We start with a few questions here.
What do we want to achieve by getting software for our Owners Corporation?
Do we want the software to do simple things like maintain a resident database, track work orders or proceed all the way through to running ‘Battle Star Gallactica’? Excuse the humor as I have experienced many overly complex software packages adapted to the OC enviroment.
Often simple Excel (Microsoft) formulas can be just as effective as the $20,000 programme. However there are now signs in the market of software that is being written specifically for or ‘tuned up’ for the Owners Corporation or Body Corporate.
There are three specific areas here;
1. Software for the Owners Corporation Manager
If you have an external manager this is the software they use to run their business and will run accounts and reports for multiple sites. These packages are getting more sophisticated with great linking, reports and efficiency. Nothing looks better than well presented and accurate financials to a Committee from one of these packages.
2. Software for building (site) management functions, which may include essential safety measures compliance and reporting, work orders, correspondence etc
This type of software is often purchased directly by the OC and utilised within the development for the benefit of the development.
3. Software developed for specific purposes, such as running an embedded network billing system for electricity, gas or water.
This is where the OC is responsible for a utility/ies in their development. Again this is normally directly purchased by the OC or OC Manager for use within a development.
Over the years I and fellow colleagues have experimented or in layman’s terms ‘played’ with a number of programmes on offer. One thing of note is that some of this software was overly complex and obviously had been modified back from say running a drilling rig to looking after a 100 apartment residential complex. Reality is we need to keep it simple stupid.
Over a decade the Excel spread sheets served the purpose well and still does for many complexes. Buildings I have managed and set up searchable spreadsheets in still maintain excel as a means to have a searchable data base, but again this is more specific to internal management functions within an OC / Multiple OC..
There has also been much rationalization in the OC Manager Software of late which I would hope to see flow through to improvements in the packages out there in the market. Some larger OC’s have actually developed their own software, just as have some large OC Managers/Franchises. There are arguments for having an externally developed software package, just as there are against. We will explore some of these in coming months.
Most importantly in all this talk of software for your owners corporation or OC Manager it is wise to protect your data. The Owners Corporation owns it’s data and in dealing with any software supplier, especially those who process your data off site via your manager it is worth insisting on periodic downloads of your OC’s records to your committee or their representative. The same applies to your external OC Manager. Insist on getting a copy of your data delivered every quarter at a minimum in an electronic format, such as CSV file format or a scanned print out of such things as arrears and owners list. This is most important where your records (or data) is not retained by an external Manager. And one day even the managers server (which has not been backed up) goes down and all bar printed records are lost. Don’t laugh, I’ve been called in to help in situations like this.
Again I have experienced Owners Corporations desperately trying to recover records from the outgoing manager with whom they have had an acrimonious relationship and by the time you do get the records whether accurate or not, it may be months down the track.
You don’t have to use much imagination in some circumstances, for example – Your OC Manager fails to pay the software supplier ongoing fees for software they use to process accounts or is in dispute with their software supplier – You can’t then get updated account information, have fee notices sent out and your OC becomes dysfunctional due to no cash flow. (Again this is not humorous, but I have seen it happen and it normally means a date with VCAT with the OC trying to get their records). At least if you have a copy of your records you have control over your destiny when things go South. It’s called risk management. (Now there’s another subject all together).