In my last post, I reviewed the steps needed to get started with a business process and module review. Now that you have reviewed how your Property Management (PM) software system and interface are currently being used, you can conduct a gap analysis to identify differences between the “current state” and the “desired future state” of your PM software system and interfaces.
The purpose of a gap analysis at this stage is to find ways to incorporate all pertinent processes, procedures, and functions into the current software system. Once you identify these gaps, you’ll be well on your way to having a highly optimized system and processes that maximize your technology ROI—and boost efficiency.
During your gap analysis for current business processes, you should identify software functionality that exists but is not being used to manage those business processes. For services and manual processes, identify the automation options your software offers. Also, identify business areas without formal processes or procedures and how to implement additional software functionality for those business areas.
Your gap analysis should answer the following basic questions for each business or functional area:
- What is the current process?
- What is the desired process?
- What are the gaps between the current and desired states?
- What actions are required to close the gaps?
Though the questions are simplistic, the methodology for obtaining the answers is more complex. CIO digital magazine lists four commonly used tools for conducting a gap analysis to get you started.
At REdirect, we most frequently employ SWOT analysis to complete a gap analysis. We find SWOT analysis works best for us because it is a simple but efficient approach to identify opportunities to close the gaps between processes and systems. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. These are factors that influence the efficiency and success of a product, project, or person. SWOT analysis helps companies to determine the best possible solution by playing to their strengths, allocating resources in accordance with needs, while avoiding potential threats.
The final step to optimizing your PM software is streamlining processes. Now that you have conducted Business Process Review sessions, reviewed your current software and interfaces, and identified gaps, you are ready to define your requirements for system improvements.
During this last phase, you want to ensure “like for like” procedures, employ industry- and software-specific best practices, have a plan for continuous process improvement, stay updated on system upgrades/new plug-ins and versions, and train staff on software features and functions. This phase is ongoing and should be revisited as needed, as staff, technology, business processes, resources, and tenants change.
A One-Stop Shop
“Like for like” means you want to stick to one brand where possible (e.g., use all Yardi or all MRI products and interfaces). To streamline processes, you should adapt your business processes to the functionality of the PM software system or through an authorized interface that works seamlessly with the software. During this process, it is important to balance the benefit of gaining system functionality and streamlined processes while mitigating the risk of making unnecessary system modifications.
Taking the “like for like” approach reduces costs, maintains data integrity, and improves timeliness and speed of processes while allowing users a “one-stop shop” to perform their daily tasks. When doing “like for like,” you want to automate as many functions and tasks as you can, using the system as designed with minimal customizations. If customizations are needed, ensure that they are done within your main PM software for system continuity.
Implementing New Features
You should have a well-crafted project plan for a phased implementation of new features and functions. Group system modifications and upgrades together for related functions or business processes. Consider the time to implement, test, and train in your project plan. Also, factor in system downtime and impact on normal business operations. Use SMART goals for process improvements and system enhancements:
Once upgraded or using new features and functions, be sure to train staff on the new functionality. A well-trained staff helps to keep processes efficient and streamlined.
Another way to streamline processes and improve efficiency is to employ industry- and software-specific best practices. Use software company resources—like Yardi Client Central or MRI MyMRI client portal—for documentation, training, and knowledge base content. Join industry groups, software user groups, and forums on professional sites like LinkedIn. Attend industry and software conferences, workshops, and roundtables. Discuss best practices with other software users, partner companies, and vendors. This is also a great way to stay updated on system upgrades/new plug-ins and versions.
Finally, have a plan for continuous process improvement. Process improvement can lower costs and drive growth for your organization. Process improvement should be a continuous cycle of “identify, plan, implement, review.” Identify opportunities to reduce waste of time, money, and resources. Determine ways to improve the system quality and user experience. Develop a plan to execute the changes. Implement the changes and determine key indicators for measuring the success of your changes. Review new processes and interview users to assess how or if the changes are improving the processes. Compare this assessment to your key indicators and refine the processes as needed.
There are many process improvement methodologies and tools. Lucidchart lists six commonly used process improvement methodologies. These or other methodologies may be refined or repurposed to be industry-specific for use in property management. Using a methodology will formalize your process improvement approach and help develop achievable goals and results.
As technology changes and new updates and upgrades become available for your PM software, clear documentation of processes and improvement plans will be critical to the success and efficiency of your PM software in the future. While these improvement plans and implementations are something you can do on your own, you probably already have a sense of the amount of time these projects can take up. If you’d like to talk through the options of outsourcing your software optimization, contact us anytime.