Migrating your Real Estate Documents to SharePoint

Migration is a critical component of a successful SharePoint implementation.

Migration is the process of moving documents from their existing unstructured network file shares to a structured, metadata driven SharePoint implementation. Migration may not technically begin until the new SharePoint system is in place, but the planning for it should begin with the project kickoff. Planning for migration in tandem with building the system helps to facilitate a more efficient process.

To facilitate the actual file movement, we utilize ShareGate – the best-in-class industry leading product. ShareGate is a powerful tool that streamlines complex migrations with an easy-to-use interface and sophisticated mapping features. It also offers reporting capabilities for your SharePoint environment and enables you to monitor user permissions and site security.

ShareGate can be installed on a Virtual Machine (VM) or on a designated computer with remote access and is licensed on an annual basis. Current pricing can be found here, and each individual account that will use it will need a license. Unless multiple users will be migrating at the same time, most organizations only need one licensed account. We recommend creating a user account dedicated to migration.

The migration road map consists of six steps as depicted below:

The Staging through Roll-Out steps are repeated as needed to address all customer departments/business units.

REALTY|share customers benefit from a purpose-built SharePoint solution for real estate document management as well as the expertise of our consultants with tried and tested processes for migration of documents to the new REALTY|share SharePoint implementation.

Using SharePoint As a Portal For Property Data

Digital transformation concept. System engineering. Binary code. Programming.

SharePoint is a versatile platform used by companies for such business functions as document management, portals, collaboration and process automation.  While many real estate companies have discovered the deep value of SharePoint’s document management capabilities, most have not recognized how SharePoint can be used as a property portal to deliver consolidated information and data about their owned and/or managed properties.

Consider a real estate investment management firm with a diversified portfolio of seventy-five properties.  The image below shows a sample property portal page.

REALTY|share Property Portal Example

At the top of the page a multi-tab form can include any number of tabs and data fields. For example, the primary data tab might include the property name, address, legal name, EIN, block, and lot.  Another tab might have the utility company names, HVAC type, number of parking spaces.  A third tab could have loan data, and so on.

Underneath the multi-tab form the property template shows the rent roll with one line of data for each building tenant.

Adjacent to the rent roll, a property team widget shows the name, role and photo of each property team member.  When the user hovers over a team member, the system pop’s up their contact card which includes the email, phone, and other contact information.

Adding other critical property data points such as NOI, Occupancy, and TI Budget can also be included in the property portal. Most of the data presented in a portal such as the one described herein likely resides in another system.  In the real estate world this is most likely Yardi or MRI or one of the other property management and accounting systems prominent in this industry.  When building a portal such as the one described herein, it is important that this data be retrieved from these systems of record and not require managing data in two different systems.

REALTY|share is a Microsoft Office 365/SharePoint solution built exclusively for the real estate industry.  The portal capabilities of REALTY|share allow real estate professionals to have ready and easy access to important property data all in one place.

Contact us at [email protected] to learn more on how our experts can assist with your organizational property portal needs.

Should we use metadata or stick with folders in our SharePoint document management system?

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This is the most frequently asked question when I meet with clients to discuss their document management needs. The taxonomy guru in me screams USE MANAGED METADATA!!! Applying MMD to documents is the most efficient way to properly tag documents and find them down the road – plus it is just good practice.

I would love to end the conversation here, but that method is not always practical or favored.  Business users prefer saving documents in a traditional folder structure because it is the quickest way for them to save documents and move on with the rest of their workday; not to mention it has been work standard for decades!

Now there is a comparable median between metadata and folders called SharePoint Document Sets. This feature allows business users to group related documents and manage them as a single entity. For example, if a commercial real estate owner has a tenant improvement construction project, they can create a document set called “TI – Suite 260 March 2022” and associate the document set with the Tenant Name and Project Status. Now the magic here is any document you add to the document set will inherit the metadata associated to the top level “Document Set”. This allows business users to keep documents grouped like folders but managed by managed metadata.

In cases where document sets aren’t applicable, the decision between managed metadata and folders must be addressed.  There are two guiding principles that help arrive at the right approach.  Incorporating these best practices will ensure that you are setting the document management system and, more importantly, the business user, up for ultimate success.

Principle 1: Documents with a short life cycle or documents only accessed by a small group can be stored in folders.

Principle 2: Documents that will be referenced or searched in the future should be tagged with metadata.

This simple question does not have a simple answer. But if you use the principles and recommendation above and adopt them into your document management governance, then you have taken one giant step forward towards providing a well adopted system.

Contact us at [email protected] to learn more on how our experts can assist with your organizational document management needs.

Zero Email – Too Good To Be True?

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Increasingly over the past decade, a major pain point in modern offices has been encapsulated in the phrase “This meeting could have been an email.” So much so that it’s earned a permanent place within the meme universe and is regularly included in the newest formats. It’s an issue worth addressing.

The driving sentiment being that interrupting people’s day to corral them into a conference room to review or present information that could have been summarized in a written memo is both inefficient and, honestly, a bit irritating. It is an artifact work of previous ways of doing when communication was limited and gathering everyone together was more efficient than physically distributing memos. As our workplaces continue to modernize – and especially with the rise of working from home due to COVID – this pain point is evolving to “This email could have been a Teams message.”

Ok, so maybe true zero is too good to be true, but zero internal email is an achievable goal within the Microsoft 365 environment. In the current era of instant messaging on pretty much every platform, small tasks like getting project status updates, requesting feedback on draft materials, or even just coordinating happy hour plans feel unnecessarily burdensome via email. This is especially important for those of us who file emails and see a clean inbox as a daily goal, but I would argue that everyone benefits from a less cluttered inbox.

The Microsoft ecosystem includes numerous features that make these enhancements seamless.

  • Teams interactions can be one-to-one messages with specific coworkers, group chats, or channel-wide posts. The ability to notify an entire channel or just tag specific team members helps elicit attention from the relevant people instead of having everyone tag along on a never-ending “reply all” chain.
  • Microsoft Planner allows users to assign tasks, comment on the task, and track progress throughout a project all within the project itself – no pesky update meetings or emails!
  • Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents can be collaboratively edited within Teams or their respective desktop apps without having to send drafts or comments back and forth via email.
  • Emails can be sent from Outlook to Teams for an internal discussion outside of the thread before responding to the external party. It’s also a great way to retain records of conversations without having to dig up dozens of emails later as the replies are all consolidated underneath the original post. 
  • Power App automation eliminates repetitive and tedious tasks and streamlines requests and approvals.
  • SharePoint documents can be shared directly eliminating the need to email draft versions back and forth.
  • And more!

All of these features are incorporated within the REALTY|share solution and add a whole new dimension of business transformation and efficiency to the workplace.

Many organizations pay the Microsoft licensing costs to just use Outlook and Office without really understanding the wealth of broader capabilities that are included. You might be surprised to learn how much of your organization’s internal operations can be consolidated with tools already at your fingertips. We’re here to help you maximize your investment in existing resources. Contact us at [email protected] for a consultation – it’s a meeting you’ll be happy to schedule!

Written by: Yolanda Hartley

SharePoint or Teams — Which is Better for CRE Document Management?

RealtyShare - Teams and SharePoint

The biggest question I receive from the CRE industry regarding document management is ” Should we work in SharePoint or Teams?”. The simple answer is BOTH, but it does depend on the classification status of the documents being stored. Having worked within this industry for almost a decade and being responsible for implementing several document management systems, I believe in the  Short Term to Permanent Document Management Archetype. The minority of your documents will be classified as “work in progress documents” that will eventually move into a permanent home inside of Microsoft365 (M365) by the end of its life cycle. Nine times out of ten, the document management process for this methodology should start in Microsoft Teams unless the document received or migrated is already classified as permanent. However, working with work in progress documents inside of Teams allows organizations to collaborate and file share on a focused topic while filing these items in a lax structure. Once these documents move through the doc mgmt. life cycle, they will transition from short-term to a permanent document classification. This is when the documents should be moved and stored inside of SharePoint. Here, you can manage a more sophisticated permission structure as well as save documents based on your taxonomy. You’ll also be empowering the organization to quickly search, sort, filter, and refine on those values.

Now that our short-term documents have made their way to SharePoint with a permanent classification, what do we do with the remaining documents still in Teams? Well, the good news is you don’t have to do anything! The secret – Teams is SharePoint! When you save documents inside of Teams, it’s saving those documents inside of a SharePoint site. This means the organization will still be able to search and find these documents if needed for future reference.

Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] , and see first-hand how REALTY|share and our Short-Term to Permanent Document Management Archetype can equip your real estate professionals to work efficiently and effectively in the cloud.

DATA, DATA, DATA — Realcomm 2021

Realcomm 2021

One of my favorite times of year has come and gone. A space where we were able to converse, be educated, and learn all in the name of Real Estate and Technology. Where was this symbiotic event, you ask? Of course it was the only place to be if you are in real estate: Realcomm|iBcon2021 in Scottsdale, AZ at the beautiful Westin Kierkland Resort in the Sonoran Desert.  The theme for this year’s conference was “REsilience – Using Technology and Innovation to Navigate an Ever-Changing World”. The conference name is fitting because 2021 has had all of us learning how to navigate a new way of life and having to juggle business and family. First- let’s give RealComm their much deserved flowers! The conference layout at the Westin and the meticulously planned agenda was innovative in itself. The equally useful indoor and outdoor areas created an intimate but functional space that allowed everyone to feel safe and comfortable for the in-person event . On top of that, there was the alluring synergy between attendees and vendors. This not only sparked savvy conversations that weren’t solely focused on the “Sale” (I mean they do say “Always be closing” ), but it capitalized on the opportunity to network and learn from attendee to vendor but also vendor to vendor. 

Data was the hot topic, from how to house it, to how to visualize and analyze it to make better informed business decisions.  One session, “Data and Advance Analytics: Taking the Organization to New Heights”  that was presented by Justin Segal of Boxer Property, stuck out in my mind.  Justin talked about the critical importance of having a “single source of truth” when it comes to master data about your properties.  

In reality many real estate companies don’t have a data warehouse or central source for master data accessible to all systems across the organization.  For companies that implement a SharePoint based solution for property portals and document management, the SharePoint Property Master Data List becomes a starting point for this “single source of truth”.  Arcuity’s REALTY|share includes a Property Master Data List and has helped our customers take the important first step towards presenting consolidated property information via a central, universally accessible portal.

Remove the Burden of Entering Metadata from SharePoint Business Users

Making Business Easier

True document management solutions like SharePoint replace the familiar network share and its file tree structure with a system of document libraries and metadata. The challenge to a successful deployment of SharePoint is finding the balance between implementing a well-structured metadata taxonomy and the natural resistance of business users to entering metadata each time they save a new document. This demo shows you how REALTY|share elegantly addresses this challenge.

Moving to a Property-Centric Document Structure

The real estate industry is document-heavy. Professionals across the organization must create, store, edit and consume documents as part of their daily work.

The document folder structure (“file tree” or “document tree”) that houses a real estate company’s files is most likely the result of an ad-hoc accumulation of structures created by individual departments or job functions. Everyone had their own tree at one point and then all the trees got consolidated. There’s a development tree, a property management tree, a legal tree, an accounting tree, an asset management tree. You get the point. Every tree has its own breakdown by property or asset. And documents are duplicated across these various structures. Not to mention twenty versions of the same document. Does this file name look familiar? “VenturaPlaceBusinessPlanV_34.3.xlsx”

More and more, when I talk to real estate company professionals, I hear that they’re revisiting their document folder structure. They need a better way to manage their information that is so critical to how they do business. And when they revisit their file tree, they’re likely moving toward a “property-centric” organizational structure rather than the department or business function orientation of the past.

In this property-centric structure, no longer does the business unit own and control their documents within their silo. Now the organization as a whole accesses documents for a property across all business functions. Certainly security is still applied as needed (only certain roles should have access to legal documents, for example). But the governance and control of the structure for all documents is centrally maintained, and business users across the organization can count on consistent document organization across all properties within the portfolio.

With our REALTY|share Office 365/SharePoint solution for real estate document management and collaboration, Arcuity has been helping real estate companies move to a property-centric document folder structure and a document management solution that allows the business to efficiently and confidently manage and access the information they need to get their jobs done.

Visit https://realtyshare.net/request-demo/ to sign up for a short demo.

Quickly File Documents from a Central Location into Your REALTY|share Property Site

R|s Librarian

The REALTY|share Librarian empowers users to file documents from a central location and store those documents at the selected property site or sites. The Librarian will improve your Acquisitions Team “Property Closing” process by quickly and effectively filing documents in the selected library for a property with the required metadata fields, while making tax season a smooth breeze for your organization’s Accounting Department. For any questions on our new REALTY|share Librarian feature or REALTY|share document management system please click here.

Yardi Data Available Via Your SharePoint Portal

Consolidate Financial and Occupancy Data from Yardi, MRI, and Other Systems

Due to the COVID Year, real estate owners and owner/operators are leveraging their investment in the Microsoft platform more than ever before. Microsoft Teams has become the standard for conferencing and collaborating. And SharePoint is finally being recognized for the powerful portal and document management platform that it has been for years.

Companies that have gotten their feet wet with SharePoint as a corporate and property portal are learning about what’s “under the hood” and how this platform can help them make critical data available across the organization in a seamless yet secure manner.

Many of our customers are either Yardi or MRI shops. We are able to help them surface data from these systems via their SharePoint portal. Examples include property financial data, occupancy data, vendor information, and tenant rolls. 

Most employees don’t have easy access to Yardi or know how best to access the information they need to get the job done. The days of requesting pdf (or dare we admit, paper) copies of common property reports should be a thing of the past. 

If your company licenses Microsoft Office 365 (and the vast majority of real estate companies do), please fill out this form so we can discuss how Arcuity can help you quickly and efficiently make property data and documents available via your corporate portal.