Delivering Online Document Management to a Rapidly Growing Real Estate Company
When Shannon Berkely joined the Rabina team as an Asset Manager in February 2020, the company was in a state of rapid growth and changes, in part, due to a recent merger. From day one, Shannon identified the need for a cloud-based, online storage solution to replace the siloed hard drives and desktop folder hierarchy that had been in place for decades. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit shortly after, everyone switched to remote work (as did most of the world), and the challenges around document storage and management became more apparent. Shannon recalls, “When members of senior management or the executive team requested files, there was no easy way to get those files.”
Rabina had just started using Microsoft 365 but had only scratched the surface of implementing the powerful functionality available with the tool. Cautious of adding “too many software systems to an office that was just getting used to online technology,” Shannon sought the help of an expert in SharePoint and/or real estate document management to more fully leverage their investment in the Microsoft platform. This search quickly led to the team at Arcuity Consulting and the REALTY|share solution.
How REALTY|share can enable a growing company
Based on the challenges and pain points of the “old way” of storing documents, Rabina had several primary objectives with their REALTY|share implementation:
- Develop a central hub with a consistent hierarchy to allow documents to be uniformly labeled
- Standardize how and where files are stored
- Eliminate document duplication
- Provide an intuitive interface to allow users to quickly and easily search for and find business-critical documents from anywhere
With these objectives in mind, the Arcuity team got to work. Later named ROSS (which stands for Rabina Online Storage System), the SharePoint-based REALTY|share solution delivered three primary areas of functionality:
- Corporate Hub – A collaboration and communication space for corporate departments such as Marketing, HR, etc.
- Property Portal – A collection of sites to manage the 16+ active properties and corresponding documentation for each
- Investment Portal – A collection of sites to manage the various real estate and non-real estate investments
The Property and Investment Portals both leverage custom-built integration with Yardi (property management and accounting software) to assign critical data points to each property and investment document and reduce data replication.
Bridging the Gap to New Technology
In addition to the overall hierarchy and storage solution, the ROSS Librarian was introduced as part of this solution. ROSS Librarian provides a way for users to upload and tag documents in bulk. In the case of financial documents, for instance, Rabina receives dozens of financial statements across the different active properties each month. With ROSS Librarian, a user can upload all of those documents, tag them accordingly, and Librarian automatically sends the documents to the designated location in the designated property site. This saves users from having to go to one property site, upload and tag the document, then go to the next property site, upload and tag the document, and so on. Shannon says that “ROSS Librarian is a fantastic tool. It has proven to be really useful, really efficient, and saves a lot of time for the people who actually have to do the work of getting that documentation uploaded and organized.”
Another tool the Rabina team is very excited about is REALTY|share Desktop. “The scary thing about new technology and things like SharePoint—which is a flat file structure and is very different from the hard drives and file structures people are used to—is that there isn’t the concept of folders in folders in folders. There’s tagging and searching.” Shannon continues, “Having the REALTY|share Desktop app bridges that gap and helps people who are used to seeing everything in that way. People are very excited to have this tool.” One highlight of REALTY|share Desktop is the ability to easily search for documents based on their labels rather than the document name. While this capability is available in the web-based version of SharePoint Online, the REALTY|share Desktop app provides a more visual interface which the Rabina team finds very useful.
Summary and Next Steps
So, what does the future of ROSS look like? Future phases will enhance what’s already there. Adding features like a checklist for each property to clearly identify which documents are missing, quick links for key documents, and process automation will take the solution to the next level. As Shannon states, “All-in-all, the solution is incredible. It has so much room to grow. Moving into Phase Two and Three, we will continue molding the platform to suit our company’s needs.”
As far as the experience of designing and implementing this solution, Shannon “couldn’t say nicer things about the team. They are very inclusive and are very much about building bridges.” She continues, “When this project kicked off, I was really new to real estate and was brand new at Rabina. Anthony (Magee) took me under his wing when he found out I wanted to update all of the technology in our office. He took the time to show me different solutions that might work. [The Arcuity team] has gone above and beyond what I expected, and I assume everyone is getting the same service. It’s been a really nice process.”