OnLine Democracy

Ellipse gets your company in the Internet game.

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It’s one thing to establish a company that builds a reputation for innovation, quality and service. To achieve this in an intensely competitive field serving specialized needs is quite another accomplishment.

In less than five years, Ellipse Communications has built its customer base and created 400 multifamily websites. The Dallas-based firm, a full-service technology company providing innovative Internet-based solutions to the multihousing industry, achieved its strong presence by offering creative, advanced technologies that integrate sophisticated database, Internet and programming applications into customized solutions for apartment firms.

“Five years ago we started with a single owner with seven small buildings,” said Lisa Benson, Ellipse President. “Today, we assist our clients with fully automated application processing systems through an individual property website. What’s truly remarkable is that we do it for an economic cost that allows our clients to sleep at night.”

Ellipse excels in the design, development and management of websites and maximizing the Internet presence of the companies it serves. It backs its customers with comprehensive training and technical support services. Ellipse was founded by Lisa Benson, president, and L. Lee O’Conner, vice president and controller. As a woman-owned business, Ellipse brings a unique perspective to the business that enables them to relate well to the growing force of women in property management. Their greatest asset, they maintain, is their combination of in-depth multifamily experience and technology expertise.

THE OUTSOURCING DILEMMA
The IT world straddles the strange no man’s land of providing an essential component of business operations while being universally resented for perceived high costs and expertise few understand or fully appreciate. Recently, a fierce debate has risen over the question of corporations outsourcing information technology and programming services to overseas companies, particularly India and Southeast Asian nations. The foreign services offer cheaper costs and abundant resources. Critics of overseas outsourcing question the value of undermining the IT industry here and point out numerous problems related to cultural and communications differences, long-distance management issues, and whether or not in the end money is really saved.

Some of the costs savings attributed to migrating IT overseas are lost due to the communications and infrastructure costs

One major fallout of the growing controversy over offshoring IT work to India has been the media attention being given to India’s emergence as a repository of technical talent at cheap costs. According to The Wall Street Journal, two to three Western companies are moving operations to the high-tech hub of Bangalore, India every week. American companies are increasingly turning to India for operating call centers, software development and back-office work.

India’s technology sector boom has resulted in a 23 percent increase in workers to more than 800,000 in the first half of 2004 and India’s exports of software and services are projected to hit $16 billion this year, an increase of 30 percent over the previous year.

Many American critics argue that the offshoring/outsourcing trend is undermining the labor market here at home and displacing highly skilled programmers and engineers who often make ten times that of their Indian counterparts.

In a recent survey, the U.S. Labor Department found that less than 5,000 jobs were moved overseas in the first quarter of this year, representing less than 2 percent of the total 239,361 layoffs for the same period. Opponents of offshoring say the survey is an incomplete measure of the jobs being lost. U.S. corporations, who comprise 80 percent of global firms outsourcing IT work to India, maintain that they are primarily moving new jobs, back-office functions, or legacy operations and manufacturing work overseas. They also maintain that offshoring initiatives have not curtailed these companies from expanding operations and new hiring at home. IBM, in particular, claims to be aggressively expanding its workforce in the U.S.

The entire issue over offshoring is likely to become a heated topic in the presidential election battle as both sides look to portray different perspectives on the state of the American economy and the sensitive issue over job growth.

KEEPING IT PARTNERS HOME
For the multihousing industry, Ellipse illustrates the value of outsourcing technology needs and keeping IT partners close to home. Ellipse brings a dual expertise in multifamily business and information technology to its customers that is difficult to match. Apartment firms have specialized requirements and need solutions that are designed for the processes and tasks that define the industry.

Gaining a specialized vendor such as Ellipse creates a strategic alliance in which the customer obtains a dedicated partner and support mechanism. Contrary to some beliefs held by bean counters, having a technology partner like Ellipse can be cost-effective and, in many instances, even a greater return on a company’s investment.

Leading vendors in the industry have recognized the contributions of Ellipse and have formed relationships that integrate their products to better serve clients. Ellipse has working partnerships with RealPage, AMSI, Rentpayment.com, and BlueMoon Software (NAA Lease).

THE VALUE OF PARTNERSHIPS
“Selecting Ellipse as a preferred partner for providing customized websites and marketing consulting services was easy,” said Mike Munoz, vice president of development-property marketing systems at RealPage. “Their award-winning design and marketing development is the prefect compliment to RealPage’s CrossFire Property Marketing System. Our relationship with Ellipse will allow us to provide the best marketing, prospect capture, online leasing and resident retention system in the business.”

According to Benson, Ellipse is the only company today that can integrate services directly into RealPage. She also says Ellipse has a new integrated Website program with PropertyBoss.

Ellipse and AMSI have joined forces to offer a custom integrated website program that combines the graphic capabilities of Ellipse with the powerful revenue management tools of AMSI™ Evolution. As a result, all AMSI Evolution property management clients can create a completely interactive apartment community website program that requires no user intervention. The program supports marketing efforts, resident services and management tools.

From within Evolution, community data is transferred in and out of the community profile updating resident profiles and resident services. By keeping community websites current, negative experiences from prospects viewing outdated or incorrect information is avoided. The automated system also frees onsite managers from having to monitor and update the website and prevents their having to take time away from core property management tasks.

Another innovative product offered by Ellipse is Compliance GuardSM, a web-based reporting tool for affordable housing mortgage conformity. This application provides affordable housing property managers instant summaries of their community profile to ensure they are meeting the affordable housing occupancy standards of their bond or tax credit financing package. This time-saving tool generates all the necessary documents required for resident certification and produces all the quarterly documents required by the state of Texas TDHC.

One of the first clients of this program is Pace Realty Corporation of Dallas, which has a strong relationship with several large asset organizations.

“Not only does Compliance Guard keep all records in an organized web-based format, it streamlined our entire leasing process, allowing me to use all my team members to complete the certification process,” said Anita Hord, Director of Compliance Services, Pace Realty Corp.

THE APARTMENT TOOLBOX
No review of Ellipse would be complete without touching on its unique Apartment ToolboxSM Program. An interactive web-based application that administers clients’ websites from a single corporate location, Apartment Toolbox provides a customized, cost-effective solution for small and mid sized firms who can’t afford custom integration and development.

Using this application, clients can create an expandable intranet program remotely maintains marketing content of individual community websites or community profiles within their corporate websites. Viewed as a website within a website, end users can modify rental rates, floor plan details, resident communication and collect electronic rental applications. All functions are password protected with hierarchical management controls to maintain security and data integrity. The program easily integrates into existing corporate websites or Ellipse can create a customized corporate website to support both the management company and community portfolio leasing efforts.