each task is comprised of many decisions. About 50% of the decisions are made in 9 minutes or less. Only 12% of the decisions involve 60 minutes or more.
We live in a culture that requires lots of choices, and yet, we are not always great at making systematic, sensible ones. Property management team members make decisions all the time; hopefully you have good policies & procedures and other systems in place to help them make the best ones possible. But, as the owner of a property management company, you are responsible for making most of the business level choices for your company, like selecting software solutions.
Modern property management businesses are heavily powered by software. You use software applications for bookkeeping, advertising vacancies, database management / CRM, email, website, social media, applications, inspections, online payments, tenant screening, documentation, project management, and more. For a property management company owner, it can be difficult to make decisions about things outside your realm of expertise, like software. You might even feel some of the same anxiety that I described in my daughter above.
Creating a systematic process for selecting a software solution can ease the pain of decision making and help you feel more confident in your final choice. Here are some suggestions to help you create a process that works for your company.
Step 1 – Identify the Potential Impact: Is the software a major investment?
- How many staff members / departments are going to use the software? If it is a high percentage, then this is a major purchase.
- Will the software integrate with other systems or software applications?
- What would the consequences be if the software became unstable or unusable after you implement it?
All of these questions represent investment of time, money, and business trust. If there is a significant impact, this is a major purchase that merits a systematic, objective approach.
Step 2 – Identify the Why: What business problem do you want to solve? What results do you expect?
Make sure you have a good, solid business reason for adding or changing the software. If your “why” falls into one of the following categories, then I suggest you postpone your move:
- It’s the new “in” thing for property management companies
- It has lots of cool “bells & whistles”
- It’s the “magic bean” that will make my company grow
A software tool that works for one company many not work for you. Needs vary by organization, even in the same vertical. Here are a few factors that might influence the degree of success:
- Size of staff
- Employee skills and staff turnover rates
- Time required / available for implementation
Remember, a major software change is going to have significant impact on your company and there will be some “pains” in the transition. Having a strong “why” will keep you focused and help you and your team make it through the rough spots.
Step 3 – Define Requirements: What do you want the software to do?
Property management companies are process driven and the technology you use should improve and facilitate your established procedures. The software needs to have features that make your work easier and more effective, not more complicated! Defining your requirements in advance will help you objectively evaluate each software solution and eliminate personal biases.
Create a checklist or spreadsheet from the requirements you identify so you can do a side-by-side comparison of your options. The requirements should be categorized as follows: Essential | High Priority | Nice to Have. Your list of criteria will include things like budget, features, training / support, implementation assistance, time frame to launch, and more. Make sure you ask your property management staff to participate in defining requirements since they will actively be using the software.
Here is an example of a very comprehensive software evaluation spreadsheet that you can use as a model for creating your own.
Step 4 – Identify Possible Solutions: Which software options do you want to evaluate?
Make sure you evaluate more than one solution, but don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to evaluate every option available. Here are some ways you can narrow your focus:
- Get referrals from other property management professionals / NARPM® members
- Check for local and national NARPM® Affiliates
- Use a third-party referral site, like Software Advice
Once you narrow down your options, use the criteria you listed in Step 3 to create a RFP (Request for Proposal) to send to the software company. When making a major software investment, you will want to be clear about needs and responses. A simple RFP documents a potential service provider’s responses and holds the software company accountable for meeting your stated needs.
Use the responses to your RFP to populate your requirements checklist. Ask for documentation (video, help articles, or client testimonials) that support the answers the software sales rep provides. Evaluate the responses and eliminate all of the solutions that
- Don’t solve the problem you identified when you defined your “why” in Step 2
- Don’t meet the Essential criteria you identified in Step 3
- Exceed your budget constraints
- Are too complex for the skill level of your team
Review the top 2 or 3 options again. Dig deeper to identify business modifications you might have to make to use the software and the potential impact those changes might have. Ask the software company for names and contact information for 2 or 3 clients, then call them to find out more about their experience with the software / company. Research online reviews to surface potential issues so you can discuss them with the software company before purchasing.
Step 5 – Make a Choice: Which solution meets most of your needs?
This is the hardest step because it involves commitment! Hopefully by now you know enough about the software to anticipate trade-offs and potential implementation pains. You should understand the terms of your agreement and what kind of support or training is included with your purchase. And, your team should be committed (and even enthusiastic) about participating in the implementation process.
Here are some keys to successful implementation:
- Schedule time to learn and use the new software – Block out time to make the transition a high priority and speed up the implementation process.
- Use the software company’s training resources like webinars, videos, and help articles.
- Create company-specific documentation that combines the “how to” software articles with your company’s specific procedures / checklists. This custom documentation will reduce training time for future team members.
- Cross train team members. Makes sure that you aren’t dependent on the knowledge of one person to operate the software.
- Fear is the biggest reason people resist change – create an atmosphere where fear of transition can be expressed openly, questions are welcome, and challenges are addressed through training, education, and encouragement.
Good luck with your next software selection process! You may not be a “techy” person who understands the ins and outs of software solutions, but you ARE an expert in your business. Using this systematic approach to software selection will help you make better, more confident software choices.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.