Letting and estate agents have known about the benefits of using cloud software for property management for years now. It’s hardly a new concept, or new technology. When the COVID-19 crisis struck the world in spring 2020, however, huge swathes of the world’s population had to quickly adopt home-based and remote working. Cloud software well and truly saved the day.

COVID-19 was cloud software’s first acid test

Obviously people do not just use cloud software for property management purposes.

In fact, you’ll be hard pushed to find a piece of software in a modern business which hasn’t either moved fully to a cloud-based platform, or at least has a cloud option. Ten years ago, virtually every PC had a version of MS Office (or at least MS Word) installed. Now many people have moved to Microsoft’s online Office 365, or Google’s online G-Suite. Accounting software, spreadsheets, project management, even photography software, all have cloud versions.

The coronavirus pandemic of 2020, and the associated global lockdown, has been the first real acid test of remote working and cloud software, and it has proved they work really well.

Before this year, remote working was generally regarded as a luxury or a perk. On 23 March 2020, that all changed. It was the UK’s turn to lock the country down as the virus continued its global advance. The Prime Minister decreed that with immediate effect everyone should lock themselves in their houses and, if possible, work from home for the foreseeable future.

Take your laptop and go home

Just twenty years ago, such an announcement would not have been possible. It would have been met with incredulity.

“Work from home? What on earth does he mean? How is that even possible?”

For many it still wasn’t, and the furlough scheme was born. But for those in industries where day-to-day work involved computer systems, like property management and lettings, the cloud software model would work really well.

Cloud software working from home

Virtually every home now has a broadband connection of some sort. Many, not just in urban areas, are enjoying the benefits of high-speed Internet connectivity.

So long as you have a network connection and a browser, the best property management software solutions can be used on any device, in any location. These are “true cloud software” products, where you don’t need to install anything. No Virtual Private Connections (VPCs) or remote desktop connections. Just got to the website in the browser and login and work exactly the same way as you did in the office.

We had an initial spike of support requests in late March with people looking for usernames and passwords. After that, it was business as usual. People were working productively from home. Just like that.

Letting agency staff still felt part of a team

It’s not just about technology though. Working alone outside of the normal office environment brings with it other issues, social interaction issues.

Property software hasn’t been performing in isolation. The hero of the hour has been Zoom, the video conferencing tool. Before March, many businesses were already using it (including our team at Tilt). Since March, it seems like every household has a Zoom account.

It’s no coincidence that Zoom’s price has rocketed. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

The best property management software will also feature some form of activity stream or pulse of the business activity. Some way for people to see what everyone else is doing. For a sense of involvement and community, for sure. But also just to get a sense of progress and achievement.

Wondering if your colleague has been chatting to a tenant about an urgent issue? Not being able to ask them so easily, property software is encouraging people to maintain a full trail of correspondence and notes. Everyone can see that at a glance, without having to shout across the desk. Recording memos, or checking when a payment was received, software used correctly will empower everyone and make agencies much more efficient.

Agency managers retain control and visibility

While none of us like to live under the close scrutiny of managers, we all recognise that managers have a job to do. Work needs to be done, well and on time. People need to be accountable for their work. Nobody has much tolerance for people slacking off and not doing their bit.

Manager oversight and control via cloud software

Cloud software for property management empowers managers to ensure that the work is done, and verify that staff deliver results effectively. Each system login, every rent receipt and every landlord payout is recorded in a system log. That audit or activity log provides a clear view to managers, and everyone for that matter, of who is doing what within the agency, when, and from where.

People aren’t working on their own laptops, they are working centrally on the cloud system.

Agency managers are also learning to trust their staff more. We used to get requests to lock out staff access from home. Now, those very managers wonder why they ever considered that. The audit trail provides all the traceability they need, and staff productivity isn’t actually any less when they are working from home. As a rule.

Software support was only a click away

Suddenly being cut off from the office and work colleagues, and the reality of working alone from home was a big of a wake-up call. Not just the unsettling effect of an unknown virus threatening civilisation itself. People lost the ability to just chat face-to-face, something humans have always taken for granted.

Remote working and remote support go together hand in hand. In the traditional world of servers installed on your premises, and access to your premises out of bounds (to some degree at least), any technical issue had the potential to escalate into a showstopper. From our perspective as a cloud software vendor, however, things are much simpler. It makes no difference whether you’re at home or in the office, because we don’t need to go to either.

Remote software support

A huge benefit of using cloud software for property management is the software residing on a central server. Every time we roll out an upgrade or new feature, you get it the next time you refresh your screen. If there’s a problem, send us an email and we can hop right onto your account to investigate. In the event of a bug, we release the patch to everyone without anyone leaving their keyboard.

People raised a few more queries than usual, because now we were perhaps more accessible than their own “IT guy”. But our support and development teams worked as efficiently as ever, from our own homes.

Remote working may be the new normal

Our team here at Tilt Property Software haven’t seen each other in the flesh since the last week in March. Surely, we miss the chats at the coffee machine, but our productivity has been largely unaffected.

To be honest, that first week we all admitted sitting staring at the screen wondering if the world was ending.  After that, though, we’ve been working away as normal.

In fact, we’ve possibly been more productive than ever. We have less interruptions during the day, no time lost commuting, and more flexibility to take some personal time out where we need it.

Remote working

It’s hardly news to us though, especially in the tech world, that remote working, well, works… What’s different is the mass adoption of remote or home-working, and the realisation that it is nothingto fear. We haven’t resorted to sitting round in our underwear (or if we have, we at least stick a t-shirt on for Zoom calls!). We’re not lounging our days away in front of the TV. We are still productive, and we’re happy, if perhaps just a bit lonely sometimes.

Letting and estate agents won’t have the long-term luxury of working from home every day. You have viewings to organise, check-ins to process, and inspections to perform. But, it’s now evident that you do not need to be in the office from 9-5, Monday to Friday. We may stagger working patterns, and rework desk arrangements to provide adequate social distancing, but we are no longer bound to one location.

COVID-19 shows no signs of disappearing any time soon. Even if it did, the world has learned a costly lesson. More pandemics may follow.

But for digitally-enabled businesses we are all well equipped with our laptops, Internet connections, and web browsers, to roll through it and keep on prospering.

Adopt cloud software for your property management

If you are not already using cloud software for property management within your agency, you should really consider making that switch now. You will likely have felt the pain during the main wave of coronavirus, but another wave may well follow behind it. Get your agency’s software in shape in preparation for the future.

Or maybe you already have a cloud-based letting package and have discovered that it isn’t quite up to scratch?

Take our Elevate property management software for a test-drive. Sign up for a free trial right now, with no costs and no commitment, and see how it ticks your boxes.

Photos from Unsplash by: engin akyurt, Allie, Paul Skorupskas, Kristin Wilson