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.

Moving to a Property-Centric Document Structure for Real Estate

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.

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?


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?


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

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 engage@arcuityconsulting.com , 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.