Automating an Industry: How Associated Business Systems Helped a Real Estate Giant28 Mar, 2006 By: Darrell Amy imageSource
Automating an Industry: How Associated Business Systems Helped a Real Estate Giant
documents for a corporation consisting of more than 700 salespeople spread out
among 20 offices across the Pacific Northwest can be a daunting task to the say
the least. It’s an undertaking Prudential Preferred Properties faces each and
"With literally thousands of real estate transactions per month, we operate a
very paper-heavy business," said Sean McRae, the real estate company’s IT
According to McRae, the average real estate package contains between 50-150
pages. This is due to the fact that from the time a house is listed to when a
buyer makes an offer to the closing, all of the information is documented on
Like most traditional real estate companies, Prudential would gather the
paperwork and sent it to a central processing office—in this case Portland,
Oregon. Managers in the office would gather the documents for a contract and
route the information through the organization using a combination of faxing,
outside courier services, and employees personally delivering the documents.
If you had a customer that had to tackle a similar challenge on a monthly basis,
how would you help that company manage such a massive amount of paper more
efficiently? What solution would you recommend?
As the vendor for Prudential, Associated Business Systems—a Ricoh, Kyocrea Mita
and HP dealer based in Tigard, Oregon—proposed combining the conglomerate’s
existing fleet of Ricoh multifunctional systems with an integrated document
management system from DocuWare (www.docuware.com) to automate its entire
"I saw the MFPs as the perfect platform to build an application to automate the
process," said Kevin Gullickson, a solutions specialist for Associated Business
Through a series of meetings, Gullickson and McRae formed a vision for how the
process could be facilitated using scanned images. They developed a plan to have
the sales representatives gather all of the information for each sale in
Microsoft Outlook. As a common email application, Gullickson and McRae surmised
this would help lead to rapid end user adoption.
Every time a salesperson landed a new deal, they simply created a new folder in
Outlook and dropped all of the relevant documents into the file. In order to
make this process as uncomplicated as possible for sales representatives, two
common technologies were leveraged—scan-to-email and a fax server.
Scan-to-email allowed the salespeople to use the MFP to scan documents to their
email inbox and fax numbers were configured to allow inbound faxes to be routed
to sales representatives’ email. Once in the Outlook inbox, the attachments are
dropped into the appropriate folders.
This, however, was just the beginning of Prudential’s new automated process:
1. When all of the relevant documents for a sale are gathered, the sales
representatives can drop the information into a new folder in the DocuWare
document management system. The folder is indexed with multiple fields,
including customer name, sales rep name, transaction number, and status.
2. Barcode technologies were implemented to provide each internal form with a
unique barcode. As documents are dropped into the DocuWare folder, barcode
recognition technology automatically categorizes and arranges the folder based
on the form type, meaning sales representatives do not have to be concerned
about the order of the paperwork.
3. The workflow automation component in DocuWare automatically routes these
documents to the branch administrator for review. If the administrator is
satisfied that the file is complete, DocuWare’s electronic rubber stamp is used
to mark the
4. The file is then routed to the list of pending sales at the corporate office.
Closing coordinators review the file to ensure it is complete. If it looks good,
the file is sent to the closing department.
At any stage of the process the file can be rejected and sent back for the
correct documents to be added. When branch administrators log into DocuWare they
can see a list of files that have been rejected. The sales representatives can
then be notified to gather the appropriate paperwork.
5. The closing department can either print or email the completed file in
6. After closing, the appropriate signed documents are added to the customer’s
file. The file is then assigned a status of "complete" and permanently archived.
The Bottom Line
The net result of this application is a smoother closing process. Documents are
now routed electronically through a predictable workflow. When one department is
done with a review it is instantly transmitted to the next step—cutting out the
time, expense and hassle of courier services, hand delivery and faxing.
"With the incredible volume of transactions running through this company, the
workflow module was the most appealing part of the package," McRae said. "Now
documents can flow smoothly through our internal processes and land at the
closing company complete and on time."
Additional payoffs for Prudential included:
● Simple cost savings were realized on paper and courier expenses. Increased
productivity also led to staff savings as well.
● With the streamlined workflow, transactions can be processed in less time.
This can lead to faster closings, translating into a competitive advantage for
● The DocuWare document management system also includes Internet Server, an
optional module that allows users to view documents securely over the Internet.
Sales representatives can log in from any Internet-enabled computer and view the
documents related to their transactions through Microsoft Internet Explorer.
● Real estate companies can be audited by state agencies as well as by their
franchisor, such as Prudential. These auditors want to ensure all of the files
are complete and in compliance with government regulations. Having all of the
documents securely organized in a document management system helps reduce the
risk of incomplete documentation. With the Internet access component, auditors
can be issued a temporary password and complete their work remotely.
McRae is currently working with ABS to develop electronic signature
capabilities. This would allow clients to sign electronic documents using Tablet
PCs or USB signature pads, which is similar to what you see when you check out
of most retail stores.
"We are excited about this technology," McRae said. "It is amazing what an
impact this has had on our business."
Impacting its customers’ businesses is exactly what Associated Business Systems
is always seeking to achieve, and it’s something that all dealers should try and
accomplish for that matter.
"Being able to help make a big impact in our clients’ offices is what our
solutions department is all about," Gullickson said.