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Customer Request Spurs Deployment of Enterprise Content Management System

"The customer is king," so a successful enterprise tries to meet their requests. A customer's desire was the impetus to Terrus Real Estate Group's decision to install an enterprise content management (ECM) system. As a result, the real estate opted for a SaaS (Software as a Service) solution and became one of the first companies to deploy such a system.

Founded in 2000, Terrus Real Estate Group offers a range of commercial real estate services to clients, based mainly in Iowa. The company's 125 employees manage 7 million square feet of office space and provide services, such as financial and investment analysis, strategic real estate planning, brokerage and project management. "Sometimes, we act as the landlord and collect rents, and other times, we act as the tenant and pay them," says Phil Akason, the chief financial officer at Terrus.

To support the business, the company has about three dozen servers, mainly running Microsoft Windows and a bit of Linux and VMware, with about 17 TB of storage. The volume of data has been growing because the real estate firm works with lengthy, complex documents, such as leases.

To better manage such information, the company in 2005 installed Sage Timberline's financial system, which was designed for the real estate market. Terrus looked at ECM products but found them to be very expensive. "Most of the solutions had prices starting at $100,000 and going up," Akason says. So initially, the real estate management company planned to rely on the document management system that came with that Sage Timberline system.

However, the real estate management company's decision to put off such as a purchase was short lived. In the fall of 2006, a client asked Terrus to put a couple of hundred of its leases, about 20,000 pages, online by the end of the year. The Sage Timberline system was not suited to that job. Its content management features did not scale well, for instance, and users were forced to enter invoice information twice -- once into the accounting software and again into the document management system.

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