API Success Story: StarRez, Residential Management

StarRez Quickly Adapts its Residential Management Platform to Enable Secure eSignatures Using the DocuSign eSignature API

StarRez is a DocuSign partner that offers comprehensive residential housing and conference management software solutions to universities, colleges, and property managers around the world. StarRez’s cloud-based software enables their more than 750 customers to successfully manage their residential communities, which house almost two million residents. Headquartered in North America, United Kingdom, and Australia, StarRez has customers in 15 countries.

“We selected DocuSign based on the demands of our customers. The documentation is very good. It’s great how much is open source, and available to developers, such as the C# SDK.” — Joe Lindwall, Vice President, StarRez

The StarRez platform is highly configurable, enabling residential communities to create business logic that improves workflow and resident service. The StarRez portal is a flexible design that lets customers add widgets (including a DocuSign Signature widget) onto a design surface and configure workflows.

The workflows encompass all aspects of residential communities, group conferencing, and campus living. The majority of StarRez’s customers are higher education institutions and off-campus student housing providers managing from 100 beds to 50,000+ beds. Other StarRez customers include staff housing providers, and multi-family and co-living communities. Therefore, StarRez designed its platform to be flexible enough for customers of all sizes and needs.

The StarRez platform enables housing providers to offer the best resident experience possible and a variety of services to residents, including applying for housing, indicating room type preferences, searching and selecting room types or roommates, selecting meal plans, and more. Additionally, StarRez enables document signers to pay an application fee or deposit and sign a housing agreement through a payment gateway.

The StarRez platform also lets residential housing providers configure business rules and workflow based on state laws and university policy. For example, if a resident is over the age of 18, they can sign their own documents, but if under the age of 18, a parent or guardian must sign. However, these ages and other factors are configurable by each institution. Figure 1 shows how, based on configured business rules, StarRez prompts for parent/guardian information when applying for housing.

Collecting parent/guardian information in StarRez

Figure 1: Collecting parent/guardian information in StarRez

The next step in the housing application process is to render a DocuSign agreement for signing by field values obtained from the data collected in Figure 1 with known values from the StarRez database embedded into the StarRez platform. As shown in Figure 2, these field values are then supplied to and rendered in an instance of a DocuSign template, known as an envelope.

StarRez sample contract

Figure 2: Rendering a contract to sign using merge fields, embedded into StarRez

Configurability = Flexibility

The key to StarRez’s flexibility and success is largely due to a high degree of configurability. This lets housing providers modify the behavior of the StarRez platform to meet their business needs. From a DocuSign perspective, as shown in Figure 3, incorporating eSignatures into a customer’s workflow begins with configuring StarRez’s DocuSign Signature widget, which calls the DocuSign eSignature API. This widget prompts the user to configure these data elements:

  • DocuSign account information—used for authorization and billing purposes
  • DocuSign template ID—unique GUID value that identifies the template used
  • Agreement preference information, such as whether to display a disclosure statement
  • Merge fields, configured as a set known as a DocuSign Label. Each label is comprised of an ID and a merge field. The ID must be the same as the field ID in the DocuSign template. StarRez built some impressive capabilities into the platform. The merge fields can be specified as any valid SQL statement. The power of allowing SQL is that fields can be concatenated, looked up, or have other logic applied before the value is sent to the DocuSign template.
DocuSign Signature widget configuration

Figure 3: DocuSign Signature widget configuration

Pivoting on COVID-19

As with all responsive software companies, StarRez was quick to respond to customer needs regarding the COVID-19 worldwide emergency. They were faced with some challenging scenarios for managing residents in the StarRez platform.

In March 2020, stay-at-home orders were mandated across the United States and around the world. With little warning, universities, colleges, and off-campus student properties were confronted with a plethora of challenges:

  • Students had to move out of on-campus and off-campus housing within two weeks. This was especially problematic for larger institutions that had 1,000–10,000 students.
  • Issues were compounded by students returning from spring break.
  • Students couldn’t be evacuated all at once. Student residential communities had to adhere to social distancing guidelines, so an orderly move-out schedule had to be created and maintained.
  • Some students were prevented from leaving, such as international students with travel restrictions, special family situations, or economic hardship.
  • If a student could not evacuate, there were some additional scenarios the college or university needed to consider, such as:
    • Is the student healthy or does he or she have an illness, which may make the student more susceptible to COVID-19?
    • Does the student have current medical needs?
    • What will the student do with their belongings?
    • Is emergency contact information correct?
    • Does the student have meal needs or dietary restrictions?

Using the technology and DocuSign integration StarRez had already built, they immediately pivoted to determine how they could help customers with the unprecedented challenges they faced due to COVID-19. StarRez dubbed this effort the Emergency Planning Solution, which transformed their platform from being a housing application to a way to collect information from residents that student housing providers can use to make fast and accurate decisions, such as creating new forms and processes to collect the information needed to address the COVID-19 situation.

Andrew Maroulis, who leads the StarRez product team, acted quickly to make modifications to the platform. For example, to help learning institutions stagger move-outs to maintain social distancing guidelines, StarRez modified its Appointments and Timeslot to include additional granularity for students to managing an orderly evacuation.

StarRez also added into their platform the ability to calculate the distance to students’ homes. This was tied into the platform’s configurable business rules to determine whether a student was mandated to leave.

Best-of-breed partnership and technology

StarRez customers maintain their own DocuSign accounts. This enables them to manage their own DocuSign templates and billing while configuring their accounts and document workflow within the StarRez platform. The StarRez database stores copies of the signed contracts and the status of all contracts; so, using an API call, the platform queries DocuSign for updated contract status when the student logs into the platform. For its platform, StarRez uses the Microsoft technology stack, including Azure, C#, and JavaScript.

StarRez began this journey by working with a small number of customers who had expressed a need for DocuSign integration. The first iteration included basic functionality, such as sending student data from StarRez to DocuSign and generating a contract. Based on feedback they received, StarRez added the ability to store a copy of the contract in the student resident record and deliver a complete parent/guardian/guarantor signature process.

Achieving a higher degree

Building on a very successful DocuSign integration, StarRez plans to add to eSignature capabilities to some of its other solutions and modules including Group Conference and Events. This will enable conference exhibitors and attendees to sign required contracts through DocuSign.

StarRez is also looking to modify the way it collects payments when students sign up for campus housing. Currently, StarRez uses a payment gateway to process funds transfer, but it is not directly tied to the agreement signing process. StarRez is evaluating DocuSign Payments, which will enable them to collect the deposit payment at the same time as the contract is signed.

Finally, it is a common scenario that room assignment or student details can change between the time of contract signing and the student moving in. One example is when students switch rooms during the year. StarRez will be enhancing their software to enable a contract to be regenerated with updated details within the same housing application.

You can try the power and flexibility of the DocuSign eSignature API for yourself with a free developer sandbox. Just visit the DocuSign Developer Center and see for yourself why StarRez chose the DocuSign eSignature API for its trusted eSignature integration.

Author

Tony Mann

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