Case Study: iPad Lightens Remote Workload

Owned by 15 REALTOR Associations, North Texas Real Estate Information Systems Inc. (NTREIS) is an IT company providing real estate information storage and retrieval services to 25,000 subscribers in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metropolitan area and surrounding counties of North Texas.

The Challenge. CFO John Robert Pharr was looking to improve the custody of contract and transaction documentation, reduce storage costs, speed recovery of information and better manage the cost of the companys annual audits. Additionally, he had a primary need for portability. Being out of the office for extended periods of time, he wanted to stay connected at work, but also be able to make on-screen presentations at offsite board and shareholder meetings.

The Solution. Pharr came across an electronic document management solution by Cabinet NG called CNG-SAFE at a QuickBooks event in Phoenix. CNG-SAFE can store and manage any document format with its client/server architecture, flexible security, workflow management and activity tracking. After seeing the seamless integration between QuickBooks and CNG-SAFE, Pharr was sold.

With CNG-SAFE, we reduced the time auditors spend in our offices each year from three weeks to four or five days simply by giving them controlled remote access to CNG-SAFE and QuickBooks,” said Pharr. We no longer spend hours of unproductive time finding and refiling paper documentation for the auditors. Now, they find what they need themselves, and in many cases, they find that information from their office, which saves travel time and expense. Its a win-win for both sides.”

Pharr said that computer memory is cheaper, faster and safer than filing space in downtown office buildings which can run as much as $30 per square foot in downtown Dallas. Years ago, Pharr spent $60,000 rebuilding paper files damaged by smoke and water from a fire in the company suite. More recently, the company had a water pipe break in their filing room. Luckily, they were in the middle of transitioning their documents over to CNG-SAFE, which meant that most of their files were already entered into the new system. Rather than spending money to recover damaged documents, they were able to toss most of the files and turn the extra space into a more useful computer lab. Our filing room is about a tenth the size of the one we had before and now, with daily offsite backup, we never worry about damaging or losing files,” said Pharr.

What Pharr also wanted was the ability to access this information remotely. For many years, Pharr was using a laptop as his main computer so that he would be able to work remotely from home or on the road. Unfortunately, the need for more power and larger screens led to bigger and heavier laptops that were not nearly as fast or stable as comparable desktop computers. There began to be a trade-off between portability on the one hand and stability and speed on the other,” said Pharr.

However, with the advent of terminal service software for Windows operating systems and low-cost, high-speed Wi-Fi services, the need for carrying heavy laptops was greatly diminished. Pharr soon discovered that with an iPad, Wi-Fi and terminal server software, he could do almost everything remotely that could be done with a laptop, but now with a more portable and powerful device. This included accessing his documents safely and remotely through CNG-SAFE.”

The first thing I tested was how well the iPad worked with the terminal server application. Next, I looked at QuickBooks and CNG-SAFE from my office desktop, since thats where the vast majority of my business intelligence is located. I was thrilled to see how easy it all came together and worked,” said Pharr.

Pharr uses the iPad for communications, information retrieval and board and shareholder presentations. He has instant access to the information needed to provide service and value to his entire business network. Most of the heavy lifting is done in the office where I have all the tools and resources I need at my fingertips. When I cant be in the office, Im still available to do a good bit of problem solving with the iPad that I wouldnt otherwise be able to do,” said Pharr. Plus, women are attracted to guys with iPads.”

The Results. Pharr said both CNG-SAFE and the iPad are changing the way he does business. While CNG-SAFE helps manage our files and scales with our business growth, the iPad adds an additional convenience that I didnt have with my laptop. All of my documents in CNG-SAFE are easily accessible and viewable on my iPad, and while I do enjoy coming into the office and seeing a less cluttered office, I no longer feel tied to my desk.”

As the iPad becomes a trusted resource in all businesses and industries, Pharr said he expects real estate professionals will take advantage of the tablet. We can expect to see Realtors using the iPad to gather new listing information on site, e-mail listings and brochures to their clients, pull up listings in real-time during showings, access multiple listing sites and manage these listings and client documents on the go.

Staying in business today is a never ending battle for doing it better, faster and cheaper than the competition. Theres going to be rapid adapters and reluctant adapters when it comes to new technology. If you can streamline your business, provide faster and more efficient service to your clients, improve workflow and the understanding of what youre doing, youre already in higher demand.”

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