Kathryn Farrell in Board Operations on June 22, 2017
A common complaint among property managers is that advances in technology have been a huge help – but also a huge hindrance. Managers can find themselves on call 24/7, yet missing important updates that get lost in a blizzard of emails. One management company, though, is trying to turn technology to its advantage.
Mark Levine is a principal at EBMG – and a big fan of the Slack messenger system. “Our executive team [saw] what the capabilities of it were,” he says. “Then I said, ‘This would be something great for the buildings to have,’ because between text messages, phone calls, emails, and any other device you can think of, communication was scattered all over the place. We thought that one place would be better for all of us to use.”
Slack is an app-based messaging tool for keeping in touch with teams and groups. (A web-based version of the program is also available.) Team members are invited via email, and chat rooms, called “channels,” are created to organize different issues and topics of conversation. Users also have the option of sending direct messages to other members of their team, as well as sharing files and documents within channels.
Max Orenstein, board president at his co-op in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, is also a big fan of Slack. “When we were looking at management companies,” says Orenstein, “we were drawn to EBMG because of their embrace of technology. That's something that we've found was generally lacking across management companies. I think a decent number of our board members use Slack in their normal day jobs. I use it in mine. It blends tools, and it seems like a natural way to communicate with our management company.”
During the transition between management companies, Orenstein and Levine used Slack hourly. “It was such a great way to get all of the things done that we needed to get done,” Orenstein says. “I don't even know if it would have been possible in email because things get lost. They sink to the bottom.”
Not everyone has the same enthusiasm for Slack, however. Orenstein points out that some members of his board are not comfortable using it yet. Levine acknowledges that not all boards are ready to embrace such a new form of communication. In fact, EBMG has been turned down by boards that didn’t want to learn a new system.
Levine is undeterred. “I think that what people are realizing is if they want to get me, that's the way,” he says. “I have two computers open, [and] they both are running it. I also have it on my iPhone and on my iPad. If you want to get me, maybe email is not the best way because anybody in the world can email me, but only the board members who are on the Slack teams can Slack me.”
So is Slack the future of management communication? Maybe. Any major change to the way board business is conducted will meet with resistance. But Levine thinks that resistance can be overcome through simple persistence: “It's a trial-and-error thing, just like we know how to use email, Facebook, Instagram. It's one of those apps where, if you take the time to look through it and learn, you're going to have an easy go at it. It's just 10 minutes and everybody should be up and running.”
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