All posts by Alex Gallia


A Simple Guide to Process Modeling & Optimization with UML Diagrams

uml-diagram

Unified Modeling Language (UML) is a way of visualizing a software program using a collection of diagrams. That is one of the simplest ways to define it.

In equally simple terms, it is a modeling language used to analyze, design and implement software-based systems.

However, UML diagrams can be applied to more than just software engineering and development.

There are over a dozen types of UML diagrams that are used for a range of different purposes and have significant variances in complexity.

One of the simplest types, which also happens to be the most suitable diagram for modeling business processes, is called the activity diagram.

This is the diagram we will be focusing most of our attention on in this post, though we will take a quick look at some of the other common types for the sake of context and because you may also find them useful beyond the purpose of process modeling & optimization.

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The Ultimate Guide to Workflow Software Integration in Property Management

property-management

There is a need for digital transformation in property management

There is no easy way to summarize the role of a property manager in a way that really captures the wide range of responsibilities they have.

In essence, it’s all about communication. Interactions with property owners, tenants, and employees all need to be coordinated with efficiency and professionalism in order to keep all parties satisfied, establish a loyal customer base and enable future growth in a tough market.

Basically, managing properties isn’t just about real estate — it’s just as much about relationships.

You have to track conversations and deal statuses across multiple landlords, tenants, and applicants in addition to managing the properties themselves. It’s high-touch, high-urgency, and high-stress work.

“Communication can easily become chaos if not handled correctly. Between phone calls, text messages, emails, and walk-in traffic, it can be hard to keep tenants, owners, and staff on the same page. Documentation is very important to avoid miscommunication.” Nick D’Agnillo, CEO & Founder of Nexus Property Management

The extent of human interaction that is integral to property management creates a large margin for human error. Poor lead management, documentation of calls/emails, inspection coordination, tenant screening, and maintenance work orders are just a few examples of tasks/processes that are difficult to execute consistently without the assistance of workflow software running in the background.

As a result, property management firms are beginning to place a greater focus on improving business efficiency by formally documenting their processes and integrating workflow software, because it enables them to deliver their clients a superior service, while also providing employees with the tools they need to perform at their best.

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5 AppFolio Checklists for Core Property Management Workflows

Firstly, I should clarify that these are not checklists created by Appfolio, as the title may suggest. They are, rather, checklists created by the team here at Process Street (with some help from customers) that are designed to be used by property management firms who use Appfolio.

Appfolio is one of the most popular property management software tools currently on offer, enabling more efficient management of all kinds of properties including apartments, residences, and commercial real estate.

It is an all-in-one solution that includes features such as online owner and renter portals, online applications and leases, online payments, built-in screening, maintenance requests, mobile inspections, bulk text messaging, accounting, reporting, and a mobile app.

The software’s rich feature set, intuitive UI, and automation capabilities have received excellent feedback from its users, making it a popular choice amongst property management firms of all sizes, particularly those that are growing at a fast rate and are looking for a tool that will enable them to scale while minimizing growing pains.

To help you get the most out of Process Street while using Appfolio to manage your property management workflows, we’ve created a set of 5 templates to bring the two applications closer together.

We chose to create the following checklists because they are core workflows in the field of property management, and are common uses cases amongst a number of our customers that use Appfolio on a daily basis.

If you want to dive in and go straight to the checklists, there are quick links right below. Otherwise, scroll down for a brief intro to each one.

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How Alarca Realty Replaced Spreadsheets with Process Street to Streamline Property Management

alarca-realty-case-study

Alarca Realty is a property management firm based in Charlotte, North Carolina, specializing in the full-service management of family homes, condominiums, townhouses, duplexes, and small multi-family developments.

We spoke with owner and CEO Bob Abbott to discuss how Alarca uses Process Street to improve the management and execution of property management workflows that keep their growing business running smoothly.

The Alarca Story

Founded in 2005, Alarca began with the mission of delivering world-class property management services in Charlotte and other locations in southwestern North Carolina.

Their focus on customer service and providing the highest return for clients has resulted in them achieving industry-leading client retention levels.

alarca-property-management

For many years, the company used a large library of spreadsheets to manage internal processes and track communication with clients.

As the company grew, so did their spreadsheets, and it soon became incredibly difficult and time-consuming to execute tasks as efficiently as they would like.

Bob identified this bottleneck, and after a period of significant research and testing, decided to go with Process Street to improve the way his team complete their day-to-day tasks and for him, as the manager, to gain greater insight into the progress of workflows.

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The Best Workflow Management Software: Everything You Need to Know

workflow-management-software

This is not just another blog post on workflow software, describing what it is and why it’s important.

Nevertheless, I will quickly mention for those of you who doubt its importance, that the global market size of workflow management systems is estimated to grow at a staggering rate of 23% from 2016 to 2021, shooting up in value from $3.5 billion to just under $10 billion.

In short, it has already begun to establish itself as a key competitive battleground for years to come.

The intent of this post is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the purpose and use of workflow software, its application in various industries, the role of automation, methods for continuous improvement, and top tips for getting started in a fast, high-impact fashion.

It’s long, it’s heavy, it’s everything you need to know.

Ultimately, I am aiming to provide a practical guide to help you get the most out of the software you use for workflow management.

If you don’t currently use software to manage your workflows, then you must be at least considering it, otherwise you wouldn’t be spending valuable minutes of your day reading this.

In any case, skim through, extract any nuggets of information you find useful, think about your internal business processes and how getting started could improve your team’s productivity and forward strategic goals. It really is surprisingly easy (and affordable) to get the ball rolling.

The goal of this post is to provide you with clear information you need to:

  • Understand what workflow software is, how it works and key features
  • Evaluate whether or not you need workflow software right now
  • Understand the benefits of utilizing workflow software
  • Know how you can get started quickly and with minimal stress
  • Implement workflows effectively with a 5-step process
  • Have a solid understanding of how to set up automation for even greater efficiency
  • Set yourself up to achieve both short-term and long-term strategic goals

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The Exit Interview Process: How to Get It Right Every Time

When an employee has decided to part ways with your company, they are simultaneously opening a window of opportunity for you, as the employer, to gain valuable insight into why they have decided to move on, what went wrong (if anything), and what can be done in the workplace to improve retention and company culture.

Considering the disappointing nature of employee termination, many employers fail to recognize this opportunity, and wave goodbye to their former employees without learning anything.

“Let’s just get it done with and move on” is a way of summarizing this attitude.

Furthermore, they fail to close the relationship on a positive note by showing the individual that they care about listening to their thoughts, and taking action to improve employee morale in the future.

This is a grave mistake, because not only are you missing valuable, actionable insights which will help you attract and retain top talent, but you are also leaving a trail of disappointed, perhaps bitter former employees that can damage your reputation amongst job seekers.

Not to mention, employee turnover is expensive, and failing to take preventative measures is nothing short of shooting yourself in the foot, financially as well as in terms of your brand reputation.

“Experts estimate that the cost of a lost employee is anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5-2.0 times an employee’s annual salary. The bottom line for organizations: Turnover, if not systematically studied and understood, can impede achievement of organizational outcomes.”Jack Altman, How Much Does Employee Turnover Really Cost?

And so, conducting a structured exit interview with a departing employee is an incredibly important, often overlooked part of the offboarding process.

In this Process Street post, we’re going to be looking at:

  • What the purpose of an exit interview is, the best time to conduct one, choosing the right method, and important data points to gather
  • Examples of excellent exit interview questions
  • How to establish a process for flawless execution every time
  • How to effectively leverage exit interview data

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Real Estate Software: Evaluating The Best Ways to Automate Your Processes

real-estate-software

The real estate market is known to require a significant level of human interaction, but to what extent is the human touch really necessary for delivering a high-quality service for each and every customer?

The human-intensive nature of real estate creates a large margin for human error. Poor lead management, documentation, appointment coordination, tenant screening, and maintenance supervision are just a few examples of tasks/processes that are difficult to execute consistently without the assistance of automation software working in the background.

“Real estate is a market that is ripe for technological disruption. Whatever can be automated should be automated!” – Jyotirmay Samanta, How to Automate Your Real Estate Business?

Some of you property managers out there may claim that diving headfirst into the automation craze sweeping the business world is not such a good idea, as it undermines the face-to-face interactions that play such an important role in the field.

This is not entirely wrong, but all things considered, deciding to ignore new ways of streamlining processes will leave you in the dust as your competitors continue to find new ways of being more efficient.

Plus, some industry thought leaders believe that automation actually humanizes the property management experience even more:

“One of the most effective ways to humanize the property management experience is by providing better communication. Figuring out what residents want in order to improve service can be a complicated and daunting task. But today, a company can easily leverage automated surveys and other forms of real-time communication to glean real, useful feedback from residents.”Doug Brien – How Technology And Automation Humanize The Property Management Experience

Recently, it was reported that total investment in real estate tech has ballooned from $33 million in 2010 to more than $5 billion in 2017. That is nothing short of astounding, especially when you consider the market’s volatility over the past decade.

Technology is driving the evolution of real estate, and market players need to keep up if they want any hope of leading the charge.

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Top 10 Business Processes: Our List of Greatest Hits

top-10-business-processes

Whether the number of possible business processes is finite or infinite is debatable. Needless to say, there are a lot.

You can start with a broad, complex discipline like operations, mapping out the general, high-level process, and go on to create a vast amount of sub-processes that fall under the same area.

How granular you go is really up to you, and depends on what is most suitable for the way you conduct business.

There are, however, a number of processes that are absolutely essential to efficiently running any kind of business, regardless of size, industry, or location.

Processes that, without clear documentation and management, will cause bottlenecks that stifle growth or at worst, force an organization to close its doors.

In this post, we’re going to be looking at what we, here at Process Street, have identified as the top 10 business processes that you should care about and focus on continuously optimizing.

These are the big dogs. The greatest hits.

Each process will be paired with at least one fully customizable template that will help you get started or evaluate and refine your current processes depending on what stage you are at in mapping out and implementing your own.

My hope is that you will not only extract valuable insight from this article, but also find ways to apply the templates that have been provided in a way that is practical and useful for your team or organization as a whole.

Let’s get into it.

Oh, and bear in mind, these are in no particular order.

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A Practical Guide to Increase Productivity with Process Mapping

process-mapping

Process mapping is a useful tool for what can be summed up as “seeing the big picture and little pictures at the same time”.

That may sound silly to you, but that’s really what it is.

The primary benefit achieved from mapping out your business processes is that you can accurately evaluate each of the steps needed to complete a certain workflow, while understanding exactly how each of them interacts with one another and contributes to the process as a whole.

This ability to evaluate all aspects of a process helps managers identify constraints, opportunities for improvement, and formulate strategies to implement changes without disrupting day-to-day work.

But how do you go about ensuring that the time and effort you put into constructing these maps translates into improved performance?

That’s the question we’ll be tackling in this post.

Before doing so, however, we must acknowledge that there is a huge range of complexity when it comes to methods for process mapping. If you are a small organization it can be as simple as drawing it out on a whiteboard, whereas enterprises use sophisticated mapping software tools like Appian and Lucidchart.

This point regarding complexity and different kinds of process maps leads us to another important sub-topic that needs to be addressed early on – the difference between process mapping and process modeling.

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5 Great Ways to Involve Your Employees in Process Design

process-design

Finding effective ways to engage your employees in decision-making processes has become a priority for most organizations in recent years.

Why?

Because numerous research studies clearly indicate that involving your employees in how things get done improves morale, which in turn positively impacts productivity, loyalty, and pretty much everything else that enables a business to grow and stay competitive.

Really it’s just common sense. Treat your employees well, give them opportunities to contribute, and they will be more motivated to consistently produce their best work.

According to Salesforce research, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work, while another study indicates that organizations with high employee engagement outperform those with low employee engagement by 202%.

It’s hard not to perk up your ears and think carefully about how much you involve your employees when such significant numbers are flying around.

In this post, I’m going to be going through 5 ways for you to involve your employees in decision-making when it comes to process design.

In other words, I’ll be looking to offer you some practical, tried and tested ideas for encouraging your employees to contribute to the design of internal business processes. This will not only offer them a channel for empowerment, but will also improve process adoption as they will be built through collaboration and teamwork. It’s a win-win situation.

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