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July 20, 2021

7 Questions to ask When Picking a Property Tax Software Vendor

A handy guide to help you identify what your team needs from a software provider, now and in the future
PROPERTY TAX MANAGEMENT TIPS

Choosing a property tax software vendor can be a complicated process. To make an informed decision, it’s important to understand your team’s needs as well as what the vendor has to offer.  

Not sure what you should ask or know before making a decision? In this article, we’ll share a 7-question framework for selecting a property tax software vendor.  

Don’t have time to read right now? Scroll to the end for a visual checklist!

Software Features

1. What features does your team require?

One of the first questions you need to ask is, “what does my team need from a property tax software?”

This question will guide your process. For example, you’ll want to consider:

  • Is your team currently working with spreadsheets and hoping to move away from manual data entry?  
  • Do you need to facilitate data transfer between your property tax software and accounting systems?
  • Are you looking to manage data sharing and access internally and/or with third parties?

While this list is not exhaustive, it’s important to think about the functionality you’ll require (e.g., reporting, forecasting/budgeting, calendaring, etc.) as well as the benefits you hope to gain (e.g., increased efficiency and data accuracy).  

It’s also important to get a sense of whether different team members have different needs and requirements. For instance, your property tax accountants may be focused more on the benefit of integrating with their AP software, while a property tax analyst will be interested in the breadth and robustness of reporting tools offered.

Once you have an idea of what your team requires, it becomes much easier to narrow down what to look for when picking software options.  

2. Will the solution centralize your property tax and related data?  

Centralized data is a key component of efficient property tax management. Having one central location to store data increases transparency and data accuracy.  

A central repository removes the need to maintain multiple spreadsheets. It also provides every member of your team with access to a unified, reliable data set for making decisions and completing tax processes.  

Along with centralizing data, a single source of truth also reduces time spent trying to understand, normalize, and reformat data from various internal systems. It also enhances processes like forecasting and budgeting, removing the need to double-check and compare data across multiple spreadsheets.  

Lastly, electronic activity logs - a common component of enterprise software – enables administrators to track who has edited data and when. This improves auditability and transparency.

Training and Support

3. What implementation and ongoing support services does the vendor provide?

Customer experience can impact the ease and speed of the software implementation process. It is important to understand the type, duration, and level of training that will be available during implementation, as well as whether it will be customized for your team.

After implementation, you should also understand the ongoing support offered. For example:

  • Will you have a designated customer success specialist for your team?  
  • Can customer support be accessed in real time if you run into issues?  
  • What channels, such as telephone, email, or live chat, can support be accessed through, and how quickly will they get back to you?
  • Does the vendor other training options such as webinars and workshops?

4. What resources will be required from your team during implementation?

Another important aspect of the implementation process is what will be expected of your team. Some elements you’ll want to consider include:

  • How will your existing data be migrated to the new software? While some vendors will transfer the data on your behalf, some will leave the responsibility with your team.  
  • Who on your team will be required for implementation? Some implementations require members from multiple teams to be involved, such as IT and accounting, on top of property tax.
  • How long will implementation take? Every vendor’s implementation process varies somewhat, and may include training sessions that occur at regular intervals. As well, you may need team members from different departments available at various steps.  
  • Will you need to maintain multiple systems in parallel for some period of time? You should get a sense of how long it will take to fully transition to the new system.  

If your team is unable to make a significant time commitment, it may be beneficial to choose a software vendor with a shorter implementation process or one that will do most of the heavy lifting for you. Some software vendors may require over 6 months to implement. Comparatively, we can implement the itamlink software in just 6-10 weeks.  

Data Security

5. How does the software vendor ensure that your property tax data is secure?

One of the top concerns for property tax teams when selecting a software vendor is data security. While data security is a broad topic, there are some key areas that should be assessed, including the following:

  • Is data hosted in a secure location?
  • Who on the vendor’s side has access to your data, if anyone?  
  • Does the vendor work with third parties, and if so, do they have clear policies and procedures to ensure compliance?
  • Does the vendor offer organizational security features, such as Single Sign On, user roles and permissions, access management, etc.?  

On top of these, you’ll want to vet the business continuity and disaster recovery policies the vendor has in place. These policies ensure your business operations continue uninterrupted and your data is secure in the event of a pandemic, natural disaster, or security threat. Knowing that your property tax software vendor has robust, regularly reviewed policies will help provide you peace of mind.  

We recommend identifying a software vendor that is SOC 2 Type 2 compliant, as these in-depth audits require a company to develop, maintain, and follow robust policies and procedures.

Organizational Fit

6. Will it fit into your existing workflows and integrate with tools you’re already using?  

Maintaining multiple systems can reduce efficiency and introduce expensive errors. Choosing a software vendor that integrates with tools you’re using for related processes, such as your AP or ERP systems,  can help streamline workflows and reduce manual errors.  

Integrating with your payments or accounts payable software can improve cross-departmental communication and efficiency. For example, itamlink integrates with Yardi, MRI, Nexus, and AnyBill, among others, to streamline property tax payment processes.  

7. Will the software scale with your organization as it grows?

Particularly for growing companies, you’ll want to ensure the software investment you make can grow alongside your business. Software that charges on a per-user basis can quickly become cost prohibitive. Ideally, you’ll want a system that you can easily grow into as more members of your team, department, or third parties become involved. While there are different models that may work for you, tools like itamlink offer unlimited seats, so user costs don’t scale linearly with company growth.

While cost is one aspect, the software must also support your business as the volume of users grows. For instance, will reporting tools become painfully slow if the volume of data increases 10-fold or 100-fold? Will the software experience frequent crashes when a certain data threshold has been reached, or if too many users are on the system?

You should try to forecast for future needs to understand if purchasing the software “as is” will be enough to support your growing business. For example, as you start to perform different functions, you may want access to additional features that you aren’t using today but will in the future. While it will vary by company, some activities you may want to consider include tracking incentives and abatements, fee tracking, and accounting accruals, to name a few.  

When choosing a property tax software vendor, first consider the needs of your team. Then, match this up with potential software vendors and what they offer in terms of technology, security, and ongoing support. With this in mind, your team can make an informed and successful decision.  

7-question checklist for selecting a software vendor, including features, training, security, and organizational fit

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© 2021 Rethink Solutions. All Rights Reserved