This Expert Opinion piece on how technology and automation will change the role of a strata manager in the coming years has been provided by Daniel Hunt, Ace Body Corporate Management.
Technology and automation will undoubtedly change the role of a strata manager in the coming years as the industry embraces change and owners demand greater transparency in relation to their strata community. Already, the strata industry is starting to see very promising online meeting and voting applications that will very quickly change the traditional architype of AGM’s and reduce barriers to facilitate change. Most meetings in the strata industry will shortly be conducted online and resolutions will be voted on in a much faster timeframe and no longer restricted to a physical location. All resolutions will be easily tallied and recorded instantaneously, as well as a full video library of owner decisions and meetings.
Who knows the impact that Blockchain will have on general banking relating to the strata community? A traditional bank account may no longer be a requirement as is currently the case.
Owner portals will eventually reduce the volume and reliance of managers responding to emails relating to routine questions such as bank statements, insurance certificates, plans of subdivision and maintenance history.
Plans of subdivision will very quickly become virtual representations of the strata community, with precise drawings and 3D representations available for the strata manager and owners. The 3D schematics will automatically make the distinction between what is private property and what is common property, taking much of the interpretation difficulties away from both the strata manager and legal experts. Companies such as SketchUp are leading the charge with this software overseas and it won’t be long before we see local examples being adapted for the Australian real estate and strata industries. This information will also be available to strata insurers and will streamline the claims process, resulting in a more accurate and transparent outcome for owners.
So, is it all doom and gloom for the traditional Strata Manager?
Recently, I finished reading Sydney based author Michael McQueen’s fantastic new book ‘How to Prepare Now for What’s Next’ and besides inspiring this article, it was fascinating to draw so many parallels to the strata industry.
McQueen states “… 47 per cent of current professions could potentially disappear within the next 15 years or be significantly eroded by technology and automation.
“That’s nothing new — in the past, we’ve seen it happen with production lines — but now, to futureproof your career, you need to focus on things technology can’t do well, things that are uniquely human like empathy, creativity and instinct.
“Professions where the majority of things you do are ‘human’ are the safest. Repetitive, transactional stuff will disappear, but while you can train a machine to be a caregiver, you can’t actually make it care because it has no soul.”
So where can a Strata Manager ensure self-disruption and differentiate themselves from their competitors?
Two key areas for differentiation that I believe are fundamental to the evolving role of the strata manager are;
- Mediation and conflict resolution
- Community Engagement
Ultimately, many of the daily tasks that a strata manager is currently completing will become automated in the coming years and this will happen fast. Online strata software providers will trade direct to owners and attempt to cut out the strata manager entirely. We are already seeing budget online strata management tools appear online, that fulfil many of the administration functions required by the strata community and complete basic accounting features. These online platforms will continue to advance in the next 3-5 years and offer comprehensive financial reporting, record keeping and conduct basic AGM’s in accordance with state based legislations. This software will be particularly advantageous to self-managed strata communities and will appeal to tenants, rather than just owners.
The real skillset that an effective strata manager will provide in the future will revolve around their ‘practical’ understanding of conflict resolution and mediation relating to community based issues. While strata software will eventually be able to provide yes or no instructions to low owners according to legislation, will this be sufficient to solve complex neighbourhood based disputes?
I would argue that the best strata managers in this industry already offer alternative solutions to complex situations that require empathy and creative thinking.
This point needs to be clearly articulated to owners, rather than merely showcasing how efficient the strata manager is at preparing financial reports which will be easily replaced.
Strata managers with an eye on the future should gravitate towards human related situations that cannot be easily replaced by an algorithm. Becoming a specialist in areas that requires critical thinking and empathy will naturally create a divide between successful operators and others left in the past.
Further, community engagement is the next frontier for the strata manager to tackle and I am already seeing effective strata managers embracing this aspect of the role. The strata industry has for too long hidden behind the sentiment of suggesting that the strata manager is only responsible for lot owners and that tenants should go and talk to their property manager.
Recent changes to NSW strata legislation now allows tenants to attend meetings of the owners corporation. In certain situations, tenants may also be able to elect a tenant representative to sit in on the strata committee and be a voice for cohesive living between tenants and owner occupiers.
I believe this is a positive move and similar initiatives will be further entrenched in legislation across the country in the coming years. The point remains, however, that forward thinking strata managers are already facilitating proactive community engagement for all residents of owners corporations.
Positive community engagement between all stakeholders in a strata community will start with the large apartment buildings but will spread quickly to all types of subdivisions. Owners will be driving the change if an alternative is not first provided by the strata manager.
The rate of change will be constant and fast moving and strata managers who do not embrace the change or worse resist will find themselves on the outer.
Successful strata managers will focus on human interactions and provide a service centered around empathy, creativity, and instinct, while at the same time investing heavily in technology that will automate mundane and outdated processes.
- Strata Manager Obligations and Work Overload: An Industry Problem?
- Why are Strata Managers so difficult to get along with?
This post appears in Strata News #195
This article first appeared on the Ace Body Corporate Management Website.