Document Management: The New Filing Cabinet

The problem with filing cabinets is, they are just not portable. People, however, are extremely mobile. In a service- and information-based economy, businesspeople need information to travel with them.Thus, TractManager Inc. developed and manages PropertyTract, a superpowered virtual filing cabinet. Clients store their files on PropertyTract servers under lock and key–or rather, username and password. Pivotal to the product’s usefulness, however, are TractManager’s patents for key-word searching and electronic tables of contents.Here is how it works: A new client provides TractManager with a pile of documents. The software company scans them and builds a database to the user’s needs. The software’s optical character recognition essentially retypes each document for use by the search function and also creates an electronic table of contents. Users can maintain multiple databases according to their needs, including lease administration, contract management, building management and due diligence.A user simply accesses their account through the Internet and drills down through their database’s hierarchy or searches for key words to pull up needed documents. Clients can control who can read and who can manage specific documents and can even allow third parties direct access to particular information, as the software allows unlimited users. Its focus on document security arose with TractManager’s original product, MediTract, which introduced electronic document management to the healthcare industry.Additionally, the software can deliver e-mail notifications that link to relevant documents for action items like lease expirations or payment deadlines. The model also allows comparison shopping within a portfolio of buildings. An office owner, for example, can compare cleaning-service payments to see which buildings are paying out more than necessary.PropertyTract charges nothing to scan documents and build databases, instead charging a monthly fee based on the volume of files a user is storing and the relationships among the files.All of this ultimately adds up to cost savings, according to TractManager chairman & CEO Tom Rizk. “Reducing operating costs is really going to matter at a time when not much else is going on,” he said. “The ability to act quickly depends on this kind of technology.”Such was the motivation when Onyx Equities L.L.C. began working with PropertyTract a few years ago. The real estate investment and property management firm—which owns 3.5 million square feet of office, retail and industrial properties in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida—was seeking an intranet system to replace its in-office paper filing system and the servers that hosted relevant image files. “We needed to centralize files without taking up a large footprint,” said Onyx CFO Sam Giordano, who knew Rizk from Rizk’s time as CEO of Mack-Cali Realty Corp.TractManager’s project was still in the early stages, and Onyx served as a kind of beta tester for the software. Onyx now maintains 12 databases through PropertyTract, serving such areas as leasing, operating contracts, contract management and files like loan documents and tax returns. It even set up a new database early this month for internal policies and procedures files, storing software user manuals as well as internal procedure logs.So how does a user actually work with the software? For a brokerage transaction, for example, Onyx can load related correspondence, a letter of intent, the lease and commission invoices. The company then sets up e-mail reminders for, say, commission payments, and it could search elsewhere in the database for leases involving the same tenant.For development projects, Onyx uploads files involving construction loans, contractors, applications for payment and other agreements, including sales records for its condominium projects.Onyx now locks up hard copies of such documentation and uses its PropertyTract databases to transfer documents to buyers when it sells a building. The company can even grant access to auditors, immensely reducing the amount of time an auditor would have to spend on site, Giordano said.