[This month’s series features excerpts from our conversation with M-Files user Peter Uhlman, president of the Philadelphia-based Percheron Group, a commercial and residential real estate development company. Read all the excerpts].
Your company uses M-Files‘ metadata to organize and recall all its legal documents, but the metadata also alerts you to the actual content of the contracts. How does this custom workflow operate?
Uhlman: Within all of our contracts, there are dozens of separate conditions that trigger events over the lease or ownership period. Maybe we have a clause in a lease that says that every year the township inspects a property. Maybe we have to give notice or prepare an extension 60 days before a lease term ends. All these different contractual deadlines represent events for which we need to prepare. If you manage 200 or 250 properties concurrently, you can imagine the number of contractual events that keep popping up.
So as we save a new lease, we also save all its time-sensitive conditions as M-Files metadata. Our agent will fill out a Word template, but the blanks for certain dates also double as entries into M-Files metadata. The beautiful thing about M-Files is that you only have to enter this basic data once. All the blanks in the contract template – the property location, tenant name, dates of expiration, all dates of triggering events – do double duty as attributes of database fields within the document management system. We easily set up a template and database workflow like this for all our critical documents. In addition to contracts, we have templates for insurance certificates, local governmental regulations, property taxes, city inspections, and so forth.
What’s the advantage of saving future dates as metadata?
Uhlman: These calendar-related workflows give us a very powerful tool to manage this information. You can actually set M-Files up to automatically remind an employee through email as an important event approaches. I can also work with abstract reports, which I can produce on a regular basis, or on the fly whenever an issue comes up.
In an abstract report, I can type in a query of anything: for example, “which insurance certificates are set to expire in North Carolina in the next 90 days?” and M-Files instantly gives me the answer. A person who has two hours of training can set up the filter in five minutes, it’s that easy. I can export the report as a simple spreadsheet to print out. It lists properties, locations, contact numbers, whatever data fields I specify in the query. At the same time, M-Files retrieves all the relevant documentation – all the certificate forms I’m going to have to look at anyway. That’s extremely handy.
Even with the large volume of information our business has to manage, M-Files software — in a very simple and easy-to-understand method — has given us control over all of it.
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