New technology is hitting the market so quickly that it can swiftly cause a consumer's or professional's head to spin.
I remember when the first iPhone hit - the buzz regarding the ways in which the device would transform the world was intense, but I had no idea what actually made the gadget so cool, innovative and progressive.
While this might not be the worst thing in the world given how progressive technology has become, it is certainly not ideal to have a gap between understanding and use. So, to avoid falling into that type of category, let's talk about what community association management (CAM) software actually does. Let's get down to the brass tacks (alliteration always leads to fun things!)
What should you expect?
First and foremost, it is worth noting that community association management software will vary in functionality depending upon where you get the technology from and who is offering it. (Obviously we have a stake in the matter, but we are trying to look at the issue objectively here!) In reality, the types of things that CAM software can do will not always be consistent across the various products on the market. However, in a broad sense, there are some standard functionalities you may expect.
Here is a quick breakdown of the core functions of CAM software:
- Information management: When CAM software is cloud-based, it will allow professionals to access data from any location that has an Internet connection, streamlining the ebb and flow of information generation and management. However, offline options are still by and large what you are likely to encounter in most management company offices.
- Streamlining financials: HOA-specific financial management is critical to ensure Fund Accounting is handled properly. This is not all that easy with off-the-shelf accounting packages, and some products you encounter will be called CAM Management Software but do not include accounting. Always seek out one that does include this function.
- Dues collections: Although HOAs generally get the money they're owed in one form or another, CAM professionals need a means to ensure the community is levying overdue fees and collecting in a timely fashion. Again, many CAM software solutions will not include this type of functionality, but you should look for an option that does.
- Management tools: On the other side of the accounting equation sits the day to day management functions. These include managing vendors and projects, preventive maintenance and, of course, rules enforcement.
- Labor reduction: Any of the above could be done with a motley collection of homegrown tools. What makes CAM software indispensable is the automation and centralization that brings it all together. The goal is to reduce the amount of time it takes to complete daily tasks. This allows staff members to function more flexibly and quickly and to take on more profitable projects.
So, now that we know what CAM software should and ought to do, let's take a look at the reasons why professionals in this industry are increasingly turning to the technology.
Rising demands and competition
To stay relevant (and retain your clients), you need to find ways to provide the most exceptional service and support to homeowners while not allowing responsibilities and tasks slip through the cracks.
CAM software represents a singular investment that can have diverse impacts on both the CAM professional and the management firm itself. It's not just about time savings. With a good CAM software, you can experience a number of benefits.
For example, by eliminating redundant systems and consolidating several products into one central program, homeowner communications can be improved - you no longer have homeowner information spread across 13 different spreadsheets, allowing anyone in your office to give accurate information right when they call. This reduces angry emails and calls, as well as board member frustration by providing accurate financials.
On the accounting side, CAM software can help identify and prevent fraud through built-in audit trails, comprehensive accounting logs and automation.
And those are just a few of the impacts CAM software could have on your business.
One of the best ways to better understand what CAM software can actually do is to ask plenty of questions, specifically toward vendors and developers of the solutions before diving into use.
Let's talk about these tools and the questions you should be asking.
5 questions you should ask when considering community association management software
Software has been one of the more important components of modern computing, communications and management across industries, regions and sectors. No longer are firms focused upon provisioning traditional equipment that is somewhat of a one-trick pony, but they are instead choosing affordable software that is delivered and maintained by managed service providers to reduce up-front costs and streamline end user experiences.
With this in mind, here are five questions you should ask when considering CAM software.
1. Does your software simplify management?
The whole point of management software is to assist CAM professionals in their daily tasks, allowing them to automate some of the more repetitive tasks and focus their attention on more timely matters. For this reason, you should always ask your prospective CAM software management vendor how their tools can simplify community management.
In this line of questioning, keep the above-mentioned core goals of CAM software in the front of your mind. What impact will the software have on information management? How will financials be streamlined? Will there be labor reduction, and why? How about dues collection? Be thorough and make sure the software vendor is giving you specific answers as to how the tools will simplify management in accordance with your specific needs and requirements.
2. What is the Return on Investment?
For a slightly broader question, you will want to find out what the strategic benefits of using CAM software are compared to your current approach. Spend management is critical in the CAM profession, and you ought to know exactly why the software should be in use.
Asking vendors this question and prying for specifics will give you a real idea of the cost benefits of CAM software. How will the software generate ROI for your business? Will it be more derived from efficiency gains or improvements to productivity? What have other, similar entities experienced by way of ROI after deploying these tools? Ask for references in your area similar to your business size and portfolio, and follow up with them.
3. Are you legitimate?
I know, strange question, but it is really worth asking to ensure that your software vendor can back up their claims. When asking this particular question, focus on the infrastructure and capabilities of the software provider's own infrastructure. For example, was the software built by individuals who have the right industry knowledge and experience to do so? Is it maintained and managed by professionals with this expertise?
How about longevity? Will this software actually last me more than a few years? Does the software comply with AICPA guidelines for community association accounting? And, perhaps most importantly, ask about the legal compliance of the software, as you don't want to deploy a solution that could eventually cost you dearly in the courtroom.
4. How does the software improve efficiency?
Does the software make it easier to handle collections? Will the software streamline financials in general? How about data management? Will it work with your bank and other vendors? All of these are potential areas in which the tools can boost efficiency, but ask your prospective vendor how their software will actually impact your performance and how.
5. Do you focus on performance improvement?
This is a big one, and a question that can inevitably show you exactly how confident your CAM software vendor is. The general responsibilities of CAM professionals have evolved significantly. The best practices of management are transforming alongside the changing preferences of owners and laws, as well as the availability of new technology.
What very well might be the best software option out there today will almost certainly not remain as such for long unless the vendor constantly works to refine and improve the product. Ask your vendor if their CAM software is upgraded regularly, how much emphasis is placed on performance improvements and if you should be expecting additional charges when new versions are released.
Now, while this should act as a good start, it is certainly not an exhaustive list of questions that would be helpful to ask. And, don't worry, we'll never leave you hanging in that regard! We have prepared even more questions in a handy checklist to help you make the best choice before you spend a dime. Click below to get the full list!