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Habitat Magazine Business of Management 2021




Penn South Co-op’s New Software Will Boost Efficiency

Tom Soter in Building Operations on February 14, 2019

Chelsea, Manhattan

Penn South Software
Feb. 14, 2019

The new computer software at the Penn South co-op is all about the hard-nosed business of efficiency. “We will be able to be more responsive to shareholders,” says Brendan Keany, manager of the property officially known as the Mutual Redevelopment Houses, a limited equity, affordable co-op in Chelsea. The sprawling 2,820-unit, 10-building complex has just completed a six-month search for a software platform that can handle its various needs. With an installation cost of about $70,000 and an annual licensing fee of $20,000, the new software system is pricey. But, says Keany, “We thought it was important to do.” 

The co-op has long relied on a the Multi-Data accounting system and a collection of stand-alone software systems, installed years ago, to handle numerous tasks. “What we have here [with Multi-Data] is a software platform that was designed really only for finance,” says Keany. When it’s used in areas outside of accounting, Keany adds, “It's difficult to use and hard to get the kind of reports that you need. We stayed with Multi-Data through the years because it’s a good accounting system for our type of housing.” 

He points to the preparation of income affidavits as one example. “If you live in a private co-op, no one cares how much money you make,” says Keaney. “If you live in government-assisted housing like ours, however, you have to fill out an annual income affidavit, indicating how much money you earn.” 

Keany says that the board wanted to install a new software program for work orders that would also interface with Multi-Data and the co-op’s other stand-alone software platforms, such as waiting lists for garage space and storage lockers.  Michael Fusco, a principal at NYCOM Networks, a systems integration company, was hired by the co-op to evaluate software platforms. He looked at a dozen before recommending Axxerion. It was approved by the board in January and will be installed in consultation with Paul King, a computer consultant who set up the Penn South computers many years ago. 

“The basic premise of the whole thing is really customer service – to be more efficient,” Keany adds. “Say Mrs. Jones calls about a leak. You fix it, and then she calls six months later because she has plaster bubbling on the ceiling. We can check back and see that when she called the first time, there was a leak and someone went up to repair that. He supposedly took care of it. If so, why is the plaster bubbling again? Having the historical data at our fingertips will immediately alert our staff [that this is an ongoing problem] – rather than having Mrs. Jones say something like, ‘Well, you keep sending people up here and they never fix it properly.’ This is a complaint that we get on a regular basis. But now we will have a record of all the work that has been done.” 

He continues: “We wanted to get something where you could have it all under one umbrella. We will have a work-order ticketing system for all the various different departments that fully integrates with Multi-Data.”

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