Revolutionizing Real Estate Work Flow: How Copytronics Transformed a Central Florida Realty Company31 May, 2005 By: Darrell Amy imageSource
Revolutionizing Real Estate Work Flow: How Copytronics Transformed a Central Florida Realty Company
When copier/printer dealers
think real estate, color applications have typically come to mind. After all,
real estate companies were early adopters of color. But good opportunities now
exist for such businesses to create value with document management.
As one of central Florida’s
largest real estate companies, ERA Showcase faced two major challenges common to
all real estate offices: it needed to manage a mountain of paperwork, and it
needed to improve its marketing procedures.
It’s no secret that the real
estate industry is document-intensive. There are numerous legal contracts, forms
and documents that are signed, resigned and initialed. Each real estate
transaction completed by ERA contains a total of 40-60 pages of paper, which can
quickly pile up, become overwhelming to an office and become difficult to
Additionally, ERA’s marketing
department was stuck using a single color copier. When agents needed flyers,
they had to fax a request to the marketing department. Marketing then created
the flyers and finally sent them by courier back to the agents in the various
Rich Dugan, director of
information technology for ERA Showcase, was introduced to the concept of
document management at a vendor fair at the annual ERA meeting. He began to
envision how document management could streamline his company’s paper flow
“With the amount of marketing
that we do here, it made sense to go to color in each of the offices. It also
made sense to find machines with FTP (File Transfer Protocol) capability to be
able to scan images to central locations,” Dugan explained.
Tony DeSimone, solutions
specialist for Copytronics Information Systems, a dealership based in
Jacksonville, Florida, began working with Dugan to explore solutions to ERA’s
“As I began to talk with Rich,
I realized that we could configure an integrated solution that would handle both
the company’s document storage and marketing needs,” DeSimone said. “We had to
design a solution that was cost effective and that could grow with the company.
The customer had a vision of what they wanted, and we had to find the right
products to get the job done.”
Copytronics came up with a
solution that included eight Konica Minolta BizHub C-350 color-enabled copiers,
a SentryFile (www.sentryfile.com) Web-based document management system and
Linksys (www.linksys.com) VPN (Virtual Private Network) Routers.
Copytronics began the
two-phase, one-month installation process by building a VPN for ERA. A VPN
creates a virtual network between all of its offices using an ordinary cable
modem connection and router at each office. The VPN allowed print jobs to be
sent from the marketing department to the branch offices.
Setting up a VPN is fairly
simple for an IT professional. To make it work, each office has a Linksys
Router. The routers establish a permanent link between the offices over an
ordinary Internet connection.
“A VPN was a lot less expensive
than running a dedicated T-1 line to each office,” said DeSimone, who worked on
the implementation with an IT specialist and hardware technician.
Wireless Access Points were
also installed so each office and agent could access the network. Next,
Copytronics installed networked color multifunctional systems in the branch
offices. Training times were scheduled in each office to teach agents the basic
operation of the MFP and how to print from their laptops.
The SentryFile document
management software was then established on a server at the home office.
SentryFile allows users to integrate paper documents and electronic documents
into an online filing system. File cabinets and index fields were configured and
user names and passwords were created for each agent. One branch office was
picked for the initial rollout, and six other offices eventually had the
The training for SentryFile was
conducted by the solutions specialist, DeSimone, who also took advantage of the
Internet training provided by the software company.
“SentryFile has end user
training videos on its website,” applauded Dugan of ERA. “We sent links to all
the agents so they could watch the videos. This helped everyone get up to speed
After the videos, Copytronics
used Web meeting technology to deliver additional training to the agents. Each
office logged into the Web meeting and conference call to see a live
demonstration of the software.
“This allowed us to train
everyone with minimal time commitment on their part,” DeSimone said.
The Answers to all of ERA’s
The solution provided six
immediate results to issues plaguing the real estate company.
Issue 1: Processing time
Result: Reduced from one week
to less than one day
Prior to the solution, ERA
agents would have to submit paperwork to the office coordinator in each branch
office. This paperwork was reviewed and sent by courier to the main office for
Once at the main office, the
paperwork traveled through a series of departments to be processed. For example,
a listing agreement went through the call center, marketing, audit, and website
departments. On average, this process took about one week.
With the new system, the office
coordinators can scan documents into the BizHub multifunctional systems. Using
FTP, documents are converted to PDF and sent directly to the SentryFile system
“At our customer service
center, which is the first point of data entry, we have put up dual screens,”
Dugan explained. “On one screen they have the SentryFile documents and on the
other screen they have the application they enter the data into. The entire
process takes less than 10 minutes.”
Email messages are sent to
every department responsible for reviewing the file. Before, the file had to be
handed off between departments. Now each department can access files
simultaneously, and new listings are posted to the call center, MLS (Multiple
Listing Service) and website almost instantly.
With documents hitting each
department at the same time, the process now takes less than two hours instead
of several days. This has given ERA a competitive edge in getting houses on the
Issue 2: Remote access
Result: Information accessible
from any office
ERA has 11 branch offices with
240 agents, and there are times when agents work in multiple offices.
“Our goal was to have our
agents be able to walk into any branch office and go to work like it was their
own office,” Dugan said.
To do this, each agent was
equipped with a wireless laptop and the branches were outfitted with Wireless
Access Points. Agents also have access to their documents in SentryFile. The
system’s security is configured so the agents can only view their own files.
Glenn Coutts, director of dealer development for SentryFile, has found that end
users get energized about Web-based access to documents.
“In our fast-paced,
interconnected world people simply expect to get the information they need
instantly—no matter where they are,” Coutts said. “The simplest way to do this
is with a Web application.”
For agents that do not have
access to a computer, Dugan scanned each of the key forms into the BizHub
multifunctional systems. That allows agents to walk up to the copier and print
out the form. Once the form is completed, it can be scanned to the home office
or faxed to a client.
Issue 3: Storage and
Result: Reduced storage space,
faster access and an executable retention procedure
ERA is required by law to keep
documents for at least seven years. To do this, the company used a large amount
of off site storage space.
“Keeping paper files for
thousands and thousands of transactions not only takes a lot of space, it
requires a lot of physical work,” Dugan pointed out.
The transactions had to be
retrieved from the storage area. Even though the paperwork was filed by date and
transaction number, actually going to storage and pulling a file was a
With the new document
management system, the documents were archived in digital format in SentryFile.
To ensure the integrity of the data, the system is backed up in multiple
formats—including an off site back up service.
“Currently, we are keeping
copies of the files in the branch offices,” Dugan said. “However, once we are
comfortable that the system is fully functional, we plan on destroying the paper
When it comes time to destroy
documents after their statute of limitations are expired, old documents can be
retrieved by creation date and deleted by the system administrator.
Issue 4: Audit Efficiency
Result: Instant access to
documents and file status reports
It is important that real
estate files include all of the required information. Files are constantly
audited to make sure all of the paperwork is intact. ERA regularly conducts
audits of its files and, in addition, they can be audited by the franchisor or
state regulatory agencies.
Document management speeds up
the audit process by providing instant access to files. The time involved in
actually finding and pulling a paper file is eliminated.
Dugan also collaborated with
SentryFile to write a program in Microsoft Access to generate reports based on
the status of a file. For example, the utility could pull a list of all of the
files that are in a contingent status. This allows the processing department to
get up-to-the-minute snapshots of where files are in the workflow.
Issue 5: Producing color
Result: Materials are
distributed faster to offices
ERA Showcase had purchased a
color copier for its marketing department to create flyers and marketing
materials. As mentioned earlier in the article, producing marketing materials
took numerous steps to complete.
But with color-enabled
multifunction systems in each office, the marketing department has the ability
to print materials directly to each branch office. This eliminates the time
delay and costs of the courier. Agents also receive an Adobe Acrobat PDF file of
the flyer. If agents need additional flyers, they can also be printed on demand.
The flyer can also be emailed to a potential buyer.
Issue 6: Growth
Result: New offices can come
ERA recently purchased another
real estate company. With the new document management system, integrating this
organization was simple.
During the implementation,
Copytronics configured each office with a VPN router. This device allowed the
offices to communicate over a virtual network through a DSL Internet
connection—a much more cost effective option than running dedicated data lines
to each office. Integrating the new company simply involved setting up the
router, user access codes in SentryFile and eventually installing a BizHub MFP.
“Document management is
revolutionizing the real estate industry,” Dugan said. “It gives us near instant
access to documents at remote locations that would have been sent by courier in
the past. Multiple people can view the same documents at the same time from
anywhere. All they need is a computer and the Internet.”
Copytronics is planning to
build on this success. John Williams, director of sales for the dealership,
envisions other real estate companies benefiting from this experience.
“As we gain more knowledge
about the clients’ needs in a vertical market like real estate, we become
incrementally more valuable to other potential clients,” Williams said. Added
Bob Shields, president of Copytronics: “We realized that we had a substantial
opportunity to provide bundled document management solutions to add value to our
clients. Our partnership with ERA Showcase is a great example of how we envision
this technology helping us in the future.”
Copytronics is currently
focused on educating its sales reps about vertical market applications of
document management technology.
“We expect to find additional
applications for this technology in similar industries with branch office
locations and color output needs,” remarked Williams. “Selling a color system or
a document management system is great, but when you can bundle both in one
package, that’s really exciting!”