ECM— more options for efficient processes and better digital experiences
Although an established and mature technology, enterprise content management (ECM) shows no lack of innovation. Not only are products being developed that are more responsive to consumer demands, but also the vision is evolving of what content management is and how it should perform. Content management is becoming more user friendly and presentation options more flexible as the requirement for omnichannel delivery becomes the norm.
FPI Management oversees multifamily properties in more than a dozen states for a wide range of clients, including institutional investors, developers, private investors and government agencies at the city, county and state level. Over a third of its business involves affordable housing, which is covered by strict criteria both for prospective tenants and for owners. To ensure compliance, FPI has contracted with a third-party auditor that reviews nearly every application.
The affordable housing process is very paper-driven since the federal agencies that FPI interacts with do not have an electronic application processes “We wanted a workflow process that would allow applicants to submit their documents securely and route them to the auditors,” says Kristin Hernandez, IT director at FPI. “Our auditors proposed various ticketing systems to upload files and track process reviews, but we didn’t think that would be the right fit for content and process management. Since the company uses the Google Suite, we thought a product that was designed to work with that platform would be a better match.”
In discussing the situation with their Google representative, Hernandez learned about AODocs, which sells a document management platform built on Google Drive. “It immediately became apparent that AODocs would meet our needs,” Hernandez says. “The workflows were easy to assemble and understand. We already had unlimited storage through our enterprise version of Google Drive.” She also appreciated the fact that the first interactions with AODocs were with technical people who helped answer complex questions.
In a typical process, a potential tenant comes into an FPI leasing office and fills out paperwork to apply for an apartment. “The package is scanned and assembled in the required order, with attachments such as W-2 forms for income verification,” Hernandez explains. “It then goes into the AODocs repository, where the leasing agent can select the kind of submission, such as a move-in or a recertification.” The submission process pulls from a Google Drive Sheet (Google’s spreadsheet) to assign the designated auditor and priority to the file for review. A dozen or so auditors review more than 3,000 submissions a month.
AODocs has expedited FPI’s work in a number of ways. Auditors key in correction codes to indicate that certain required items are missing from the packet. “The auditor codes function like a macro, so they don’t have to key in the same comments over and over again,” Hernandez says. “Also, at the end of the month, my team pulls from the AODocs databases and uses Google’s Big Query to produce a monthly invoice. Compared to our previous methods, this ability saves the audit company 70 hours a month because the invoices are generated automatically instead of being tallied from fax submissions.”
FPI’s unstructured content is stored on Google Drive, and the plan going forward is to move it to AODocs. “We see many possible implementations of AODocs,” Hernandez says. “It could be used in IT for employee access requests. There are also potential applications for tracking the financial processes used at FPI to produce monthly financials for our clients.”
AODocs was founded on the belief that the top-down approach to document management was not working. “Many document management vendors were selling to the C-suite, so there was no incentive to think about the user,” says Stéphane Donzé, founder and CEO of AODocs, “and the result was shelfware. We wanted to develop something dramatically different.”
Google had the most radical approach to allowing people to work differently, with a web-first philosophy. “We realized that there was an opportunity to build on Google Drive and add enterprise features,” he continues. “Our goal was to build something appealing that users would like, but that would also have the benefits of an enterprise document management system.”
Two of the trends moving the industry were the advent of millennials, who want work applications that are as user-friendly as their consumer applications, and the ability to buy a SaaS product with the swipe of a credit card. “Some people will leave a job if the IT environment is not user friendly,” Donzé says, “and others are willing to spend their own money to buy an application that they like better than the corporate option.” AODocs hopes to accomplish the dual goal of having contented workers and well managed enterprise content.
Over time, AODocs began developing solutions for particular industries. For manufacturing, the company developed a solution named AOQuality for managing documents related to compliance and quality control. “Although manufacturing companies in general tend to be conservative, the ones that approach us have already moved to the cloud,” Donzé says. “They want a solution that can handle their documents in the environment.” For the high-tech industry, the solution covers certification management, quality audits, corrective actions and several other processes. Organizations are recognizing that their solutions should match the work they need to accomplish. “We sell use cases, not features,” Donzé says.