By Arthur Beisner, Rowcal
The landscape of business management and service delivery is shifting increasingly towards reliance on technology. Technology in business once meant large, complex, and costly machines. Still, today businesses are leveraging computing technology to bring efficiencies to processes while automating away a lot of paper that used to be pushed. The cost of development and deployment of computer programs and software has become such that even small businesses can afford to utilize this technology to their advantage.
The community association industry is no exception—recent advancements in automation and cloud-based management computing have begun changing the way HOA management has been done for decades. Community associations and management companies have started relying on technology, from primary payment processing web portals all the way to advanced, complex, and sometimes proprietary management platforms that automate everything from account management to work order tracking, and all in between.
In this article, we will evaluate some of the benefits and some of the pitfalls of deploying technology as a solution in Homeowners Association Management.
Gone are the days of the carbon copy ticketing system—well, for the most part. Payments processed virtually are becoming almost a rule. Today's systems allow community associations to automate virtually all workflows that used to require forms, stamps, signatures, and a spool of red tape. For example, certain technologies facilitate the entire Architectural Control process via a web portal that speeds communication and houses required documentation. Maintenance requests can be submitted, dispatched, updated, and even invoiced, all from the palm of our hands today. This automation can result in improved service delivery and reduced costs.
Transparency & Accountability
When technology is used to automate processes, a welcoming side effect is caused, especially for an industry plagued with mistrust. Timestamps, approvals, and automatic report generation are among many other features that level the playing field for community association boards and management service providers. With proper use of technology, board volunteers can gain insights into their community's finances, projects, operations, and management. And, with cloud-based storage services, board members and homeowners can access association documents with just a few clicks. The result is a tangible improvement in transparency and accountability.
All of this translates into savings for associations. Of course, there is a cost to using software or computerized systems, just as with any other tool. But tools are only used because they increase productivity. The efficiencies gained from reduced labor and associated costs, the improved transparency and quality controls, and the insights gained from powerful analytics will all ultimately save associations money—not to mention reduced paper costs, storage costs, and mailing costs. The right technology can be powerful in saving both time and money.
We've all turned purple while helplessly cycling through phone landing systems. While we all probably agree that, in theory, those systems are designed to improve efficiency, sometimes all we want is to speak to a real human being who can help solve a problem. One of the significant pitfalls of relying on technology is that often service quality can waver as the human element is lost. Not every issue can be resolved with a few clicks and some pre-coded workflow logic. Some issues require problem-solving, empathy, negotiation, or simple human acknowledgment. These are actions that no software, artificial intelligence, or computer program can perform. It's vitally essential that technology be understood and used as a supplement to, and not a replacement of, dedication and commitment to exceptional customer service.
In our industry, our work involves an extremely personal subject: people's homes. While business speeds ahead with technological advancements, not everyone is ready to use an app or the internet for everything. The goal of HOA management providers is to provide both effective management and quality service to homeowners. Forcing homeowners to access solutions to their needs exclusively via a channel outside their ability or comfort zone is self-defeating. An app or a portal may be the solution for most homeowners, but additional solutions should be available to those that need them.
The opposite side of ensuring service quality is setting service expectations. As technology speeds up the pace of transacting business, caution should be taken that proper expectations are always set considering technology's benefits. Just because a computer program can change a maintenance request from pending to dispatched within 0.00294 seconds doesn't mean that it should be the expectation of the end-user or customer. Even basic technology, like email, can fundamentally skew professional expectations, and some people can become accustomed to immediate access to management for non-emergency matters. While technology can seriously improve service delivery, it also creates a false sense of efficiency when considered in a vacuum by an end user. Research, planning, transacting, collaborating, and executing can all still be time-consuming and labor-intensive, even when facilitated with high-speed computer programs.
In summary, technology has provided incredible advancements and innovation in the community association industry. Leveraging technology for HOA management has been positive for all stakeholders involved. But it's crucial to deploy this technology with an understanding of its limitations and pitfalls.
RowCal is an HOA Management Company that delivers full-service management and maintenance solutions by empowering Community Managers who are supported by a team of subject matter experts. At RowCal, state-of-the-art technology improves the experience for homeowners, board members, and community managers alike through efficiency, transparency, and accountability.
Arthur Beisner began his career in the HOA industry by managing a high-rise condominium building in Miami Beach, Florida and has been with RowCal in Colorado since December 2020.