Lessons Learned When Going Paperless
Even if a company can effectively sell investors, suppliers and associates on running a paperless community, challenges can pop up. Here’s how some experienced operators have dealt with four common issues.
If you’re converting from paper to electronic administration, make sure you cover the following bases:
Know the Rules of Data Storage
Before eliminating paper at its communities, Village Green had to bring in its attorneys to explain the rules of data storage, including how long the company needed to keep documents. Afterward, the firm had to decide what it should keep and what it could purge.
“We needed to determine how long we were going to store [data] and what the process was going to be,” says Diane Batayeh, Village Green’s CEO. “We had to do that homework first, and then we began the conversion.”
Look Beyond the Hassle
For Tina West, CPM, COO for Capstone Real Estate Services, and Melissa L. Smith, Chief Administrative Officer for Fogelman Management Group, the biggest pain point in going paperless was getting paper-lease files scanned, uploaded and tagged into the system at individual communities.
“The initial heavy lifting of the setup can be daunting, and scanning the files takes a lot [of work] up front,” West says. “But once you’re through that phase, you’ll reap the benefits of efficiency and a seamless process.”
Make Scanning Fun
Scanning documents is a mundane task. You could pay temporary workers to do it, but sometimes they take more time and are less accurate than regular employees.
If you want to use onsite staff, Smith suggests trying to make the activity fun. “We told each site to [have some employees] dress down and come in [just] to scan files,” Smith says. “We don’t pull them into leasing or whatever other thing’s going on in the office. We tell them to pretend like they’re on vacation.”
Destroy the Files Afterward
Once Fogelman’s staffers finished scanning documents, Smith quickly learned another valuable lesson. They still refused to give up the paper if it was around.
“Once you get those files scanned, you need to destroy them,” she says. “Then, folks [can’t] go back and forth between the online file and the paper file once the conversion is made.”