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Data protection

Data Protection: Now More Important than Ever

Data protection is increasingly more important for businesses as cyber attacks become more frequent and more destructive. The number of attacks has increased as hackers have taken advantage of the work-from-home model adopted during the pandemic. According to Fintech News, 80% of businesses have seen an increase in attacks this year. Without reservation, hackers look for vulnerabilities between home and office networks to steal sensitive data. As we’ve discussed previously, remote work isn’t likely to be going anywhere soon, so it’s vital that you boost the security of your systems to defend against potential damage. And let’s be honest: if you are still using customized Excel spreadsheets and off-the-shelf accounting packages, your system is most likely at risk.  

One way to combat these threats is to move to cloud-based applications and storage. Depending on the foundational hosting platform, the cloud can offer increased protection from malicious forces. Business applications like CRESSblue provide additional security features to help secure your data by partnering with a strong, leading-edge hosting platform.  

While adoption of this trend continues to rise, it can still be nerve-wracking to make the leap. We know you probably have a lot of questions: What kind of protection does the cloud offer? Does the hosting service have access to my data? Can the cloud really protect from attacks?  

Let’s take a look at how CRESSblue and its built-in security features compare with a traditional in-house set-up.

Enterprise-level data protection at a fraction of the cost

Without a doubt, information sharing through Excel and email increases the risk of security leaks. With a cloud-based solution, the hosting platform features built-in data protection. CRESSblue uses Microsoft Azure’s cloud-computing platform to host our software. Microsoft is a trusted name and one of the top three major cloud-based hosting services in the technology industry. We selected Azure as a preferred service for our products due to their commitment to cyber security and robust protection features. Achieving such high-level security in-house would require a huge investment of both time and money. And even then, the strength of the data protection would only be as good as the weakest link in your system. While no security system is bulletproof, you will enjoy the benefits that come from partnering with an industry-leading giant in the technology field.

Control access to sensitive data with defined access and permissions

Roles ensure the right people see the right data

Manage your risk by ensuring that only authorized personnel have access to sensitive data. It’s easy to do with CRESSblue. How? Permissions control who has access and maintain a hierarchy of role-based security clearance. In fact, users may have varying levels of access depending on their level of responsibility. Every process is role-based and requires separate permissions for data entry and approvals. You can also set up separate permissions for viewing and editing.

Give careful thought to the designation of user roles. Review each employee’s role and the type of information they need to access daily. Think about the levels of access they require.

For example, different types of roles may include:

  • Administrative for general use
  • Management for approval processes
  • Tenant users for administration or accounting
  • Owners with access to property-specific reports
  • Technical support users

You can determine exactly how much data each user can view and edit by defining these roles. By implementing role-based access control, your company can save time and reduce red tape. This is especially true when new hires come on board or when an employee changes their role. You can easily revoke access when an employee leaves the company or buildings change ownership. In like manner, you can assign pre-determined roles and access through external portals to third-party users. This avoids the need to set them up on internal systems. Administrators can also provide multiple role permissions for users who may need specific data for a time-based project. And, later remove them once the project is complete.

Additional layers of data protection provide stronger security

Passwords alone will not keep hackers out. For that reason, multi-factor authentication is another feature that can provide added security. This requires the user to perform a second step of verification to complete the login process. This step may include answering a security question. Or, it may involve entering a personal identification number, biometric or token. CRESSblue also uses a second device and authentication app. In short, this reduces the risk of a single device being hacked or stolen to gain access to sensitive data systems. Once the user has been authorized, CRESSblue uses short-lifespan security tokens to confirm the identity of users. This is similar to the way a bank uses tokens to secure your session for online banking. It contains information about the user and the level of access permitted. Unauthorized users are denied access without a token.

You can configure the system in a variety of ways. It can remember the user device, so it does not require validation each time. It can have the authentication expire after a period of time or it can require two-factor identification every time the user logs on. Password strength is enforceable on several levels and a single password sign-on is disabled. You can also configure password change schedules, as well as trigger system lockouts after several failed sign-in attempts.

We’ve got your back(up)

Automatic and frequent cloud backups mean there is no need to schedule regular in-house system backups of your CRESSblue data. This means your IT department can focus on other tasks. Moreover, there’s no need to house physical storage units, saving your business time and money.

Cloud backups can reduce the risk of data loss

In the event of a data emergency, your systems can be easily and quickly restored. Your data is stored on the cloud and is mirrored to at least two physical locations. On the other hand, recovering files from a local office server may not be so simple. This is especially true if the storage units are physically damaged. In addition, data from individual devices may not be captured in the recovery. And this is assuming that you have a dedicated IT department. At smaller firms, staff may be backing up to easy-to-lose external hard drives. Or, worse, staff may not be making daily backups at all.

Privacy is not an issue

Your tenants trust you to keep their personal data safe. But are you confident that you can keep their information safe with your current systems? Similarly, proprietary corporate data is the lifeblood of the organization. Any breach of this data can be harmful to the business. With the data protection offered by CRESSblue, only those who have authorization can access your files. Your company holds all rights and interest in the data stored online. Equally important, the hosting service does not access your data in any way. Embedded privacy controls ensure that no unauthorized users can view your data. Multi-level authentication and access control enhance data protection.

Data protection from viruses and malicious attacks

Hackers are becoming more sophisticated, but security has also become stronger. The hosting platform uses a variety of security measures that work with browser security. Plus, our network architecture features multi-layered security features that provide robust protection against any external threats. The CRESSblue database is layered behind the hosting software. This means that unauthorized users can only interact with the front-end web browser portion; they do not directly access the database. 

Any data put into the CRESSblue software entry fields is validated before it is written to the database. This helps prevent any unusual or malicious uploads from infiltrating the databaseFurthermore, the hosting platform also includes real-time intrusion detection monitoring. The support centre is instantly alerted to any suspicious activity on our client accounts. If any threats are detected, automated steps are taken to react to the situation immediately.

Centralized data

Remote work is the new norm, and thus it is more important than ever to ensure all employees can access your systems anytime, anywhere. Truly, cloud-based solutions can make it easier for staff to work remotely because they are much easier to implement than on-site systems. Sure, remote workers can access in-house documents by VPN software. However, it often slows down the computer or experiences frequent connection breaks. Besides, not all VPN programs are compatible with different types of computer systems. You can easily use any device, including tablets and smartphones, to access cloud-based software.

Centralization keeps one set of data updated with the latest information. Consequently, this avoids duplication of work and increasing efficiency. Have you ever had an employee go off sick or leave the company, and no one could access their files because they didn’t know their computer password? With cloud-hosted files, that’s no longer an issue. Anyone with administrative permissions can access user files and assign them to a different staff member.

Data distribution

Unfortunately, security features can’t prevent staff from deliberately sharing information with external contacts. Similarly, it can’t stop them from using insecure methods of data transfer in their workflows. What does this look like in practice? It can be as simple as saving a file to their device and emailing it to a legitimate contact. In that simple process, multiple avenues of risk exposure may be created. Did they use a secure network or was it a public-access open network like an airport lounge? Was their device secure or was it a personal device without any protection, like their phone or family-use tablet? Also, email is not a secure or encrypted method for transferring personal or confidential data. Did the right recipient get the data, or was it accidentally sent to the wrong person? So many things could go wrong in that very common workflow!

CRESSblue uses document distribution systems to secure portals. This does several security tasks for you. One, document distribution rules can prevent documents from being sent by someone without the correct authorization, and to someone without the correct credentials. Two, documents can be restricted to internal use only. Three, if the documents are permitted to be shared externally, they are sent to a secure portal and the user gets a notification to access it, just like getting a notice your bank statement is available for viewing at your bank website. The entire workflow and document distribution process is secured within the system.

Secure document distribution systems protect your data

It’s important to do your part too

All the world’s security features won’t keep you safe in the cloud if you haven’t identified vulnerabilities on your own network. That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that you use preventative measures to safeguard your data. Think your business is too small to be targeted? Think again. Nearly half of all data breaches target small to medium-sized businesses.

It’s also important to note that not all threats are from external malicious forces. IBM’s recent “Cost of Data Breach Report 2020 showed that while 42% of Canadian data breaches were caused by malicious attacks and 35% were due to system glitches, 23% were also attributed to human error. Sharing confidential information with the wrong person, clicking on a phishing link, not updating internal security programs and incorrect authorizations can all expose the system to a data breach. That’s why it’s essential to make sure employees follow proper computer protocols to prevent breaches from happening in the first place.

There are several ways that you can reinforce data protection from the local level:

  1. Have employees update passwords to company systems regularly. According to the 2019 Verizon Data Breach Report, 80% of all cyber attacks involve a weak or stolen password. Changing passwords frequently reduces the chance that hackers can steal these credentials. Enforcing unique passwords with multiple character requirements will also help keep them secure. The best passwords are at least 10 characters long and include upper- and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers.  
  2. Install anti-malware software on all of your computers or your network. All it takes is one employee to accidentally click on a very real-looking email that contains a virus to bring the whole system down. Anti-malware software identifies threats and removes them before they have a chance to infect your computers.
  3. Keep your software updated to ensure you have the latest version of the programs you use regularly. Updates often include security fixes as well, thus eliminating potential wormholes for attackers to enter. Don’t forget to install patches when required to eliminate bugs that may make weaken the system.
  4. Make sure all devices are updated too. Any device used to access your systems – from desktops and laptops to smartphones and tablets – needs to be patched and updated regularly. An insecure device has the potential to expose a hole in your security.
  5. Secure your Wi-Fi systems. And that doesn’t mean just adding password protection. It should also be both encrypted and hidden. Leaving your Wi-Fi open provides a gateway to your network and leaves the system vulnerable to cyber attacks. Activating network encryption, adding a firewall and changing the router’s default settings will all help to secure the network.
  6. Provide training for your employees to help them recognize security threats. Likewise, make them aware of best practices to keep your clients’ data safe. Training should include how to identify phishing scams, ransomware, spam and malware. Further, it should cover avoiding the use of open public-access Wi-Fi networks, as well as the importance of password security. Consider integrating cyber security training into your onboarding processes and running a refresher every couple of years.
  7. Create a computer use policy covering rules and guidelines for password protection, Internet access, data transfer, email precautions and compliance or legal concerns. Outline clear expectations and provide details as to what constitutes appropriate use and what does not. Employees are on the frontline of defence. Further, make sure you engage them in the policy’s development so they feel like they are part of the process and want to protect your assets. Instilling the right mindset from the top down will go a long way to encouraging employees to do the right thing.

Taking these precautions will help mitigate the risk of a threat to your computer systems. And moving your business processes to a cloud-based application will vastly improve your security.

Don’t take chances with your data. With CRESSblue, you can rest assured that you are upgrading your business systems to a world-class technology solution backed by enterprise-level data protection. Book a demo or schedule a call to learn more about our security features.   


Disclaimer

This article was accurate as of December 2020. Technology is always advancing. CRESSblue specifications are subject to change without notice. Always check with your CRESSblue account administrator and your contract terms for the most current specifications. This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as professional advice; please consult a competent professional for advice specific to you. This blog is written to stimulate thinking on concepts related to commercial leasing. Please join the discussion with your experiences.


Martin Sommer, CEO, CRESS Inc.

Follow me on LinkedIn

Martin is a founder and the CEO of CRESS Inc., a Canadian SaaS company that automates lease administration and asset management. Martin also manages Karanda Properties Limited industrial portfolio as Director of Operations in all areas of commercial property management, including new development, asset management, capital expenditures, operations, leasing and lease administration of the industrial portfolio. Martin writes about property management workflow and issues. Book Martin to speak at your industry event.

Work From Home For Property Managers.

Work From Home for Property Managers

It seems that to be truly relevant, back in 2020, every communication must include the words “unprecedented” and “global pandemic.” This has certainly been the case for news articles of recent. We sincerely hope that those words become less frequently used as time passes. With some pandemic life experience under our belts, we can now regather and reprioritize as we look forward with somewhat more experience and context.

While the impact of the pandemic on the working environment was sudden, all indications are that the effects will be with us for at least a year. Some are likely here to stay. Let’s take a look at those impacts and what we can do about them as commercial property management companies.

Immediate impact

The immediate effect has been the Work From Home (WFH) policy implemented nearly universally. This has done several things right away:

  • There is a need for digital online systems. Work From Home had a paralyzing impact on those that didn’t already have cloud-based systems in place. On the other hand, those that did transitioned much more easily into remote workflows.
  • Larger companies have frozen travel and group training budgets.
  • Forced business closures impacted commercial property management revenues by about 5% in the first month of the shutdown alone.
  • Most property management companies have put new capital projects on hold for the remainder of the year.

Middle-term impact

Not everyone will be returning to an office workplace

The initial response in various social media and news outlets was that the shutdown is just temporary, and things will revert to normal as soon as the shutdown is declared over. It is now apparent that the shutdown situation will end in phases. This will have several middle-term effects:

  • Revenues will continue to decline and will likely accelerate as the cascading economic effects impact more businesses and individuals.
  • There will be a strong realization that waiting this out is not a viable strategy. There will be months of people working from home still, and there will need to be greater efficiency and online capabilities for companies to survive this environment.
  • Not everyone will be returning to an office workplace. Some of the population will have significant fears about crowded workplaces and will refuse to go back.
  • High traffic events like trade shows and group training will be cancelled farther out as event attendance budgets are withdrawn for both presenters and attendees.
  • Print media will be refused in favour of contactless digital media to avoid spreading the virus.
  • Some previously crowded offices will not be able to fit everyone back in due to the social distancing in the workplace requirements. Shared workspace policies like “hot-desking” will end.

Long-term impact

Just as generals always prepare to fight the last war, companies will plan for the next crisis in response to this one. We expect to see a strong push for online software, with full capabilities for document creation and handling. There will be a need for role-based permissions within the software so that workflow processes and authorizations can be completed without physical presence requirements.

Let’s review a few of the critical aspects that a digital solution must provide.

External communications

Companies “going digital” used to mean scanning paper documents and storing them on hard drives. Interestingly, for property management companies, the original signed copy of a lease is still considered the only official version of the document, and it is kept in a “safe place” like a filing cabinet or at a lawyer’s office. A short lease abstract is referred to for daily tasks such as rent payments and lease dates referencing.

Documents

Although many professionals, such as realtors and lawyers, now support digital documents, these materials are nearly universally transmitted by email. However, as email is not a secure form of communication, this opens up opportunities for fraud. What is needed are online portals whereby authorized users can log in and access documents securely. Tenant and property owner portals can support secure document access. A tenant portal should include two types of user roles: an administrative role and an accounting role. This allows for the separation of access for accounting related items like bills and payments and administrative tasks such as lease options and extension notifications.

Messaging

Handling service requests from tenants has become significantly more difficult with the shutdowns and Work From Home policies. Many service requests for non-critical repairs are unable to be fulfilled as nonessential companies are not operating or operating at decreased capacity. This has resulted in a backlog of open service requests that need to be maintained and eventually prioritized for the service crews when nonessential work is permitted to resume. Also, service requests that were previously phoned into the main office are no longer able to be physically distributed to maintenance staff if everyone is working from home. In general, all direct communication has been replaced by other methods that were readily available such as email and online meetings. The critical solution is an internal messaging and portal system. Such a system allows tenants to create service requests that can be prioritized by your staff and shared internally with other users.

Interoffice workflows

Internal document management

Many service providers have previously switched over to emailing PDF versions of their completed work orders and service invoices. Some progressive companies also email before and after pictures of the work areas to prove they completed the required work. These enhanced services have been handy in reducing the number of follow-up site visits required of building managers.

What happens to these documents when no one shows up in an office? How do cost allocations get assigned, and how are approvals given if no one physically stamps or signs off on the invoice? This is where role-based permissions are required. CRESSblue, for example, allows for the entry of accounts payable invoices, automatic allocation of expenses and attachment of all original supporting documents with a simple drag-and-drop upload to the cloud. Notification systems alert the appropriate users to let them know there is work in their queue awaiting their review and approval. Go ahead and score yourself some bonus points for having every bit of the document processing available for an audit.

Your business system should include document management for leases and property data. On the property level, design drawings, equipment manuals, finish specifications, furniture layouts and photographs can all be stored and catalogued on the internal file storage system. For leases, scans of original signed documents, digital versions, notices, letters, lease extensions, addendums, anything and everything you used to keep in a filing cabinet can now be stored securely and accessed from anywhere by anyone with the correct user permissions. The digital workspace can be as distributed as everywhere and still fully connected. The significant advantage is that digital systems are far more efficient. The result is no lost documents and uses far fewer employee hours than processing paper files.

Digital document distribution supports efficient remote work

Staff communication

While messaging apps are ubiquitous on phones and computers, what they lack is the ability to link to office workflows centrally. Property management software that has internal messaging systems to coordinate and direct remote office staff has a clear advantage. Messages are secured within your company, and all staff can communicate together easily without disclosing personal information to co-workers.

Software with a complete, built-in messaging and notification system supports Work From Home.  This functionality allows for communication between remote staff, property owners and tenants, all contained within a secure company environment. While accidentally shared files and correspondence may make for funny social media posts, they can be disastrous on both a personal and a corporate level. Take confidentiality seriously and use professional systems to facilitate your office communications.

Another advantage of using integrated messaging systems is that they can also incorporate system notifications. In addition to automatically triggering notifications to specific workflow events, they can provide timely reminders of lease events to both lease administrators and tenants.

Work reassignment

A global pandemic can create unique challenges when large percentages of the workforce are suddenly unavailable. While actually getting sick is the most severe case, many other situations can cause disruptions in staff availability. Caring for others who are sick, those who are high-risk and self-isolating and children unable to go to school or daycare can make healthy employees unable to work their usual hours. This can create stressful bottlenecks in integrated workflows and results in significantly slower processes.

The beauty of online systems is that you can easily redistribute work. There is no need to email files or share spreadsheets and keep your fingers crossed that the changes will merge correctly. As a manager, you can easily reassign permissions and notifications to redistribute the work among available staff. When fewer people are required to be more efficient than they were previously in a physical office environment, a smart online system is essential.

But can your team learn the necessary skills and procedures quickly to complete the newly reassigned work? A well-designed system includes integrated help and training systems with definitions, explanations and best practices. In addition, it has a parallel user-enabled system whereby you can add your company policies and procedures in the same context-sensitive way.

Integrated systems

As we have seen so far, the key to Work From Home is to have everyone connected digitally for their workflows. This is also true for software systems.

Orphaned data

Paper-based systems and stand-alone applications are examples of siloed systems. The data contained within each silo is difficult to share and, once separated from its source, is impossible to update or verify. Each piece of data becomes an untraceable orphaned copy of the original. Any error introduced at any point will propagate through to all decisions based on that data. Centralized, single-source data systems combined with the original documentation permits the data to be much more valuable and to maintain its credibility.

Centralized data systems support easier sharing and verification

There isn’t one single software application that does everything for any company size or specialization. Often industry-standard systems like QuickBooks are used for the accounting portions of business operations. This specialization permits accountants to work on a limited number of familiar systems and increases their efficiency. Other systems, such as online banking, have security requirements that make them the only provider of their banking services.

Automation through integration

Thus, various software systems must be able to integrate. This compatibility eliminates the need for a human to be the sole interface between them and results in greater efficiency. QuickBooks Online is doing an ever-increasing good job of integrating with online banking software. Bill payments, payment receipts and reconciliations for bank accounts and credit cards are all possible. Automation is increasing the speed and accuracy of the banking/accounting work.

By switching to a business system that has built-in integration with accounting systems, you will vastly improve data quality and workflow efficiency. Specialized applications within CRESSblue, for example, permit automated processing of tenant rent invoices and third-party property management fee invoices. These are transmitted live to the online accounting software, and payment statuses are updated in real-time. From a user perspective, these functions occur as if they were one system. Effective integrations allow each user to perform at peak efficiency on their native software choice.

Work From Home is here to stay

The recent abrupt changes have surprised everyone. Aside from the terrible impacts of the disease itself, social distancing and shutdowns are our new reality. The Work From Home environment is here to stay for a while. The overall economic impact is very uncertain.

The impetus for changing business environments is here. We already face economic hardship, uncertainty and fear. These things are part of any major change in business operations. The question, therefore, is not when will we respond, but what will we do now to survive? The companies that will withstand the current situation are those that promptly adapt and change to meet the new requirements. The stress is already present. Moving to more capable systems will only make the stress go away sooner. Move quickly to position yourself for survival, and you may also find that you also have the opportunity for growth.


Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as professional advice; please consult a competent professional for advice specific to you. This blog is written to stimulate thinking on concepts related to commercial leasing. Please join the discussion with your experiences.


Martin Sommer, CEO, CRESS Inc.

Follow me on LinkedIn

Martin is a founder and the CEO of CRESS Inc., a Canadian SaaS company that automates lease administration and asset management. Martin also manages Karanda Properties Limited industrial portfolio as Director of Operations in all areas of commercial property management, including new development, asset management, capital expenditures, operations, leasing and lease administration of the industrial portfolio. Martin writes about property management workflow and issues. Book Martin to speak at your industry event.

Remote asset management during COVID.

This is why COVID Makes Remote Asset Management Essential

Virtual offices, rent deferrals, building closures. As coronavirus sweeps the globe, property managers face new daily challenges in a rapidly evolving economy and remote work requirements. Companies that haven’t already moved to remote asset management are experiencing significant disruption and inefficiency.

How long this “new normal” will last is anyone’s guess. In response to COVID-19, local and federal governments remain fluid in rolling out relief and stimulus programs for small-to-medium size businesses. The Government of Canada introduced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA), which will lower rent by 75 percent for small businesses. In addition, the Business Credit Availability Program (BCAP) supports financing for Canadian companies in all sectors and regions. Comparatively, through the CARES Act, the U.S. Federal Government will send a one-time stimulus check to many Americans and make low-interest loans available to small businesses.

One thing remains clear – the pandemic has changed how we do business. Companies must understand their limitations and then act on that knowledge wisely and aggressively if they are to survive. Is your company positioned to survive? Is it possible to actually come out stronger on the other side of this current crisis?

Work-from-home technology, and empathy, enable you to care for your properties, staff and tenants safely and effectively. Here’s a look into how now moving to remote asset management can future-proof your property management business.

Take a page from history

Pivoting a business model in times of crisis is not new. It has long been an integral part of business innovation. Historically, during recessions and downturns, companies survive and outperform competitors when they invest in new growth areas and improve efficiency.

While it may be true that industry experts had forecast some turbulence in the markets, none of us saw COVID-19 coming. Then again, market disruption – while uncomfortable and anxiety-producing – generally creates opportunity.

Already we have witnessed companies quickly pivot to support immediate needs. Gap, Nike, Zara, Brooks Brothers and smaller manufacturers are using their factories to make masks, gowns and scrubs. On a smaller scale, some businesses have introduced new services and technologies to expand market reach.

Property managers, too, must pivot in real-time to deal with a rapidly evolving crisis. Businesses must ramp up with current technology to compete efficiently and support work-from-home staff and stakeholders. Now is the time to think fiercely about every resource available. Ad hoc responses won’t be enough. Property managers must implement new remote asset management tools and lay the groundwork for their recoveries now. How you restructure your business model will be crucial in optimizing solutions to problems that seem impossible to solve.

Why risk-averse leadership is reckless in a pandemic

Pivots generally bring significant risks, but strong leadership recognizes that the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Strong leaders see that paralysis in the face of danger can result in the most devastation. Indeed, it requires a unique type of leader to take risks during an economic crisis. The coronavirus pandemic is plunging the global economy into its deepest slump since the Great Depression.

When the situation is uncertain, human instinct can cause leaders to avoid action until the threat becomes clearer. But according to The New York Times, this means failing the “coronavirus leadership test.” Passing the test requires leaders to act in an urgent, transparent and consistent manner. All the while understanding that mistakes are inevitable and course correction is the best path to survival.

But where to begin?

You’re probably wondering which fire to put out first. This is an unprecedented time for a commercial property owner. From rent deferrals, to being unable to complete service requests due to shutdowns, to implementing new technologies – property managers have a great deal of stress on their hands.

However, the lack of strategic action only exacerbates disorientation. To start, carve out time to reflect on mistakes and take a long view at where you want to be post-pandemic. How prepared was your business to work remotely? Are there systems that could have increased efficiencies and productivity? How will your stakeholders see your business when this crisis is over?

Digital property asset and lease management is no longer a luxury

The stakes for digital transformation are higher than ever before. Property managers are being forced to consider contactless systems. Virtual business systems have become the most logical choice and, more importantly, the safest choice.

Property owners already leveraging integrated systems are far better equipped to respond to the rapidly changing market. Unfortunately, those still living in the digital dark ages will be left behind. Let’s take a deeper look at how property management software can increase efficiency in times of crisis.

Remote asset management and document sharing

At this point, the pandemic lockdown has likely exposed the shortcomings of entry-level software – or even worse manual workflows. Handwritten invoices and property details in filing cabinets make document sharing difficult on a good day, let alone amidst a global war against infectious disease.

Landlords face the challenge of responding to uncertain owners, accountants, realtors and tenants quickly, safely and accurately. All the while, they are juggling the collapse of customer demand, significant regulatory changes, supply chain interruptions, unemployment and economic recession. Fragmented, inaccessible data management is just another critical problem to solve.

With revenue dropping and budgets getting tighter, fewer people must do the same work as before. The new reality is, working from home now must be more efficient than working in the office was previously.

Online business systems give you instant access and control over your data. Centralized data storage is critical for tracking and moving information while providing a holistic view of records and the transition of people and properties. It is the only way to efficiently access information at all levels and in all areas – without the worry of passing paperwork by hand. CRESSblue significantly increases efficiency and supports remote working. It enables your company to be more productive than ever.

WFH must, and can, be more efficient than before

With CRESSblue, your team can seamlessly work from home or the office as needed. To illustration, one at-home worker can enter an invoice while another can review and approve it for payment – all without being in the same building. The right technology is now a lifeline for businesses.

Keep digital security concerns at bay

The pandemic has made it harder for companies to maintain security and business continuity. With work-from-home orders at an unprecedented scale, executives must prioritize initiatives to safeguard sensitive information.

Information sharing through excel and email only increase the risk of security leaks and human error. Cloud-based solutions can make it easier for staff to work remotely because they can be implemented faster than on-site systems. Also, software systems with configurable user restrictions will allow you to control both viewing and editing permissions. CRESSblue is a cloud-based software with role-based permissions for each user type. It enables you to distribute documents and be confident knowing your data is safely centralized and backed up.

Now is the time to automate complex calculations

Economists warn that it may take years to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown financially. Therefore, executives must maintain strict discipline in monitoring cash-flow with special attention given to capturing and collecting receivables.

There are emerging government exemptions and refunds available for companies aiding in the prevention and treatment of the epidemic. For example, in compliance with infectious disease control, multi-unit building owners may be required to invest in changing building security systems from a keypad to a touchless key fob system. If contributions to these types of leasehold improvements are rolled into the rents, the capital expenses should be clearly identified in new/renewed lease negotiations and in calculations to avoid paying income tax on money that isn’t really revenue. We covered more about leasehold improvements in a previous article.

Asset management software automatically captures recoveries

With the right asset management software capturing recoveries can be easy. Capital costs can be automatically classified and added to the building capitalization. Along with the appropriate depreciation values for annual tax returns and financial statements.

Let property management software do the math

While the coronavirus lockdown holds grip, landlords can expect to see more vacancies, tenant changes and rent exemptions. Multi-tenant property owners must prepare now for increased complexities when it comes time to calculate the proportionate share of CAM expenses.

Let’s consider a scenario in which a first-floor tenant in a multi-tenant office building institutes work-from-home orders, leaving their space vacant. In this hypothetical example, tenants on the second floor remain operational. Naturally, vacant spaces will have lower water and heating/cooling costs. Expenses are allocated to those tenants based on proportional areas, but now the usage varies widely for the period covered by the invoice. Work from home policies are creating vacancy-like conditions for calculating fair and accurate expense allocations. Imagine trying to track and reconcile intricate expenses and invoices on spreadsheets? Not a very efficient use of time.

Commercial software, such as CRESSblue, can automatically calculate the proportionate share for each tenant including occupancy/vacancy expense gross-ups and provide an audit trail for each invoice. This one-stop-solution will increase efficiency in your business and ensure nothing is overlooked. Perform complex calculations with automated actions that do the work for you – quickly and accurately.

Customers will remember how you react during the crisis

The best way for property managers to protect their revenue is to provide superior customer service, despite catastrophic circumstances. As we learned earlier, coronavirus leadership requires one to behave in an urgent, transparent and consistent fashion.

Consequently, it might be time to step-up your accounting game. Scrambling to gather invoices and lease agreements and amendments will only delay delivery, increase stress and leave room for error. An automated accounting system, like CRESSblue will increase reporting speed and accuracy for anxious stakeholders. What’s more, its internal audit capabilities can prove that accounting documents comply with the lease documents terms. In turn, the company can be confidently transparent in its dealings with tenants and prompt with auditors.

Plan for recovery now, not later

The COVID-19 crisis was impossible to exactly predict. But all crises contain the seeds of opportunity. The question is not if we can avoid uncertainty and crisis. That has already happened. Seeing that that disruption has already been forced upon us, what positive changes will we apply that driving force to?

Leaders must take action during a crisis with recovery in mind. Think broadly about where you see your property management business once the dust settles. More importantly, how do you want your investors and customers to see your business?

There is some speculation that this crisis may last for a year or more and may reoccur in the future. Post-pandemic, some people may need to continue to work from home at least part-time. How will you adapt if laws are passed requiring more space between work stations, but you don’t have more space available? What if key talent requests to continue to work from home 1 or 2 days per week? How will you ensure your company is capable of expanding and contracting as needed? Companies that are flexible and agile are the ones that can thrive during change.

Remote document management protects during this and future crises

Now more than ever, there is the need for innovative ideas and solutions to tackle unprecedented problems. It’s important to remember that technology-driven change and digital disruption are here to stay. When the crisis is over, it will be clear which companies have the resilience and agility to reshape their business model to thrive in the future.

Remote asset management is here to stay

You know it. We know it. The old way is no longer good enough in this new reality. Not quickly adapting is too risky and costly. Be the company that survived, no, thrived in the pandemic. When they ask in the future, tell them, yes, we survived AND grew. Your company and leadership will be more valuable than it was before the crisis.

CRESSblue can help you streamline your productivity and bounce-back stronger than ever before. Book a demo for a guided tour through the automated, time-saving features. It only makes sense to use a system that lets you do more with less when it matters the most.


Disclaimer

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as professional advice; please consult a competent professional for advice specific to you. This blog is written to stimulate thinking on concepts related to commercial leasing. Please join the discussion with your experiences.


Martin Sommer, CEO, CRESS Inc.

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Martin is a founder and the CEO of CRESS Inc., a Canadian SaaS company that automates lease administration and asset management. Martin also manages Karanda Properties Limited industrial portfolio as Director of Operations in all areas of commercial property management, including new development, asset management, capital expenditures, operations, leasing and lease administration of the industrial portfolio. Martin writes about property management workflow and issues. Book Martin to speak at your industry event.