Tech@Work: Efficiency, Thy Name is Intranet

Five easy ways a private Web site can improve productivity

August 1, 2000

So, you’ve developed a Web site for your company. If you’re ready for a new online challenge, consider expanding your Internet leverage with an intranet. Any size company can benefit.

An intranet is a private extension of your site, accessible only by password. You’d give passwords to your salespeople, buyers, sellers, and perhaps even vendors, such as title companies and banks, so that they could all keep up to speed with transactions.

Your intranet’s content and functionality possibilities are limited only by your creativity. To get you started, here are five things you can post at your intranet site:

  1. New listings--Create a forms-driven section (so that users need only fill in the blanks) where salespeople can post--and sell--new listings the moment they become available. That way, salespeople increase the likelihood of others in your office being aware of and possibly selling their listings. Consider giving listing access to buyer clients and vendors, too, if you want them to begin preparing preclosing documents. Some title companies in my area send a precommitment notice as soon as sellers list, protecting against last-minute title surprises.
  2. Standard forms--Scan all your company and state-mandated forms online into a program such as Adobe Acrobat ($249; www.adobe.com) so that salespeople will never again delay a transaction because they have to get a form from the office. Not only can blank PDF (Portable Document Format) forms be printed from any remote location, but they can also be completed on-screen before printing. (You can use the free Adobe Reader to complete online forms, so long as the PDF file creator adds fill-in boxes to the form.)
  3. Memos and agendas--Instead of delivering office memos and meeting agendas by e-mail or to in-boxes, why not post them on your intranet? Salespeople won’t need to go through their mail (or e-mail) to access the information, since your intranet is available from any Internet connection.
  4. Marketing management info--Do your salespeople still fill out slips of paper to order brochures, schedule open houses, and submit advertising copy? Move those processes to your intranet to make your marketing department more efficient.
  5. Closing documents--If you have a closing department, no doubt staff spend a lot of time keeping salespeople up to speed. How about automating the closing checklist so that the closing officers can post transactional information and documents online? Not only can salespeople follow a transaction, but you can also allow buyers, sellers, and vendors access to this section, too.

Keep in mind that you can assign various passwords to allow access to different parts of your intranet. What’s available to your salespeople may not be accessible to buyers and sellers.

If you have a Web site, you already have a host for your intranet. So your main additional costs will most likely be for the webmaster and any outside experts you hire to develop these features.

Once you get started, you’ll find that there’s even more you can accomplish with an intranet. But tackling these five items first will help you realize the greatest productivity gains.

In addition to instructing GRI programs, Stephen Canale has spoken at hundreds of seminars in 45 states, covering subjects relating to real estate sales and technology. For more information on his products, newsletter, and seminars, visit www.canale.com.

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