What is a workflow exactly?
Workflows are simply a smarter way of managing property management processes in real estate software. That’s why workflows tend to be named after work processes that most property managers already do. Take for example some of Console Cloud’s workflows: there’s one each for maintenance, tenant on-boarding, lease renewals, vacates, inspections, compliance, arrears, and so on.
A workflow in property management software, then is really just a string of software features that work together to help you complete these often complex, non-linear processes, with as little work from your end as possible. They automate enough to get out of your way, but without compromising your control over it. That means you don’t have to skimp on customer service.
What workflows propose, in other words, is to take property management processes from the old way to the new way.
Why bother with workflows anyway?
The property management market in Australia and New Zealand is changing. Owners expect to receive more value for service, and expect services to be customised to them. Technology is rapidly changing, and it’s making certain types of tasks obsolete as a result.
In order to both stay relevant and competitive, agencies will need to find radically more efficient ways of managing properties, and at the same time, find new ways to provide extra value to landlords and tenants.
This change will create winners and losers in the industry. Some apps that opt to cut the property manager out of the management transaction altogether will begin to absorb clients from agencies who don’t find new ways to provide value. And agencies that find new ways to provide value but don’t make their processes radically more efficient will find it increasingly difficult to keep the lights on and the doors open.
That’s where workflows come in. They can make property managers all-seeing over their portfolio, and help them manage tasks quickly, and by exception. Together, they act as a sort of ‘heads up display’ or pilot’s dashboard that alerts them when a task needs doing—rather than manually setting up checklists and systems to cope.
But workflows benefit more than just property managers. Because of their ability to drive rapid efficiency, cumulatively they reduce the time it takes to manage a property portfolio by a significant margin. That means property managers can take on extra properties, without taking on extra work.
We say workflows save agencies time. How do we know that?
Our data shows that people using our workflows close out lengthy process sometimes weeks ahead of others not using workflows. People using the arrears workflow have reduced average tenant’s time in arrears from 9 days to 3. Our lease renewal workflows shrank intention response times for owners and tenants to 66 hours with a 70% reply rate.
In terms of reported time savings, agencies tell us our workflows save them roughly 40% of the time it would take to complete those processes ordinarily. In practical terms, that’s how we know workflows drive radical productivity gains. And that’s why we’re all about them in Console Cloud.
Death by detail (you can skip this section if you get the gist)
Still not clear on what workflows are? No problem. Typically, each workflow feature in Console Cloud (such as compliance) has a number of event triggers (such as a compliance item getting within 30 days of expiry) and automated communications (a tenant falls into arrears and is sent an automatic SMS reminder) baked into it.
These workflows are also designed to provide you with all the right information at the right time, to save you searching through other tabs or windows for it. As you move through the workflow, it will also prompt you with a number of options for next steps (including backwards steps) alongside these triggers and automated steps.
And finally, our workflows will also keep track of where you’re at, as well as cross-referencing all actions, documents, and other information relevant to the completion of that process (e.g. everything you’d need at your fingertips to renew a lease or on-board a tenant).
In other words, workflows in Console Cloud exist as a coordinated collection of triggered events, clicks, notifications, automated communications, useful information, and tracking that keeps working on your portfolio, even when you’re not.
Workflows are not to be confused with, well, workflows.
Console Cloud released its first workflow in 2018 with these features. It was the first of its kind in the industry. Other software providers began to advertise other features using the term workflows in 2019, but it generally meant something different. Accordingly, there’s been some confusion over the term.
When not used to describe features in Console Cloud, ‘workflows’ often describe a triggered one-off email, the manual creation of an individual task, and the manual creation of an individual tag or notification that delegates a task to someone.
All of these micro-features rely on the user to either set up the trigger and / or then perform the rest of the activity manually. At Console, we would call this kind of feature a task. It would not be a workflow worthy of the name.
The difference between a task and a workflow
These two popular terms are related, but they are not the same thing. A task is a single action. A feature that makes a task more efficient in Console Cloud might look like a tick box to enable automated SMS reminders. On its own, an automated task provides an incremental improvement.
A workflow makes an entire process with multiple moving parts more efficient, like a lease renewal, or rent arrears management. It turns these processes into a series of quick clicks and automated components that make property management processes take significantly less time and effort on a process level.
Will tasks ever compete with workflows?
Jobs and tasks in property management software are simply an electronic version of the same administrative load you always had. While they can provide an incremental benefit, they don’t actually remove the need for a human to perform the action. They simply provide a new way to perform it.
Accordingly, businesses that opt for this easier-for-now approach to property management software are likely to face significant efficiency setbacks in the next few years. Hopefully they’ll be able to find the time to compete on value.