"Industry-wide, more and more real estate data is managed usingsoftware, and the system that has been your pal for all those yearscan no longer handle all the new tracking, reporting, andtransparency requirements that your business demands," Schindelbecksays.

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"Your bottom line is starting to suffer for it. What's more,your competitors are already sizing up cutting-edge solutions. Manyhave upgraded. Sticking with your system would be like driving ago-cart in NASCAR, and that's too high a price to pay forloyalty."

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The challenge is finding the right upgrade package thatminimizes risk, maximizes the firm's competitive edge and meets theneeds of both the company and its clients. "A new suite can helpyou maximize efficiencies and accuracy, streamline workflow,mitigate risk, create transparency for users and investors, improvecommunications among stakeholders, and deliver enterprise-widesolutions," Schindelbeck says.

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To make the upgrade smooth, profitable and trauma-free, however,it's important to do some homework. Here are Schindelbeck's eightrules for assessing new software:

  • Plan ahead. Because software systems are complex, it'simportant to create a viable roadmap with a clearly defined purposeand expected outcome. That involves defining and categorizingtechnical and functional requirements, and separating need-to-havefeatures from options that are just nice to have.
  • Evaluate potential suppliers. Find out which company hasthe best record of success and offers the best value for yourmoney. Make sure it is well-established, financially stable andexperienced in the real estate industry so it can act as yourtechnology partner as your business needs expand.
  • Make low risk the priority. Well-designed managementsystems diminish risk by increasing transparency and accuracy.Comprehensive system transparency gives managers a complete pictureof investment activity across their portfolios. Likewise,automation of accounting processes eliminates errors common tooutdated accounting practices.
  • Seek versatility. Determine if the software can handleremote users, multiple real estate market segments, differinginvestment types, a diverse array of clients, different sets ofaccounting rules, multinational portfolios, and other complexrequirements.
  • Ask how deep it can drill. First-rate real estatesoftware systems allow drill-down into financial data and review ofaccounting practices at the transaction level.
  • Consider hosting options. Find out if your IT staff hasthe resources to handle the new software. If not, investigatesuppliers that offer application hosting services.
  • Consider the views of external stakeholders. Look forsolutions that will help you provide the best reporting andservices to your tenants, suppliers, and investors.
  • Prepare your employees and brief your clients. Rollingout new enterprise-level software requires time and resourcescommensurate with the size and scope of your business. Educateusers about the advantages of the new system and help themunderstand how it will improve business and enhance their dailyroutine.

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