Workflow Automation Software

Millennia Group Blog

Document Sharing – Why Overcomplicate it?

Courtesy of FlikrDocuments used to be shared by photocopying and FedEx. That progressed to PDF and email, which has been replaced by free file sharing websites. There are also highly secure deal sites available for Wall Street transactions. The reality is that all of these methods are in use because each one meets somebody’s unique need for security, simplicity or both.

In today’s world of massive amounts of information being available and demanded, many times the need is to share hundreds or thousands of documents. To share that quantity of documents is not practical with email or FedEx. Some type of organized, online access is required. But how do you make it both simple and secure?

What a great idea to use an online file storage system. Lots of companies use FTP sites or file sharing sites to quickly create a folder structure and then upload files. In this scenario, the user needs to assemble exactly what is needed (maybe download from an existing system), upload all of the files to the secure site, then contact the user and hope they get in and can find what they need.

But now you have the same files in at least two places, probably three, and that can create compliance and security problems. It also means that a username and password will be required to access the files. If you frequently use these types of systems, your head spins from all the usernames and passwords. There is also an issue of keeping track of what has and hasn’t been posted to these external sites or downloaded from the source system. Where is the simplicity?

For companies that have migrated their documents to a document management system (DMS) the files are presumably well organized and secure. So wouldn’t it be simple to just provide the user with access to your system? We all have the same thought – SECURITY. How is this managed, who manages this, are the files organized in such a way that it is even possible to manage?

A better solution might be a method of providing a view into your DMS for a selected set of files (files subject to the security rights of the user who is sharing the files), but only to a registered computer and email address – think banking. No username or password to remember. No need to reorganize or track what version the user has access to. Good user tracking. This method seems to provide reasonable security plus simplicity for provider and user.

Millennia Group’s FileStar document management system is working on a release that will provide some great options for document sharing and it will have the security nailed too. Watch for an announcement., (630) 279-0577 x122,

Workflow Metrics, the Extra Benefit

via FlickrAll of our clients that have implemented our workflow solution have done so to improve their efficiency and profitability. However, it has become very apparent that there are significant added benefits derived from the process metrics reports that are generated. 

A quick definition of process metrics is the number and duration of activities throughout each workflow process, ie. how many completed and how long did it take. Additional measurements are possible depending on other data available within the system, such as completions by region, by person, by amount, etc.

At first glance, gathering the data and measuring the metrics seems like a big brother approach. However, when you look closely, this is a win win situation for the company and the employees and here are a few reasons why:

A win for the company:

• These metrics can be used to evaluate productivity by employee
• Metrics provide the ability to manage bottlenecks and achieve better overall results
• The metrics can help to spot trends in sales, costs or resources before the trends are visible elsewhere.

A win for the employees:

• Clearly defined goals and benchmarks to work towards relieves stress on employees
• Having metrics creates a game type atmosphere to achieve top honors for productivity, speed or error free days
• Workload is properly balanced by management so all associates are on a level playing field

There are certainly other benefits to both the company and the employees. The key is to get those old email and paper based processes converted to a digital workflow and start reaping all of the benefits.

Millennia Group provides document imaging, workflow and management solutions., (630) 279-0577,

What is Normalization and Why is it Important?

From Flickr by juhansoninPut another way – Quelle 弱形 normalization and Поче is it महत्वपूर्ण?  Think for a minute about trying to read your email but every email is in a different language?  What happens if you don’t know the language or the coworker you forwarded it to doesn’t know that language?  Then it becomes a real problem and very inefficient.  If you could always funnel those emails through a translator before they hit your inbox, the problem disappears. 

Now think about document and electronic file storage for most companies; paper documents, files on a shared drive, files in the cloud, files everywhere.  There are probably many different paper filing methods, digital files in personal folders with a unique and less than intuitive structure by employee, one PDF file that actually contains 10 documents, or file names that are cryptic.  Does this all sound familiar?  Some employees might eventually develop a process for finding information they need, but most will waste a considerable amount of time trying to translate the file storage methods.

Normalization is the “Translator” when you are migrating files from multiple locations or multiple users into a single repository or folder structure.  Actually, normalization is the process of reversing “garbage in, garbage out”.   PDF files can be split.  Files can be renamed. Files can be reorganized into logical order.  Duplicates can be detected and deleted. 

If you are implementing a document management system or merging two companies, now is the time for normalization.  It can be a time consuming process, but with the proper tools and experienced project management, it can be accomplished.  The end result is a very efficient, well organized repository of corporate information.  That is a major benefit to new employees but will also make current employees far more efficient.

This process will fix your current situation, but don’t forget to implement procedures to prevent the same situation from happening again.  Implement minimum meta data requirements for all new documents.  Associate documents with the underlying corporate information like lists of customers, properties or employees.  These modest changes will have a very high impact on your users and ultimately your business.

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.