A B.C.-based property management company is preparing to roll out an enterprise content management system that will let managers pay suppliers faster and get information to customers much more quickly.
Baywest Property Management Services has already started running about 10 per cent of its invoices through EMC’s Documentum product and will be scaling the implementation over the next several months. A second phase, which will focus on the many forms Baywest offers to potential property owners, will launch next month.
Based in Surrey, Baywest employs more than 100 people and processes about 70,000 invoices for more than 6,000 vendors. Besides Documentum, the company is using EMC’s Captiva InputAccel for data capturing purposes.
David Meredith, Baywest’s information systems developer, said the company has traditionally managed content on a common file server. An application in Captiva called Dispatcher will now use intelligent document recognition to automatically determine the template of a file based on graphic features, text or keywords. This helped Baywest to centralize its invoicing into a single location from four, and eliminate the need to route documents back and forth about all the 550 properties it manages.
Many of the vendors Baywest deals with, such as leasing companies, are small, Meredith said. That’s why he created an Excel spreadsheet with a standard invoice template to help them streamline their processes. Baywest is also urging vendors to consider using fax or e-mail instead of surface mail, since much of the front-end work involves manually scanning invoices into the system.
“I don’t see us strong-arming people on this, but I when people are e-mailing or faxing, we can give them better response time. We can pay them faster.”
Once invoices are entered into Captiva, they are exported into Documentum, routed to a building manager for approval, and sent to the accounts payable department. Meredith said his team has built a program from scratch, which they call WorkPoint, which will act as a front-end to the process before content is exported to the accounting database.
“It’s a tool for viewing and editing metadata within a unified framework that really allows our managers to interact with the workflow items in a meaningful way,” he said. “We’ve made it flexible enough for any workflow item. You can edit in Word, and soon you’ll be able to edit in Excel.”
Forrester Research analyst Kyle McNabb said such customization is typical in many enterprise content management (ECM) projects, but it isn’t always necessary.
“A lot of organizations over-engineer the workflow,” he said. “There are tools that you can get from a lot of vendors which have matured to the point that they’re fairly powerful. That power and flexibility can intimidate an IT implementation team.”
Managing forms is part of the “grand finale” of the project, Meredith said.
“We’re legally required to provide certain documents to potential owners – mortgages, leans on the property, as well as bylaws, rules, engineering reports,” he said. “Keeping track of all these documents and making sure on the forms side that none of these things slipped through the cracks is a big job.”
The project lay dormant for the first year, Meredith said, because there was only one IT person at the time who was managing the accounting database. There is now a team of two people working on Documentum full time. The second year was mostly spending migrating users out of the old file server environment. Now the focus is on establishing a unified folder structure, naming conventions and the reporting structure, he said.
“It’s going pretty well,” he said. “We just need to take a few steps and tweaks to make (the system) faster and bring more efficiency.”
McNabb said EMC’s Documentum was probably the second-largest vendor in the enterprise content management space, after IBM.