Workflow Automation Software

A Life Lesson – Sharing is Good

A Life Lesson - Sharing is GoodWhat are the needs of your employees to share documents with people outside of your company? They might share documents with customers, business partners, vendors, lawyers, bankers, government agencies and many other outside parties.

Your users want this to be easy – write an email, attach a document or two and hit send. Your executives want to make sure that the process is efficient, but also meets security and confidentiality requirements. The CIO doesn’t want the network to crash or the email system to bog down.

Companies that are using a shared network drive for document management can expect basic sharing to be easy for users (provided they can find the files they are looking for). Users will attach the files to an email, copy the files to a thumb drive or push the files to the cloud. There is generally limited security over this method as a user would be allowed to copy any files they have access to. Also, there is no log entry that the copying took place or where the files went, except in the case of an email.

For companies that use a document management system, the concerns about access and logging typically are met by the application. However, there are other issues that might complicate matters for users. For instance, the system most likely requires a user account be created. That adds more complexity as security rights need to be configured and the recipient now must take some action. If the document management system is not web based, this process is generally not practicable. Even if it is feasible, there is hesitation about letting an outside user into the system because the user may not be fully knowledgeable about the effectiveness of the security.

Why is this an issue? Because no company lives in a vacuum. Information needs to be shared.  Your document management system should provide as many options for sharing as possible. Emailing a document is a must.  But file size can make this impractical.  Most users will not want or have the ability to create a DVD or copy to a thumb drive. Posting the files to a third party system, while easy, may create compliance and security issues.  Requiring the user to set up an account may be overly burdensome or unwanted.

A system that can allow, but track emails to outside users is good. A system that can assemble a set of documents in an organized structure for posting to an online account or for copying to a thumb drive is good.  A system that can send a link to the files that are retained in your current system and track the usage all without a username and password, is very good. A balance between ease of use and security should be the goal. When implementing a document management system, think about the security needs for outside users, there will be outside users.

Getting to Easy Is Hard

Getting to Easy Is HardOne goal of digital workflow is to simplify a process, to make it easier. To someone intimately involved in a longstanding business process, that process probably appears to be simple. Years of repetition and a history of managing the inevitable “twist” in the process or “rare” occurrence has resulted in it being perceived as easy. It’s only when there is a need to document the process that all eyes are opened to the actual complex process and the challenges ahead.

It’s not only the effort of understanding the true process that can be difficult, it is also designing a workflow process that isn’t more complicated and costly than the old way.  A poorly designed process could solve one issue extremely well, but over complicate two others. The good news is that there are technology tools available today that are flexible enough to achieve the desired result and with some hard prep work, you can get to easy.

Before designing a digital workflow process to replace a paper based process, here are some critical areas to understand.

  1. What is the actual goal of the entire process? Ask the beneficiary of the end result of the process, the reader of the report, the spender of the money, etc – What do you really need this end result for?
  2. What is the actual process? Go through each step in the process to determine what happens and be sure to understand what happens in all scenarios.
  3. Why is each step necessary? Ask this question for every step. Why is it necessary and is there a better way? It might be that there were no options in a paper based world.
  4. What other opportunities arise when a process becomes digital? Look upstream and downstream. Upstream might mean that you can positively influence a front line department – faster invoicing, better pricing, etc. Downstream effects could be that you can modify your vendor relationships to make them more efficient and cost effect.
  5. After the process is understood in depth, create a technology requirements document. Will the workflow system need to be web based? What other systems does it need to integrate with? Is it expandable?
  6. What is the capacity of the workflow participants from a technology and skills standpoint to perform their steps in the process? Can they use digital signatures? Do they have desktop scanners? Are they able to use dual monitors?
  7. Lastly, do a cost benefit. If the prior analysis is all completed, you should have the inputs for the cost benefit.

Remember also that the new process will also likely be in place for many, many years and if done correctly, it will return tremendous benefits to the company – well worth the hard work.

We’ve Come a Long Way, Because of You

We've Come a Long Way, Because of YouSeventeen years is a long time. That is how long Millennia Group has participated in the Realcomm trade show. Realcomm is a trade show dedicated to the advancement of technology for the commercial real estate industry.

Millennia Group was there from the very beginning and in fact, like technology for the commercial real estate industry, Millennia has advanced too.  Seventeen years ago, we were at the show promoting our document scanning services.  At the time, that was the full breadth of our “solution.” Two weeks ago, we had a booth at the most recent show in San Antonio and we were there talking to people about our cloud based workflow application.  Our “solution” has advanced quite a bit.

At the first show, I was fortunate enough to get a one hour presentation opportunity, but that was only because the scheduled speaker called in sick about 20 minutes before the session. We laugh about that to this day because I had nothing prepared and just winged it for an hour. It actually directly lead to Millennia Group gaining two significant new clients – Thank You Realcomm.

I don’t have the video from that first show, but there is a short interview that I did at this years show. Please take a look to get an update on how far we have come and where we are headed:

Millennia Group is advancing because the needs of our customers are advancing.  Whether you are in the commercial real estate industry or any industry that could benefit from an automated process or better access to documents, Millennia Group is advancing to help you.

Michael Cipriano, President and Co-founder of Millennia Group.

For more information, contact us at, (630) 279-0577

There is Not a Single Piece of Paper in This Document Warehouse

One of the main industries that Millennia Group supports is the commercial real estate industry. I am sure that this industry shares traits with many other industries in terms of technology solutions, things like single sign-on requirements, transitioning to cloud based email and new uses for CRM.

Another area that all industries have in common, and it is not a new problem, is called “silos of data.” This is a situation where different sets of data reside in different applications or locations. The problem is that sometimes you need data from several of these “silos” to solve a problem or answer a question and the silos don’t always talk. The answer to this problem has been the proliferation of data warehouses or business intelligence applications. These applications aggregate copies of data from many other applications into the warehouse and allow searching and slicing and dicing of data to get answers.

However, data can include more than just transaction data or customer data. Data can include documents, but documents are not always part of a business intelligence or data warehouse solution. Documents, and we are talking about digital documents that have been scanned or created electronically, also need a warehouse so that the information in or about those documents can be shared with other applications.

But rather than just copy documents from other repositories to allow searches, it makes sense to us to just have a single repository of the documents that other applications pull from. We have been calling this the “Hub” concept for years now. A Hub of digital documents that link to other systems because of a common bit of data. When you are working in a CRM and you pull up a customer record, it automatically would display a list of the contract documents associated with that client. The same list of documents for that client would be available from within the accounting system and of course the contract management system.

This “Hub” concept is really a data warehouse or as Glenn Murray of Hypercept called it several years ago, a “Document Warehouse.” This concept will require integration effort, but the trend is to make data accessible where it needs to be so that users can make the best decisions possible.

If you are interested in learning more about the Document Warehouse concept, please email me at

Business Continuity Makes Sense

Business Continuity Makes SenseHere are some key statements that jumped out at me during a recent presentation that I attended on business continuity planning:

  • A disaster recovery plan is not a business continuity plan
  • You don’t need to be a “doomsday theorist” to justify having a plan
  • Senior executives are onboard

All of the information presented was informative and useful, but these points grabbed my attention so here is a summary.

A disaster recovery plan (“DR”) is typically focused on getting systems back up and running from a short term disruption like a power or internet outage or a server failure. Business continuity (“BC”) on the other hand is a more comprehensive plan to survive not only short term disruptions but also catastrophic and protracted business interruptions. A BC plan hopefully will help your company survive a few weeks or months without power to a key facility or access to an office in the event of a fire. A BC plan will also include a plan to protect your employees in case of a dangerous event or shield your company in a negative media situation.

The justification for having a plan is fairly easy. Damaging storms have been occurring at an increasing rate in parts of the country. Cyber-attacks are real and very damaging. Internal mischief is more common than ever. Intended or unintended negative media leaks can happen in the blink of an eye.

Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures (MAD for Short) Are Keeping IT Up at Night

Mergers, Acquisitions and Divestitures

There seems to be a growing number of transactions happening in the business world. Heinz to buy Kraft, Sears to spin off properties to a REIT, Walgreens merges with Boots Alliance. These transactions all have consultants, investment bankers, appraisers, lawyers and many other people working to get the transaction completed. Two additional groups involved in these transactions are also very important, the internal IT department and their vendors.

There was a time not too long ago when the only electronic information transferred was the accounting system. That was challenging enough what with potentially different systems, formats or chart of accounts. Now include the ERP, CRM, ECM, DM and of course the file servers or cloud storage. Yes, the IT department is very busy when transactions occur and that in turn means their vendors are busy too.

Ideally the data can be normalized and merged into the chosen system without much headache. That involves looking at the formats, data mapping, analyzing configured business processes, selecting the users to be transferred, understanding the security and many other factors. Unfortunately, the reality is that the process is an extremely challenging one. Part of the reason is the vast quantity of data that needs to be transferred. Just dealing with the number of records and file size of all the data is complicated. Actually making sense of that data and making two completely different companies data look the same is like climbing Mount Everest.

The IT department needs to work closely with its vendors to find the most efficient way to migrate the data, either in or out. Timing is critical also, as the business doesn’t take a break while the migration occurs. That means cutoff dates need to be established and gap analysis performed to ensure nothing is missed from the cutoff date to the migration date. Don’t forget that someone needs to approve of exactly what is being transferred.

We have participated in many data migrations as a result of transactions. It is challenging work but very rewarding when we can take what appears to be a hornets nest and turn it into well organized, easily accessible information. It takes lots of effort from the seller’s team, the buyer’s team and the vendor to make it work. It can include technology solutions to help migrate the data, but it will invariably take human intervention. Plan for it, manage it, verify it and you will be happy with the outcome.

Millennia Group is a sponsor for the upcoming Real Estate and Bank General Counsel conference in Chicago on May 7th – Michael Cipriano will be on a panel discussing REIT Spin Offs.

For more information on Millennia Group, please go to or email us at

Wedded Bliss

Wedding Bliss

Over the past decade, Millennia Group has been involved in many large real estate developments around the country. We support the developer’s construction loan funding process. The simple explanation is that we help gather, organize and submit a digital copy of all the documentation that the bank requires before funding each construction loan draw request. These requests typically occur monthly.

The actual process is far more complicated and in fact is a marriage of documentation and data. This process happens to be one of the best examples of how document scanning married with data creates an incredibly powerful tool. In fact this should be the number one rule in document scanning.

In the construction loan funding example, the power comes from matching each scanned invoice to the correct construction budget line item. Being able to see the budget for each draw request and then immediately drill down to the supporting invoices is very powerful.

Other common examples of this marriage of data and documents include; lease documents tied to the building and tenant list, vendor contracts tied to the vendor list, employee files tied to the employee list and engineering drawings tied to the project list. When the documents are tied to the source list, searches are enhanced by the availability of additional data in the list and documents don’t get lost due to spelling errors or naming issues.

If you include the tenant name, square footage and lease end date in a tenant list, that information becomes searchable. When lease documents are searchable by the tenant list, the search can find all documents for tenants with greater than 5,000 square feet or leases for all tenants expiring in the next 90 days. Having this marriage also allows you to look for exceptions. Do you have documents for every employee in the list? Very powerful.

We always recommend that a scanning project include a marriage of documents and data and all document imaging systems should maintain this data relationship at all times. The data relationship also ensures that new documents added to the system match known data. As an example, you cannot add a vendor contract for a name that is not in the approved vendor list. Either the list is out of date or the vendor name in the contract doesn’t match the name in your source system. This data matching relationship will help keep your documents organized and a trusted system of record.

If your company has difficulty finding your scanned documents, please contact us, we can help.

ECM, EDMS, Imaging System, Cloud Storage – Which One?

ECM, EDMS, Imaging System, Cloud Storage - Which One?

Where you store your documents and electronic files is as much a function of what the file is as how that file is used. And like everything else in this world of abundance, there are many choices. There are electronic content management systems (“ECM”), electronic document management systems (“EDMS”), Imaging Systems and vast Cloud storage. In addition to these purpose built applications, most line of business applications also support document attachments. So which one is the best one to use?

Maybe the best place to start is to look at what the file is and how it is used and then look at the options for storing it. And by “it” we mean electronic files like spreadsheets, documents, photos, logos, images, etc.

Spreadsheets and word processor files are generally what are called active files because they are in the creation or manipulation stage. This applies to CAD and other drawing type files also. These files need to be actively tracked and version control is the most important aspect because there may be multiple contributors and many edits. The storage system has to efficiently and effectively manage those aspects so that the correct version is used. A slight variation of this is when access to the files is through an automated connection to another system.

When that spreadsheet becomes final or that document is printed and executed or the digital signature is put in place, then these documents become archival. An archival document needs to be organized well with security that permits approved access and the end user has to know that it is a document that can be relied on as Final. Fast access is important and so is the confidence that all relevant information was found when searching. Therefore, powerful search capabilities are important as is the ability to share those documents internally and externally.

As for the application type, here is a brief summary of the common focus of each one. The ECM has a particular focus on supporting web sites and organizing web content so that the appropriate and current information is posted. Think of the thousands of image files and descriptions used to host an online store catalog. Constant updates and additions being pushed to another application. That is the function of an ECM. ECM systems can be limited in their imaging capabilities and workflow functionality.

An EDMS tends to focus on active, in process documents like the creation of contracts, spreadsheets, drawings and many of the files that you might find on your local hard drive. These active documents require that users are aware and using the most current version as they make edits or want to pull the execution copy. There are controls over inputs that require users to specify the version and lock or unlock access to a document for other users. EDMS has a tendency to be feature rich which results in user confusion and frustration.

An imaging system of course focuses on storing the executed version of a document or the historical copy. Invoices are still primarily generated as paper copies and need to be scanned to enter a workflow or for building an accessible archive. An imaging system needs to focus on ease of capture and ease of access with powerful search and retrieval functions. An imaging system can become a silo of critical documents disconnected from related documents and information.

Cloud based storage is easily accessible, easily configurable online storage for files. The beauty of Cloud storage is generally that it is inexpensive and easy to get information in. In those respects it is not much different from locally hosted shared drive storage. The downside is that “easy in” generally means that it can quickly become unorganized and difficult to find information and security can be difficult to implement.

The ideal solution would be a system that does it all and does it well. We may get there some day, but as with anything that attempts to be all things to all people, it ends up being marginal at everything. The best solution is to find the application that best serves the most critical need. Other needs might function adequately within that application. An outside application can be used and integrated so you get the best of both worlds. EDMS and Imaging systems function extremely well together. One side of the house is usually producing all of the active documents while another side is focused on using the archive to manage the business. In my opinion, find the best applications for the needs and ensure that they work together to get the best result.

If your company struggles with figuring out what type of system is needed or where the optimal place to keep your electronic records, please contact us, we can help.

For more information on Millennia Group, please go to or email us at

A Perfect Union Leads to More Sales and More Profit

A Perfect Union Leads to More Sales and More Profit

We are not talking about peanut butter and chocolate, marriage or the United States, but the union of document imaging and workflow. These two technologies are great partners and together can lead to more sales and profit. Imaging is a good input source for a workflow engine. Workflow takes a piece of paper and turns it into a decision or action with predictability and tracking. They can each survive on their own, but together, they are very powerful.

How can that union result in more sales, more profit, less employee turnover and less customer turnover? Easily – get started!

This perfect union can help any company achieve those lofty goals and here are some examples of how.

  1. More Sales
    The easier your sales process is on the customer, from ordering to delivery, the happier the customer is. Happy customers refer new customers and sales grow. Workflow can help make the customer onboarding process more streamlined and help make sure the customer gets exactly what they bargained for. That makes a happy customer. Workflow can assist with returns or contract changes, thus making that process less of a burden on the customer. That makes a happy customer and generates more sales.
  2. More Profit
    This one is easy. If the process is streamlined, the cost per transaction or task is less and therefore, profits rise. Of course, profit will rise as sales rise, which is the point of #1. Every company can find an internal process that is less than optimal and may still involve moving paper around. Look at those processes and transform them into an efficient workflow and start reaping the benefits.
  3. Less Employee Turnover
    This one could actually be part of #2 because employee turnover is expensive. With efficient and measurable processes, companies can better match employee skill sets to the tasks at hand. When an employee is appropriately matched to their skill level, they will excel. When they excel, they are happy. Workflow also helps to balance workload, which means employees are not over stressed at peak activity times. More stress means less happy employees.
  4. Less Customer Turnover
    Here is another one that could be part of #1 above. It is very expensive to continually have to go find new customers. Every business owner knows that it is far less expensive and more profitable to sell to existing customers. If your internal processes are efficient and customers experience fast response times for support or they speak with knowledgeable representatives on the phone, they will be happier customers. Why are response times fast? Because the processes are part of a workflow and data is captured in an organized fashion and stored electronically which means it is readily available to the customer service representative. Why are representatives so knowledgeable? Because they have fast access to all of this well organized information.

Too often imaging and workflow are looked at as technologies to help lower costs. The reality is that these technologies are front line sales and profit tools. Take advantage of the union between these tools to grow your sales and increase your profits.

If your company has a less then optimal process or a paper based process, please contact us. We have helped many companies get the benefits of a perfect union.

For more information on Millennia Group, please go to or email us at

Ready for Digital Signatures?

Ready for Digital Signatures?

It has been five years since we first added digital signatures to one of our customer’s workflows. It is a bit surprising to me that this technology is still not mainstream in B2B transactions. That is especially so since we use digital signatures for many consumer transactions. Are we, as a business community, just not ready for digital signatures or has this technology’s time come?

We currently use the digital signature tools from DocuSign and they work very well for some very complex documents with multiple signature requirements and multiple documents in a package. I thought it might be helpful to provide a list of digital signature providers. Check out the demos that each system provides. These demos may spark some thoughts about how you can retool an existing process to make it more efficient and less costly.

The list below is not exhaustive, but I did review each product enough to feel that these providers all satisfy the security and authenticity requirements needed by most companies. Depending on your situation, you will probably be able to find a good solution among this list.

  1., Cosign
  2., DocuSign
  3., EchoSign by Adobe
  4., Rightsignature by Citrix
  5., SignNow
  6., eSignLive

If you would like to discuss digital signatures in a workflow, please contact me at or (630) 279-0577 x122.

For more information on Millennia Group, please go to or email us at