Councils go for electronic documentation

Rather than selling the perceived benefits of a "paperless office", IT managers looking to implement electronic document management should promote the concept of returning to the central and single document repository that files once were.

Rather than selling the perceived benefits of a “paperless office”, IT managers looking to implement electronic document management should promote the concept of returning to the central and single document repository that files once were, says Jeff Shaw, IS manager of Thames-Coromandel District Council.

Horowhenua District Council IS manager John Montgomery, meantime, calls on councils to do a “full needs analysis” of various electronic document management (EDM) systems, to ensure they get what they want in terms of cataloguing and classifying.

The two councils are among a growing band of local authorities implementing EDM in a bid to better manage their business, improve customer service and streamline internal processes.

The pair join Dunedin City Council, North Shore City Council and Otorohanga District Council in installing or upgrading systems. All use DataWorks from Australia’s Advanced Data Integration.

Shaw says his council plans to use DataWorks, which it installed in June, as its core repository of corporate information. For example, incoming mail is now scanned and stored internally. The system went live a month ago for 40 initial users, and 60 more due on stream later this year. The cost is budgeted at $190,000 over two years, including implementation and training.

Horowhenua District Council’s EDM project went live in February. The Levin-based council uses DataWorks for all inward mail distribution and response, internal and external document production, order papers and minutes. In future the council plans to extend EDM to cover all images and plans, particularly “infrastructure” and property-based records (drainage, building plans, certificates). The system cost $85,000 to implement, including training, says IS manager John Montgomery.

Both Horowhenua and Thames-Coromandel previously used mainly paper-based systems.

Horowhenua used Filetrack, Geac’s Total Corporate System (TCS) and Microsoft Exchange folders. It was able to incorporate TCS as well as the council’s customer and consents/application processes.

Thames-Coromandel used a variety of shared drives and intranet correspondence-tracking systems. It will continue to use Geac-supplied Gems and Worksmart products for workflow processing.

Both councils appear happy with their choices. Thames-Coromandel’s Shaw says TCDC went for Dataworks because it was specifically developed for local government and had local users. He says “the real clincher” for him is how Dataworks works well with Gems-based data and utilises the standard Windows applications, especially Word. It also integrates with the council’s GIS, land information and financials systems.

Thames-Coromandel’s Montgomery reports a few “teething problems”, but says the system easily finds information even if it is misfiled.

In choosing the system, Horowhenua looked at options from Docushare, Microsoft, Document Management ex-tensions for Extensions, Alchemy and Open Docs.

Thames-Coromandel ran a proposals tender. Its short-list included Trim, SilentOne and a Geac-based solution.

Both say training should not be skimped on. “Training is the best opportunity to develop system ‘champions’ and get the best return on investment,” says Montgomery.

Shaw would take a different approach to implementation today. “We thought we had got it right, trying to stage the implementation to minimise the impact, but if I had to do it again I would implement it all at once.”

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