Important Lessons from Realcomm’s Investment Management Panel Discussion on Trends and Challenges in Commercial Real Estate

On Thursday, June 20, at Realcomm, I was privileged to join leaders from Yardi, RealPage and Altus to discuss trends and challenges facing the real estate industry as well as explore ideas to better leverage real estate’s investments in technology.

Responding to the first question about changes since the pandemic, I reflected that the move to working from home was a seismic shift in terms of technology adoption.

Microsoft 365 had been around for quite a while, but all of a sudden everyone became adept at Teams (and Zoom). It took a little more time to realize that beyond online meetings, information needed to be accessible outside the four walls of the office. Not just data, but documents needed to be accessible as well.

Companies found that while they owned the Rolls Royce of technology platforms for back-office automation, they were leveraging this investment very poorly. The pandemic created a discontinuity for how people started working in 2020 and beyond.  Many companies used this discontinuity to enhance their leverage of the power of the tech stack they already owned.

The conversation moved to a discussion about siloed platforms (i.e., Yardi and Microsoft 365) and whether vendors and consultants were bridging the gap to leverage the power of integrated systems. The answer here is very encouraging. Yardi already has published APIs for data sharing and has done a nice job leveraging the best of both worlds with their Yardi Document Management for SharePoint (YDMS) solution that surfaces Voyager attachments in the SharePoint environment.

REALTY|share takes this a major step further by integrating with YDMS allowing us to provide our real estate customers with an all-encompassing, full featured SharePoint document management and portal solution.

But there are two bigger, almost philosophical questions here: First, how do you use the power of the tools you already own? Many companies barely scratch the surface when it comes to the capabilities of their core system — be it Yardi or MRI or RealPage etc. And, don’t get me started when it comes to the pervasive underuse of the power of the Microsoft 365 stack.

The second question: what is the right tool for what business function? For example, don’t use Excel to track your entities, that’s what Yardi is for. Our Yardi consulting partner helps our customers make sure that Yardi is the source of truth for all entity data. When it comes to processes and workflows and integrating entity data with other business functions, this is a great opportunity to take advantage of the Microsoft 365 platform – SharePoint, Power Automate, Power BI, and more.

The panel moderator picked up on this question of adoption and probed further. I reflected on how a company’s all-important documents are among real estate owners most under-appreciated assets — and treated as such.

This panel discussion really emphasized for me the fact that when it comes to document management, it’s as if the clock stopped in 1985 and 40 years later the majority of companies are still using folders to classify their critical documents. A fact that was reinforced when a recent prospect shared the details of a deal where the incorrect version of a lease cost them almost two hundred thousand dollars in a single transaction.

We who sell technology know that the pace of innovation far exceeds the pace of adoption. It might sound Darwinian, but those companies that remain stuck in the ‘80s stone age technology are going to suffer the fate of the dinosaurs.

REALTY|share Executive to Speak at Realcomm 2024 in Tampa, Florida

Showcasing Investment Management Innovations: REALTY|share to Host Live Demos and Feature Expert Presentations by Industry Leaders

ATLANTA – June 13, 2024 – REALTY|share, a leading provider of document management solutions for the real estate industry, is excited to announce its participation at Realcomm 2024, taking place from June 19-21 in Tampa. This annual event brings together the brightest minds in the real estate and technology sectors.

“We are eager to engage with our peers and share our innovative solutions at Realcomm 2024,” said Kevin Abel, Executive Director of REALTY|share. “Our presentations and live demonstrations will highlight how REALTY|share’s SharePoint solution allows real estate owners and property managers to streamline operations and enhance investment management strategies.”

Kevin Abel will also be presenting on an investment management track panel at 1:15 PM on June 20 in Room 411. The panel, titled “CRE & PropTech Experts Discuss Trends, Client Demands, and Industry Challenges,” will feature discussions on the latest trends and challenges in the real estate and technology sectors.

Jenny Whittemore, COO of Endeavor Real Estate Group in Austin and REALTY|share client, will be presenting a consolidated investment management case study analysis and industry best practices on a panel moderated by Yardi. This session will be held at 2:15 PM on June 20 in Room 411. “We are thrilled to have Jenny Whittemore share her insights and experiences,” said Abel. “Her expertise in investment management and real estate operations offers valuable perspectives for our industry.”

In addition to these insightful presentations, REALTY|share will be showcasing their latest document management solutions at Booth 2020. Attendees are invited to experience live demonstrations and learn how REALTY|share can transform their document management processes. “We’re looking forward to connecting with attendees and demonstrating the capabilities of REALTY|share,” added Abel. “Our SharePoint solutions are designed to address the unique needs of the real estate industry, and we’re excited to show how they can make a difference.”

For more information about REALTY|share and to schedule a demo at Realcomm 2024, please visit realtyshare.net.


About REALTY|share:

REALTY|share is a leading provider of document management solutions tailored for the real estate industry. By utilizing advanced technologies and industry expertise, REALTY|share helps real estate professionals leverage their investment in Microsoft 365, SharePoint and Teams to streamline their operations, improve collaboration, and enhance productivity. With a commitment to innovation and customer success, REALTY|share is dedicated to transforming the way real estate businesses manage their documents. For more information, visit realtyshare.net.

Media Contact:

Malinda Lackey

404-937-6457
Email: MalindaL@michaelmackenzie.com

Unlocking Efficiency: Understanding Metadata as Dynamic Filing

Moving off a file share network and into SharePoint involves a series of challenges along the spectrum of the purely technical to managing organizational attitudes and adoption. The latter has at its core one specific item that has potential to be a major roadblock for any cloud migration: understanding metadata as a replacement for folders. The move away from folders is already difficult on a functional level – retraining users to use search refiners and filters – but is compounded by the mental difficulty many have in truly grasping what metadata is and how it works.

Of course, we start with the definition: metadata is just “data about your data.” Metadata for our purpose is just attributes of the documents we work with, and we already engage with this every day – File Name, Date Created, Date Modified, etc. Within standard network folders, this document metadata is only relevant once you’ve already found where the document lives. Then, you can sort by name, date, etc. and most users understand the core concept of metadata. The difficulty comes in when we remove folders and shift to a flat structure fully reliant on metadata for organization.

Users are accustomed to finding files or where to save files by navigating folder labels to a specific final destination. The problem with this is that it is often many levels deep with winding paths created by labels often too specific or too vague. This is one of the most common complaints in any workplace and one that wastes enormous amounts of time when aggregated across organizations. Clicking through 6 folder levels only to not find the file you expected then necessitates going back and clicking through another potential pathway with fingers crossed – the hunt continues!

With the transition to metadata, there are no folders to guide the navigation to the file. Instead, users are expected to use sort/filter/search features to land on the documents they are looking for within a large central repository.

Ultimately, buy-in for metadata can be earned by presenting it as a method of dynamic filing. Consider the example of property management reports. These are generated on some regular cycle for a recurring set of assets. So a typical folder structure might look like Property Name –> Management Reports –> Year –> Month. This is where the file lives and in this case most users likely don’t spend a lot of time digging through ambiguous folders. However, Bill prefers to have the year prioritized, so his folders look like Management Reports –> Year –> Month –> Property Name. Any combination of these folder labels is possible and gets you to the same file, but the latter is more efficient if someone regularly reviews all the reports across properties for a particular period. However, the former is better if someone needs to compare reports or do an audit within a property (“better” here meaning fewer clicks and less time spent navigating).

The beauty of metadata is that when a file is tagged with the relevant values, it functionally lives in all combinations of that potential file path at the same time. Mind blown, right? It serves all use cases for retrieval based on the searcher’s immediate priority and is not constrained by whoever set up the initial structure 10 years ago. Need to see all February 2024 reports across the portfolio? Easy. Need to see all 2023 reports for a particular property? Just as easy. A static file path locks you into one way of organizing your files, which is only efficient for select business purposes. For others, it creates more work to now go into all the pathways to retrieve the end file for a high-level review. In many organizations, this problem is remedied by saving the file twice: once in its usual location and a second copy in some special Region Name –> Year –> Month –> {all Management Reports} consolidated folder for senior management.

A dynamic filing system built on metadata promotes efficiency, allows for one file to serve multiple purposes, eliminates the risk of creating copies for different purposes, and is responsive to all business needs on-demand. Don’t believe us? Request a demo today and let us show you what the future of filing looks like!

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.

Why You Should be Leveraging Document Sets in Your SharePoint System

Document Sets are folder-like groupings of files and a great way to improve the organization of similar documents within your SharePoint environment for many different reasons – the most important being metadata. 

Document Set Example

The ability to leverage metadata is a prominent advantage of Document Sets over the traditional folder structure because metadata makes it exponentially easier to search, store, protect, and retrieve your files. Additionally, Document Sets are very customizable so that you can tailor them exactly to fit your needs. You can choose the specific metadata you want to assign to the Document Set itself to filter down to all documents within the Set and even customize further by adding document-specific columns you want to live inside the document set. More advanced customizations include features such as adding a welcome page, incorporating workflows, and assigning specific user permissions. 

A typical use case within commercial real estate is organizing documents for Tenants. Each Tenant will have the same core set of internal documents, but utilizing Document Sets allows the user to easily create or archive Sets as needed. This can also be applied to construction projects or any other business area where the top level needs to remain flexible while maintaining the core document organization at lower levels.   As document management systems continue to advance, Document Sets are a great way to bridge the gap between classic folder structures and modern metadata organization. They introduce a cleaner, more efficient way to integrate metadata into your system and help facilitate a transition for employees in mitigating drastic change.

Ten Things I Love About Versioning

I love the way it tracks all changes, and who made what edits and where.

I love the way it’s automated, so you don’t have to care!

I love its long-term history and how it never forgets.

I love it so diligently keeping track of all digital document debts.

I love how you can compare versions side-by-side and how easy it is to restore.

I love that with a few clicks of the button, an errant set of edits is no more.*

I love it when colleagues add their notes and specify their changes,

But mostly I love that there’s only ever one file – no “final” or “final-final” – no endlessly emailed exchanges.

*Except it is! Because even versions restored over are retained in versioning history.

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 engage@realtyshare.net 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 engage@realtyshare.net 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 engage@realtyshare.net for a consultation – it’s a meeting you’ll be happy to schedule!

Written by: Yolanda Hartley