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

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.

Use SharePoint Without Ever Having to Open Your Browser

Store and tag documents quickly into SharePoint Online while leveraging REALTY|share Desktop. Our tool integrates SharePoint with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and Adobe (PDF) and includes a “Windows-like” File Explorer for a complete document and email management solution.

Use Microsoft Teams to Collaborate on Documents and Store Final Version in SharePoint Repository

Microsoft Teams

In today’s environment working remotely is a key factor to success and Microsoft 365 and Teams has answered the call to help enhance and streamline collaboration. In this video the REALTY|share team shows you how quick, effective , and easy it is to collaborate with your team members inside of the REALTY|share platform, the industry’s only Office 365/SharePoint document management and portal solution exclusively built for real estate companies.

Arcuity to Exhibit at Realcomm 2018; Demonstrate Innovative Real Estate Process Management Solution, REALTY|share

REALTY|share was designed and developed to empower real estate firms by providing
invaluable order, efficiency, and insight for their real estate operations.

Alpharetta, GA, May 31, 2018— Arcuity, Atlanta’s only firm delivering value-focused workflow and process efficiency accelerators for the SharePoint platform, today announced it will be an exhibitor at Realcomm 2018, where it will be demonstrating its revolutionary REALTY|share business accelerator.

REALTY|share is a secure, comprehensive real estate process, content management and collaboration framework built on Office 365 and SharePoint and powered by Nintex workflows. It helps firms gain management and oversight of real estate resources while keeping clients, partners and investors up to speed.

“Commercial real estate firms are under the gun not only to maintain and manage their portfolios efficiently but also to satisfy the demands of investors, partners and clients,” said David Hammond, president of Abel Solutions. “REALTY|share is proven to be 100% successful in helping real estate companies painlessly streamline their processes—from organizing and accessing resources internally to providing updates and insights through a feature-rich information portal.”

REALTY|share Highlights:

  • Organize documents securely across deals, with version management to eliminate duplicates.
  • Track checklists and deal-related action items, from due diligence and construction checklists to tax returns, investor reports and other deliverables.
  • Access content in the office or remotely, via browser, desktop or mobile device.
  • Manage and track contacts and contact activity—investors, properties and more.
  • Locate documents easily with Google-like search functions.
  • Securely share any document—and other information—with third parties: investors, lawyers, contractors and architects.
  • Extract and organize key metrics to view powerful insights about properties and their activities through dashboards, reports and scorecards.

Realcomm 2018 attendees can visit Abel Solutions and view REALTY|share demonstrations in booth #915.

Incorporating External Data in your Real Estate Management System

During the course of implementing one of our Business Solution Accelerators, REALTY|Share (a Real Estate Management portal based upon SharePoint or Office 365), for many of our clients we have been introduced to many business philosophy models within the real estate/property development industry. We’ve learned from our customers that our Business Solution Accelerator addresses the majority of their needs regarding their processes. Customers leverage REALTY|Share’s core functionality of property sites, Contact Management Module, My RE Portal, and our custom search center to handle document management and track property projects from a pursuit down to lease-up and disposal.

Even though philosophies are different from business to business, the hot item that remains consistent is the need to consume data from external systems, such as the financial data stored within the Real Estate industry standard systems such as MRI and Yardi, and display financial data as well as route documents from these sources into our real estate management system. By working with our partners, we have been able to provide a solution to answer that need.

We understand most Real Estate development projects start in one of these industry standard solutions, and when a project is created, each project is assigned an entity or project ID within the system. Real Estate developers can then associate other data points depending on the company operational guideline (such as property name, property address, property type, and square footage). To ensure our Solution Accelerator is easy to use and will be well received by end-users, we implemented functionality that connects to the external data source to retrieve those values and syncs them to REALTY|Share.

So why is this important? What value is this for my company? The answer is that now when you create new properties, you no longer need to maintain two systems. As you update your source of truth in your external system (such as MRI and Yardi in the case of many of our Real Estate clients), the changes you make there will be pushed down to your property sites within REALTY|Share. This function keeps data consistent between your industry-standard system and your document management system.

Now that your property financial data is stored within your intranet system and synced to receive updates/changes, you can start getting even more value from that data. Everything is housed in O365 and can be leveraged by the Microsoft tools such as Power BI. Power BI will give you the power to transform and display your data with graphical charts and dashboards, giving your executives a real-time snapshot of where the company currently is and how the company is trending.

We understand companies leverage multiple software solutions in their everyday work to get their jobs done. But working within REALTY|Share gives your team a single platform that offers the capacity for both tracking data and managing documents. Merging these two components into one platform allows your end users to effectively work within one portal instead of jumping back and forth in between systems, thus enabling them to work more efficiently.

This tip written by Abel Solutions Senior SharePoint Consultant and Solution Accelerator Manager Anthony Magee.