Operational Effectiveness in Community Associations
Time is a finite variable that cannot be increased, and can become an enemy if not utilized effectively.
I learned many years ago that when I wanted to improve efficiency and effectiveness, it is best not to completely reinvent the wheel. Learn from what other successful operations are doing and adopt some sort of modified version that works best for you.
Unfortunately, most individuals don’t feel comfortable taking risks on new ideas or ways of doing things. They have the mindset of “But that’s the way we've always done it”. Operational effectiveness means that an organization must always be open to new ideas and dedicated to finding ways to implement these strategies.
In a community association, the key players (The Board, Committees, & Management) need to know whether the current procedures are working. Are they achieving the objectives they want, and what means are being used to measure this? Operational effectiveness encompasses looking at each unit within the makeup of the organization and also at how they integrate with each other.
The Role of the Board
The Board of Directors are responsible for overseeing the business of the community. In doing so, the board must work closely with the management team and owners to ensure that the association operates according to the governing documents and to ensure the successful operation of the association, in general.
The governing documents and state regulations give the Board the authority to conduct business. In doing so, the Board assumes a fiduciary responsibility to the membership. The Board of Directors must then operate like any other business leaders and ensure that they are maximizing the efficiency of their staff by ensuing that measures are in place to properly hire, train, and measure employee’s performance.
The Board of Directors should consider hiring an outside source to analyze the operational effectiveness of the staff, their systems, and the overall performance of the organization. Look for recommendations on what changes would benefit the structural makeup of the organization versus the cost of implementing the program.
The Role of Committees
Another improvement to the Board’s operational effectiveness would be to create and use committees. A committee's job description could best be described as 'Responsible to collect information and make recommendations to the Board of Directors concerning specific projects or areas of interest.'
Committees should have a clearly defined purpose so that they completely understand their roles, responsibilities, organizational structure. This includes number of members, roles, and operations: time, frequency of meetings, reports to the boards, and approval process for committee use of funds.
The Role of the Management Team
There are several units within any Management Staff such as Administrative Staff, Maintenance Staff, Tennis Staff, Fitness Staff, and Security Staff. One of the most difficult areas of operational effectiveness lies in the ability to integrate and streamline these units within the Management Team to run efficiently.
By modifying several areas in this unit as a whole, the association could greatly increase the ability of the unit to improve it’s operational effectiveness while reducing staffing costs. You may even find that the number of employees could even be reduced at a substantial cost savings without losing services.
I have witnessed firsthand the benefits of integrating and updating your systems with technologically advanced systems. I have also seen organizations that refuse to embrace technology and ultimately pay the price of being operationally inefficient and absorbing high employee costs.
One of the lessons I learned in this industry is this: More employees does not equal more productivity.
Industry Specific CAM Software
Systems designed for community association management understand the needs of managers and staff to work efficiently and have access to information. Without an industry specific system, the property will always need to employ additional personnel and the effectiveness of the organization will never reach its full potential.
Just a few of the features offered by industry specific software are:
- Operational and Administrative Efficiencies through streamlined processes, centralized real time searchable data for each department.
- Business Intelligence through report writers, letter templates, web based integration for violation and maintenance inspections, integrated gate module to track all aspects of gate duties.
- Revenue Enhancement through integrated direct debit, automated lockbox processing, in house check scanning, automated board reporting packages, full accounting system.
This lists just a few of the services that a community management software could offer. Let's dig a little deeper.
Deed Restriction Letters
One example of how an administrative staff member could do their job more efficiently (of an unlimited amount I could cover) is in the production of deed restriction letters:
Without industry specific system: Keep an ongoing Excel or Word document where you are required to enter the date, the owners name, address, the nature of the violation, and the letter sent. Then you would need to search the file to see if this owner has previously received a letter concerning this violation. Then you would need to find the word document where you would open the appropriate letter, change the date, enter the owners name and address and offsite address if applicable, change the description of what the violation entailed and print the letter, make a copy and file the hard copy.
Approximate time: roughly 5 minutes
With an industry operating system: Click on the ACC module, choose the homeowner, (system automatically recognizes what letters have been previously sent and acts accordingly) choose one of the predefined form letters, choose one of the predefined violation template codes, make any modifications if you would like more detail in the description, and print the copy to mail. Hard copies are not required because the system automatically attaches the image to the specific owners file as an attachment.
Approximate time: roughly 30 seconds
One area that is greatly affected by having an industry specific system is accounting. After hearing the array of steps being done by some organizations to produce and mail payables, I was astounded. Payables go back and forth between employees and outsourced accounting at least six to seven times prior to payment. Obviously, this is not the most efficient way to handle this responsibility. Late payments mean late penalties.
With association management software, maintenance requests can be entered into the system, instructions printed with locations for bill back to sub associations, given to the maintenance staff who, upon completion would return the request to the office with notes on completion and the invoice prepared for processing. The management could also be aware of open maintenance requests that have not been followed up on. Once a bill has been approved and coded, there is no reason to deal with it again. Reports can easily be accessed to determine what payables have been issued.
Another important area where an industry specific software would be beneficial is gate operations. Many times, guard gated communities have separate operating systems for tracking and monitoring homeowners. Having a united software means that guards could have up to date information and see the same information that management staff has. Guards could inform management of new owners trying to gain access that management was not properly informed of and help administrative staff know what homes are renter occupied. Also, either party can update owner phone numbers, email addresses, etc, so that up to date owner information is on hand.
In review, operational effectiveness requires continued analysis of employees, systems and communication. Staying on top of industry advances would greatly benefit any community association management organization.
*Image credit: Pixabay user Unsplash