At its simplest, HOA management boils down to numbers and words (but we get that it’s more complex than that when you factor all of the people into the equation). This article will look at the importance of maintaining accurate databases, as well as how associations can keep good records while on a budget.
The importance of accurate data
The more organized an HOA is, the better it will operate. Data management is critical because it helps boards and staff optimize operations and performance. Good data explains what has happened, what could happen next, and how to proceed. Prioritizing data can even help associations reduce costs by:
- Exposing inefficiencies and problematic processes
- Identifying trends and opportunities
- Reducing labor costs associated with searching for information, answering questions, and repeating tasks
Associations can use data to make better decisions that will have a positive impact on the development as a whole.
Start with an up-to-date resident database
Many associations have databases for documents, finances, vendors and security. But every community should have a resident database. This is where you document information about the people you’re serving. From there, you can build and connect supporting information such as how many residents have cars vs. how many spots are available, what months late payments occur most often, and how quickly violations are increasing/decreasing.
A resident database gives you a clearer picture of who your residents are, but it can also be useful when you need to call an emergency contact or get in touch with someone who only lives at the HOA for half of the year.
Resident databases should be updated at least once each year. That’s because there are always people moving in and out, and things can change overnight. Residents might get a new car, pet, or phone number, and that information should be reflected in the database.
Platforms for database creation
If you have created or maintained large databases in the past, then you are likely familiar with Microsoft Access. This database system is a member of the Microsoft 365 suite of applications. However, it is only included in the professional and higher editions. If you have a basic package, you would need to purchase it separately.
Microsoft Access stores data in its own format based on the Access Database Engine. It can also import or link directly to data stored in other applications and databases.
Unlike a chart made in Excel, Microsoft Access stores related information together, and allows you to create connections between different data. That’s what makes this system so appealing. Once you have set up the necessary fields, tables, and relationships, you can create a variety of data entry forms, which use the tables to store information. These data entry forms can also create reports with relevant and useful data.
While it would be a stretch to call Access intuitive, it’s fairly easy to learn basic operations. It is very sophisticated and can offer experts a lot of useful and customizable applications. There is a cloud-based and desktop option. Running Microsoft Access in the cloud using hosted desktops enables non-Windows users to run the software from their Mac, iPad, or Google Chromebook.
Base – Apache OpenOffice
Apache OpenOffice, also known as OpenOffice.org, OOo, or OpenOffice, is an open-source office suite. That means it’s free for anyone to use. Formerly known as Star Office, this program was acquired by Sun Microsystems in 1999 for internal use. Sun open-sourced the OpenOffice a year later as a competitor to Microsoft Office.
Base, which is the database program, is one of the features that users can enjoy free of charge, but there is an entire collection of tools that may be helpful to HOA managers.
Apache OpenOffice has:
- A word processor you can use to write letters, notices, proposals, etc.
- A spreadsheet program with all the tools you need to calculate, analyze, and present data in numerical reports
- A slideshow tool for multimedia presentations
- Base – a database management system designed to help users track information, archive data and produce reports
With Base you can…
Much like Access, Base allows you to create tables, queries, forms and reports. Users can set predefined table definitions for tracking residents and owners, pets, payments, vehicles, phone numbers, and more.
HOAs looking to create or transfer a master resident database will find that this program meets their needs. While it will take a bit of time to learn, they will be able to create custom fields where they can control what type of data can be added to each field, as well as how many characters can be added to each field. This helps minimize little mistakes that can create big headaches later on.
Data form wizards can also be created and customized. These forms execute a single query to speed up data entry. The queries can be related to a single table in a database, or to a query that uses many tables.
Benefits of Base
Of course, the biggest benefit is that Base is free. But there are other reasons to consider this option.
Easy to download
You can start using Base tomorrow if you’d like. Note that you will be required to download the entire OpenOffice suite, but you are not obligated to use any program that you don’t want to.
OpenOffice is available in multiple languages including French, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, and Italian. It truly tries to be accessible to everyone.
Since this is a cloud-based system, you can quickly and easily update your resident database in minutes. You don’t have to be at your office or the HOA to access the database. This can come in handy if there is ever an emergency and you need to reach a resident, or their emergency contact, right away. Furthermore, you aren’t going to lose all of that valuable information if some unforeseeable accident or incident jeopardized hard copies of your association’s data. It’s safe, secure, and easy to maintain.
The program is flexible and customizable
Apache OpenOffice can read files created with other software programs. That means you can open an excel document using Base. Furthermore, you can create as many fields as you need to keep the most detailed resident database possible.
Learning resources are available
Base can be a little tricky to navigate at first if you’ve never used this type of program before. However, there are lots of free YouTube tutorials out there that are designed specifically for beginners. The resources are very helpful and will be enough for most users.
Good data management leads to great property management. With the right system, this tedious process becomes easier. Base is a great option because it is robust, customizable, and free. Alternatively, you can rely on a very user-friendly property management system like Condo Control to help you build a comprehensive resident database. During the onboarding process, we take your resident data and upload it to the system, so your database is all ready for you when you start using the system. With this database, you can organize people into groups (residents, owners, board members), add unit numbers, buzzer codes, attachments, notes, pets, and so much more. It’s a great option for managers who value data, but don’t have a lot of extra time to spare.