The YARDI Guy
What is implementation in YARDI-speak?
Implementation includes one or more of the following:
Install YARDI Property Management, add-ons and additional modules
Who does the implementation?
Ideally, WE do: You and I. I often tell my clients that I'm a very expensive data input person. And it doesn't do YOU any good to sit on the sidelines and have me do the work. Unless you never intend to add another property, desire to know what's behind all the neat things YARDI does and/or you are fabulously wealthy, YOU HAD BETTER "DRIVE." I'll be right behind you, backseat-driving, walking you through every step of the way or making "game show wrong answer buzzer noises" if you prefer to try a few things without hand-holding.
That's not to say that I won't jump in to take over when you're on the phone, have to run an errand or go to lunch. If you've purchased additional network "seats" to allow multiple concurrent users, I can get on a nearby workstation and still be accessible for your questions.
HOWEVER, I STRONGLY SUGGEST (MAY I SAY "REQUIRE?") THAT YOU PARTICIPATE IN THE PROCESS!
Because implementation is actually a multi-part process and I may arrive to find very little advance preparation - see an actual case history below - I will no longer predict the number of days or hours necessary, start to finish, and I ABSOLUTELY WILL NOT PROVIDE BIDS OR ESTIMATES.
Okay...here's a FIRM estimate. Implementation will cost AT LEAST $1,000.00 (one thousand US dollars) but NO MORE THAN $1,000,000.00 (one million US dollars). I guaranty it; if it requires me to spend more than 83,333 hours (@ $120 per hour) at your office, I will graciously cap my fee at a million bucks...plus airfare, rental car, auto mileage, parking, parking citations, tolls, etc.
Seriously, folks, plan on multiple visits, particularly if you have a stand-alone workstation (or multiple workstations but have not purchased additional "seats" for YARDI) . While I have done implementations in three, four or five days straight, most require two or three visits of one or two days each. There's only so much information that you and your staff can absorb in one visit...and there's only so much time I have before I say, "Well, if I'm going to get through security and catch my plane, I have to leave NOW!" At that point, you may yell, cry, threaten, cajole or even try to block my exit, all to no avail. [I've missed connecting flights to Chicago and Madison before (weather or mechanical problems) and nearly missed departures ("One last question and then I REALLY have to leave!!!") and IT ISN'T FUN.]
A two-visit scenario would include, in the first visit, an hour or two of discussion to determine HOW you do things: accrual vs. cash, single cash account vs. separate security deposit cash account, required to pay security deposit interest vs. not required...the list goes on and on, followed by installation and initial database setup based on the discussion. Until lunchtime, train on "management data" setup. In the afternoon of the first day, set up the management data. Then, either send me home for you to continue setup until my next visit or bring me back the next day (better economies of scale re: auto mileage!) to assist and supervise further and to begin QuickStart data entry. On the second visit, if all is ready, review the preparation and QuickStart the properties, review the results and, if needed, restore a pre-QS backup, edit setup and QuickStart again. Meet again for OPERATIONAL training for the remainder of the day and part of the following, if necessary, finishing up with live operations.
A three-visit scenario would include all of the above with an additional follow-up visit to review reports, answer questions, familiarize you on how to fix your "boo-boos" and, time allowing, observe operations and offer suggestions and some "tips and tricks" on using YARDI, that may or may not have been previously covered...or may or may not have been forgotten or misinterpreted the first time around.
When is the best time to implement?
Without exception, the best time to implement YARDI is at year-end. Only your Balance Sheet items need be entered for beginning balances. "Capitalization" of items previous run through your Income Statement [e.g., security deposits (you always claimed security deposits received as income and refunds as expenses, but now you wish to recognize the liability) should be "expensed" in the prior year, or you will have claimed income over the years and will never get a related deduction from refunds...but see your tax accountant, as this is a very gray area!] are more easily and accurately done at fiscal or tax year-end. If you, as you LEGALLY MUST, issue vendor 1099s, you do not need to enter year-to-date payments as part of QuickStart. Also, you will have one detailed General Ledger for the entire first year.
Mid-year implementation is not unheard of, particularly if you wish to run "parallel" with your old system through year-end and then let YARDI "fly solo" in the new year.
So, "WHENEVER," subject to the limitations and additional setup of a partial first year...
Can't we do all of this ourselves?
Absolutely; isn't it great to live in a FREE country? You are FREE to perform your own major car repairs! You are FREE to make your own clothes! You are FREE to get a small patch of land, grow your own wheat, grind it into flour and bake your own bread! You are FREE to buy a computer case, a power supply, a motherboard, hard, floppy and CD-ROM drives and Windows software and spend the next six months trying to make it work! You are FREE to rent a U-HAUL, go to Home Depot to buy all the "sticks and bricks" and build your own rental property!
Then, again, how much is YOUR time worth? How much will it cost in term of YOUR Controller's time at $35 or $40 per hour who must use several otherwise-productive workdays to read the manual cover-to-cover a dozen times? How much will it cost in terms of owners' "bad will" when they get balance sheets, income statements and cash flow statements that don't foot? How much will it cost in terms of lost collections, late fees and management fees (Commissions, in YARDI parlance)? How much will it cost in management turnover due to frustration, both yours and theirs? How much will it cost to buy and abandon a perfectly-good piece of property management software, exiled to the shelf?
And PLEASE don't tell me that YARDI doesn't work! I was the first-ever YARDI Professional user in the State of Wisconsin back in 1995. It does PRECISELY what YOU tell it to do. Unfortunately, MOST YARDI USERS either do not know what to tell it, how to tell it, use it effectively or they actually "fight" the program because "that's how the last program worked," "that move-out refund should be posted to Security Deposits, not Security Deposit Clearing" or "we want to code our tenants with the property code, move-in date and unit number (e.g. "sp072301" for David Marshall who moved into Unit 301 at Spruce Point in July of 2002)" as opposed to name-basis (mardav). WILL YOU REQUIRE MR. MARSHALL TO HAVE HIS PERSONAL CHECKS PREPRINTED WITH "sp072301" or will you instead waste 30 seconds looking it up every time you need to use his code? Hey! How about typing "mardav" to instantly find him or enter his charges or receipts? HELLLLLOOOOOOO!
Remember, also, that it takes at least THREE TIMES AS LONG when you make a mistake: 1. original error, 2. reverse original error and 3. correct entry. And that doesn't take into account "unreconciling" reconciled transactions that must be corrected, the "kabuki dance" (thanks, Dr. Laura!) required after posting to a Balance Sheet account originally flagged as an Income Statement account, the phone calls from the property's owner(s), lender or regulatory agency, the IRS audit OR THE TIME IT TAKES TO ASSEMBLE THE PROPERTY'S RECORDS FOR SURRENDER TO THE SUCCESSOR MANAGEMENT COMPANY, who just might be using YARDI as designed!
Believe me. Between your inexperience with YARDI and the sample Chart of Accounts provided with the program...well, let's just say, "Talk to you soon." (The oil filter company already has rights to "you can pay me now or pay me later"...but, just like an oil and filter change versus a seized car engine, "later" is usually much more expensive!!!)
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, "We're talking about your business, here!" Trial and error is fine in "Solitaire," "Reader Rabbit," "Duke Nukem," "Word" or "Excel." And, just because you are a QuickBooks expert, don't expect a familiar (inter)face. YARDI is not in the same church, much less the same pew!
Of course, you could just throw in the towel and put YARDI in storage next to that computer case, power supply, motherboard, hard, floppy and CD-ROM drives and Windows software.
A funny thing happened on the way to adding this page. I flew over a thousand miles for a three-day "Restart/QuickStart" of five properties with 700 units for a client who did not prepare. The client opted for my no-charge, ready-made HUD Chart of Accounts, but then wanted the accounts to match their QuickBooks numbers and names. After over a half-day revising (basically, re-doing) the chart, I was handed Excel spreadsheets and the last few deposit tickets with attached check/money order photocopies to determine beginning prepaid rent balances (everyone else to start at zero!) and, pretty much, was told, "do it."
After editing the first 30 or 40 existing tenants to match the current tenants in the best-prepared property, I found that ONLY TWO of the existing tenants were still in their units...actually one of them had transferred to a different unit, so ONLY ONE was current and even THEIR rent and lease dates needed editing. Meanwhile, the owner (no managers in sight) was pre-occupied with non-YARDI administrative tasks and I was afraid to ask for help.
By the time I was ready to throw my hands in the air and spend the last couple days in my motel room watching TV, over an entire day had been used to do what should have been done by property managers in the three-plus weeks since I sent a preparation outline.
Please understand that I am willing to do all of this work, but at $120 per hour, I'm a pretty expensive keyboard clicker. Please also understand that I do not know your properties, tenants and overall SOP as well as do you and your managers. Why you would want to hire me for what would take three or four weeks (or longer) at a cost of SEVEN, EIGHT, NINE OR TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS is beyond me, considering that you are already paying people to do their own jobs!
This client did not fully understand the purpose of my visit. I generally DO NOT work on my own at your office because when I leave, you have no idea what I did, how long it actually takes and how to do it yourself after I've left.
"Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for life."
Fortunately, once the air was cleared with a somewhat regretful heart-to-heart talk, the client sat with me for the final two days and did most of the hands-on work. My client learned that although it's not brain surgery, it is time-consuming. But the time it takes to perform a clean setup and QuickStart will yield years of efficient and accurate property management accounting. They're still weeks away from QuickStart, but we spent our remaining hours, TOGETHER, doing "mock" QuickStarts, as well as training on the entire YARDI program. All in all, it was a successful visit. But the client's dream of real-time operations before my flight home...was only a dream.
Take note that just a few weeks ago, I worked with an Illinois/Indiana owner of two properties and in less time, did go live with both properties, thanks to her acceptance without exception to the FASS ("New HUD") Chart of Accounts, her accounting background, her complete participation and up-to-date and accurate information provided by her property managers. Take special note that WE STARTED FROM SCRATCH, which is oft times easier than editing pre-existing BOGUS data.
Finally, on my return to my office, my Outlook e-mail inbox held TWO e-mail solicitations from folks in New York City, one of which specified a THREE-MONTH IMPLEMENTATION contract.
THERE'S A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THREE DAYS AND THREE MONTHS!!!
While this microwave world demands instant gratification, there's no such thing as "freeze-dried YARDI implementation." General Foods isn't even working on it yet.
This story is dedicated to my eldest brother and ex-boss of eight years who thinks the keyboard has only one key, "Enter." Just think what you want and hit "Enter." VOILA: a perfectly-formatted and calculated Excel spreadsheet is sitting in your printer bin and ready for distribution and review. "I know computers; I used them in college (1964)."
Call me today at (866) TED ZECK to discuss Implementation!