A dearth of suitable document management products for smaller enterprises led telecommunications services company Digital Island to choose Microsoft SharePoint Server as a base to build its own bespoke solution.
That has resulted in significant time savings and financial benefits, says general manager Blair Stewart.
“We now have the ability to retain twice the amount of customer-related documents and we spend a quarter of the time retrieving that information,” he says. “We’ve also cut down document printing and storage space by 65 percent and, at an implementation cost of $30,000, we’ve spent less than half of what it would have cost us to buy and customise an off-the-shelf system.”
Stewart says he had a preference to buy and customise, but couldn’t find an appropriate product.
“We have a lot of paper, but we are a relatively small company and the lower-end document management products are very specifically targeted – at lawyers for example.”
After defining its requirements, Digital Island went to the market and reviewed several big-name, off-the-shelf solutions. They included 80-20 from Australia and Interwoven.
“We quickly found that these solutions were designed for 100-plus seat companies and were priced well out of our budget,” Stewart says. “Also, the customisation required was going to be difficult and expensive.
“Our IT partner, Acronym, worked with us on business analysis, solution design and development. This led to the conclusion that we could deliver a solution fitting well within our existing Microsoft systems, under budget and with the flexibility required to address future requirements.
“After attending a Microsoft demonstration, we began exploring the possibility of a solution based around SharePoint 2007, but also using several components from other vendors.”
The result after testing several of these components was a core document management solution of SharePoint, Macromedia Wisdom add-ins for Outlook, Office 2007 and PDF client interfaces, and NSIUS Autostore for submitting documents.
“The results of developing our own system have paid off almost overnight,” Stewart says.
That said, Stewart has some criticisms of SharePoint.
“It is good value in the scheme of things, but there is a cost in buying the extra software. It has got a way to go to get anywhere near some of the bigger systems. The biggest disappointment is its inability to integrate with the Office suite.”
It was a six-month exercise to implement the system, and three months more migrating existing documents into it. The system went live prior to Christmas.
Digital Island was formed six years ago to provide telecommunications systems to mid-sized businesses. The company currently has 20 staff but, Stewart says, will double in size when it launches a new mobile product based on Telecom’s XT network in April.
He would “definitely recommend” the SharePoint option for any business that was document-intensive, but warns that there is no one answer.
“You need to build your own product based on SharePoint.
“The only problem we had was getting staff to change their habits to use the new system, but that didn’t take too long.
“It was a no brainer once we realised that nothing off the shelf was available.”