Property Management Business Coordinates Work Across 30 Offices Using GQueues and Google Apps
Arbors Management, Inc. is one of the largest property management firms in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, managing over 4,000 units, with a focus on both conventional and subsidized residential properties. During the past 30 years the company has developed a proven, hands-on approach to property management that improves the investment for owners while creating a sense of home for residents. Arbors Management employs over 100 people spread across 30 on-site offices providing a full-range of services from leasing and maintenance, to accounting, bill payment and emergency response.
Moving Everything to the Cloud
In 2008 Arbors' Director of IT, Christopher Wagner - now the company's Vice President - transitioned the organization to Google Apps in a move that reduced IT expenses and advanced them into the world of cloud computing. With employees spread across thirty locations, they immediately felt the benefits of having everyone on an email and calendar system that required very little management compared to the alternative of using Microsoft Exchange. Over the next couple of years, as employees really began embracing the shift to the cloud they realized their current ways of managing tasks needed to change as well. Notepads, Post-It notes and even Outlook tasks were holding them back, so Arbors began searching for a system that would allow them to collaborate on tasks in the cloud.
Wagner began sifting through a wide range of options with the main criteria including support for shared lists, assignable tasks and integration with Google Apps, since the goal was to allow people to work together using the platform they had already invested in. He realized pretty quickly that full-fledged project management suites were overkill for their needs, but handling recurring tasks and mobile support were also key requirements of a solution. After testing several task managers he found, "GQueues was the one that had everything we needed - it just fit perfectly."
Seamless Integration with Google Apps
Wagner chose GQueues for Arbors in large part because it worked with their existing platform. "There are a lot of decent task systems out there, but GQueues' seamless integration with Google Apps is one of the things that really sets it apart." In 2011 he installed GQueues on their Google Apps domain where it was first embraced by a group in the corporate office, and then spread to various field offices over the next several years. Property management includes a lot of work that happens on a weekly, monthly or annual basis so GQueues' support for repeating tasks combined with its Google Calendar integration has proved particularly valuable for their on-site property managers. Routine work is now tracked in GQueues, with due dates appearing in Google Calendar, reminders set for each task, and any missed work clearly visible in the Overdue Smart Queue. "GQueues integration with Google Calendar makes it easy for everyone to plan and see when these important tasks must be completed," Wagner noted.
In addition, Arbors now easily collaborates on projects that involve coordination between the main office and field locations by using shared lists in GQueues, which integrate with Google Contacts. As an example, Wagner explained whenever they take a new property under management there are usually 15-20 issues and improvements they want to address within the first six months. These projects involve a variety of people working together, and GQueues simplifies the coordination. "We just create a queue and share it with the appropriate people so everyone stays on the same page, making notes and checking off tasks as we go," Wagner stated. Assigning tasks to specific people also keeps the lines of responsibility visible and clear.
Besides the ability to share task lists, the GQueues Android app has been key to helping Arbors manage their work. Like many property management companies, Arbors has a very mobile workforce with usually half its employees out of the office at any given time, whether they're out leasing, overseeing maintenance or addressing other issues at a property. Arbors provides their employees with an Android phone so they can stay connected on the go. When away from the office, "having the ability to quickly create a task in the app and move on is a huge benefit," Wagner remarked. The Android home screen widgets also help Wagner and others at Arbors keep track of their upcoming tasks with just a glance.
Taking advantage of GQueues' flexibility as a tool, Arbors also actually creates agendas for many of their meetings directly in GQueues, heavily utilizing its support for unlimited levels of subtasks. These "agenda" queues are shared with attendees ahead of time helping ensure they are efficient and productive during their time together. The GQueues Chrome Extension is also used to create tasks with links to specific Google Docs or spreadsheets making it easy to pull up related materials when completing work.
Staying Organized to Serve Clients Better
Having used GQueues for several years now, Wagner has noticed a significant improvement in Arbors' ability to organize work and collaborate on projects. He went on to explain that when you're managing the volume of properties that Arbors handles, being very organized is absolutely critical to running a successful business. "If you miss a task or mess up on something you can cause a property owner hundreds, thousands or even tens-of thousands of dollars, so staying on top of everything is very key." GQueues has really helped supervisors at Arbors who are responsible for ensuring work is completed on time as promised to their clients. "If something is important I always create a task for it in GQueues with a reminder to follow-up before it's due," noted Wagner.
GQueues intuitive interface has been central to its adoption within Arbors. Many of their employees in the field don't spend their day at a desk in front of a computer, so having a system that is straight-forward and just works is essential. "GQueues has the deep features we need, but it is also very simple," Wagner noted. This simplicity means people actually use it instead of finding other ways to get the job done. When asked to describe the impact of GQueues at Arbors Wagner replied, "The more we use GQueues, the less chance mistakes are made and the better we serve our clients."