There was a time not that long ago that community living was about working together to advance the best interests of every member. Consider the farming communities that settled in Canada, for whom developing community relationships was necessary for survival. Everyone in a community could rely on each other for trade — money and belongings were of little importance.
Since then, technology has introduced new tools for everyday success, promising increased productivity for those who develop the new skills required to adapt to changing environments and spawning a generation that needs things to be newer, faster and better.
But what is being left behind as technology becomes more a part of day-to-day living in a community? Are there things that should be done the “old-fashioned” way? How does this impact property managers specifically? What’s changing for the better, and for the worse?
Technology has had a positive impact on a property manager’s ability to give condominium residents access to information. Digital options for delivering correspondence means that when the water is shut off unexpectedly, it’s easy to let all residents in a community know about the problem — preventing many angry inquiries about the issue.
More and more, however, the simple art of building relationships with clients is being lost. Electronic communication can obscure the intended message as readers impose their own thoughts and feelings onto the written material, leaving room for misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
While documentation is important, so is making sure the message is clear! In particular, when dealing with a sensitive matter property managers should be mindful that picking up the phone can go a long way to helping their clients understand the subject being discussed. Conversations can always be followed up with written correspondence confirming the discussion.
Physical building assets
Technology has done so much for the management of the physical assets of a condominium building. It’s possible to monitor mechanical components for peak efficiency, minimizing the use of utilities, and thereby reducing costs and environmental impact, as well as extending the life of new materials, and thereby reducing long-term repairs and replacement costs.
There remain, however, physical assets that can’t be managed using technology. Buildings and their surrounding property still need to be inspected to identify any potential problems that need attention. Even using tech-forward approaches to inspections, such as drones, a property manager still needs to physically review any camera footage collected. Images can also lack certain perspective and detail that would help a manager to strategize the best repair approach.
Property managers should remember that managing the physical assets of a condominium can’t be done from behind a desk!
Is technology helping or hurting communities financially? There are positive and negative financial implications associated with technological advancement. On one side, technology can be expensive to purchase and maintain. On the other, technology can help save costs.
While the answer is complex, the question should be considered by property managers recommending upgrades as well as by board members contemplating the financial implications of making changes. It’s important to carefully study the potential payback to ensure that, financially, moving forward on a technology project is a responsible choice.
Technology does not foster relationships. While it may give an individual greater access to others with similar interests, access alone does not bring people together.
Take a moment to consider if technology is creating a more anonymous lifestyle in condominium communities. Relationships with neighbours are extremely important for the success of a community, for many reasons. Neighbourly relationships increase safety and security, they provide an environment of support, they help people to trust each other, and they can reduce the issues that can arise among people living so closely together.
All members of a condominium community, including and especially the property manager, should take the time to remember the good old days, when it was possible to borrow a cup of sugar from a friendly neighbour.
Technology keeps moving forward. Property managers must embrace the changes in order to stay relevant and provide communities with the best possible service and advice. Just remember that newer and faster does not always equal better.
It will be interesting to see how technology continues to change how the condominium industry operates physical buildings, but also how community members interact with each other. New challenges and solutions are sure to develop over time.
Fifty years ago, the idea of every member of the population having access to instant information and communication was completely out this world. What will change in the next 50 years?
Lyndsey McNally, RCM, is team leader for Malvern Condominium Property Management and is ACMO’s Property Manager of the Year 2017. She is not anti-technology, but concerned about losing sight of what’s really important in communities.