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Document Management vs. Transaction Management

April 26 2012

document mgrWhen I first started writing about real estate technology, I was absolutely stumped by the difference between document management and transaction management. The two seemed inexorably muddled. What I've found is that many agents are similarly confused. So I'm going to attempt to provide some rough definitions here.

  • Transaction Management: technology intended to help real estate professionals manage a transaction through functions such as: contact management, a calendar tool, some degree of document management, and a wide variety of other features.
  • Document Management: technology intended to help real estate professionals manage documents with functions that support: digitally storing documents, sharing documents with other interested parties, organizing documents, tracking the status of documents, and (in some instances) electronically signing documents.

Chatting with some of the experts in each area helped me to nail down the differences between the two categories – however, it also made clear that there is often considerable overlap between products that label themselves as one or the other. Each technology company has their own unique perspective on this issue, so I thought I'd share some of these voices here.

Cartavi – Document Management

The creators of Cartavi see a very distinct difference between transaction management and document management – and made a very conscious decision in focusing solely on document management.

"When we set out, our initial thought was to build a tool to help agents manage transactions," says Glenn Shimkus, Co-Founder and CEO of Cartavi. "Documents were a part of that, of course, but just one piece of the puzzle. However, as we began talking to more agents, we kept hearing very consistent feedback: 'I already have a solution I like for my contacts, calendars, etc. Where I really need help is with documents – managing and sharing them (with everyone involved, not just other REALTORS®).'

"This is the Age of the App and most agents actually prefer an 'a lá carte' approach to the tools they use. They choose the apps and software that work for them – and are not likely to adopt a product that replaces all of the solutions they currently use. However, the missing piece for most seemed to be document management. That's where we decided we could really meet an unmet need."

After creating a streamlined solution for document management, Cartavi decided to add integration with DocuSign for digital signatures. "Our integration with DocuSign allows us to provide a more comprehensive platform for document management," Glenn explains. "Agents now have a tool that enables them to manage, share, fax and electronically sign the documents that drive a transaction."

GoPaperless Solutions – Document Management

GoPaperless Solutions provides a suite of products that support electronic signatures and document management. They've taken these solutions mobile, launching a feature-rich iPad app.

"The difference between document management and transaction management is a question we're often asked," says Prabakar Mahalingam, COO of GoPaperless Solutions. "Document management is, quite simply, the ability to import files and folders, organize them in whatever way you'd like, sync and share them via the cloud, and have the ability to access from anywhere on any device. Transaction management, on the other hand, has specific tasks, reminders and timelines for each unique transaction, as well as some functions around documents. Most transaction management software has automated tasks and reminders to help you stay organized."

"What we do is document management. We decided that we would focus on this one aspect so that we could do it incredibly well. We like the flexibility that our document management solution gives to agents. We also like that our focus on document management has allowed us to provide the richest user experience possible – including a mobile app and advanced electronic signature functionality."

DotLoop – "Transaction Hub"

Some companies have built their model in a way that defies categorization – and have done so with purpose. DotLoop is an example of one of these companies, calling their solution a "transaction hub" rather than document management or transaction management. However, DotLoop does include many transaction management functions as well as online forms and electronic signatures.

"Our goal was to provide a streamlined solution for executing a transaction from beginning to end, with extra emphasis on facilitating communication between the parties," explains Austin Allison, DotLoop CEO. "We focused on providing a positive, consistent user experience rather than overloading people with features and unnecessary functionality."

Instanet Solutions – Transaction Management & Document Management

Instanet Solutions has chosen to provide both transaction management and document management services within their platform. Users may choose to subscribe only to the document management solutions or upgrade to the full transaction management solution, as well as other modules such as online forms, electronic signatures, etc.

"The bottom line is that document management is a subset of transaction management and is a core component of transaction management. In fact, it can be considered the key component," explains Joe Kazzoun, VP of Business and Product Development at Instanet. "It's vital in a transaction to gather all the required documents; actually, that's primarily what a transaction is all about, gathering documents, reviewing them, making sure they're complete and correct. However, transaction management adds other components – creating checklists and scheduling to-do items that help users track other tasks like putting a lockbox in a home, inputting a property into the MLS, creating a flyer, etc.

"At Instanet, we do all of the above. We have a single platform that provides online forms, document management, electronic signatures, and transaction management. Or, real estate professionals can subscribe to any of the individual modules based on their unique needs. In terms of opting out of transaction management and sticking with document management, what they'll find is that they won't have access to functions such as the calendar, tasks, and ordering services. However, they will have access to all the functions they need to successfully manage all of the documents and paperwork for their transactions."

Real Estate Digital – Transaction Management & Document Management

The team at Real Estate Digital sees transaction management and document management as an important step toward helping real estate agents become green and mobile. They offer TransactionPoint for transaction management and DocCentral for document management.

"Our transaction management platform is very sophisticated and very robust," explains Walt Clark, Sr. Vice President, Product Management. "It allows real estate professionals to digitize and share documents with a variety of parties. There is also sophisticated workflow functionality – agents can simply pick a template and TransactionPoint will tell you all the steps you need to complete for that transaction. This workflow management can be particularly helpful in highly complicated short sales/REO transactions (which are so prevalent in today's real estate market). With transaction management, you can also send reminders, order services (such as appraisal, inspection, title, etc.), and take advantage of other broker technologies (such as compliance review and integration with accounting and back office systems).

"So, how does that compare to document management? Some agents prefer to adopt a document management system, a simpler starting point to digitize and share documents with consumers and other parties without the additional features of workflow management and ordering services inherent in most transaction management systems."

SureClose – Transaction Management & Document Management

SureClose combines both transaction management and document management into a single solution.

"A document management system is just what it says it is - a repository for all of your documents where you can store and share your transaction files," says Tom Groom, Chief Technology Officer, SVP Real Estate Segment of PropertyInfo Corporation. "A transaction management system, like SureClose, takes it to the next level.

"SureClose adds in the workflow processes for the real estate brokerage; automated notifications based on activities and contractual deadlines; document management, storage, review and approvals; broker oversight and compliance through task views, activity logs and the Document Review Tool; contact communication through both the web version and mobile apps creating transparency in the transaction, as well as MLS and back office integrations. We believe that SureClose is really the best of both worlds – a transaction management system with more than 6.4 million real estate transactions online, coupled with a robust document management engine housing more than 126.5 million documents online."