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Death of the Paper Tiger

Death of the Paper Tiger

"A DMS (document management system) is an excellent start for a government department because it gets all of the documents into a central place. But that's really all it does," says Jamie Wodetzki, CEO of SpeedLegal, a Melbourne-based company providing specialist DMS to government and financial institutions. Wodetzki says that the fundamental purpose of the DMS is to get the useful documents into some central place, "where people can find them and keep track of them and find out who has done what and when".

In principle that sounds simple enough and it has tempted some government agencies and departments to try to construct their own in-house DMS, though that approach is becoming less common now that document management is so easy to source and relatively inexpensive to buy off the shelf.

In common with most involved in the industry, Wodetzki says it is in fact a very bad idea to develop in-house DMS and he is quick to point out that his comments are not self-serving and an attempt to get more business, they just make common sense.

"Unfortunately, yes, some people are still doing this [developing in-house DMS]. Look, the 'buy or build' debate is not a new one and the reality is that most things, when you look at them, look superficially easy. It's not until you've spent lots of time and money that you realize how difficult it is and you're never in a position to judge that until you start.

"The bottom line is if you have a very specific and very well defined problem then sometimes doing your own is the right way to go," Wodetzki says. "But if it's the first step to doing a range of things, once you've solved that specific problem and you want to go on to solve other similar or related problems, then you're going to run into all the sorts of problems that a vendor like us will already have solved - and solved using a team of full-time developers."

Wodetzki says that when he shows his company's solutions to government departments, sometimes the competitor for the job will be an in-house development team. "They say: 'Oh, I can do a lot of those things', and they could and they'd probably have fun doing it but they will never manage to match the functionality, performance, robustness and flexibility of a third-party product which has stood the test of time and many sets of professional eyes."

Michael dal Maso, solution and alliances manager at Alphawest, a major supplier of DMS to government, echoes Wodetzki's comments. "Government departments shouldn't be considering any in-house development for a records management solution. It's been out of vogue for quite some time now, primarily because the business rules that have been adopted by the application providers are quite significant and the changes in worldwide accounting and regulatory standards mean that those technology providers have to keep their product up to date from a compliance point of view. Step back a few years and you've got WorldCom and other disasters in North America, while here we've had HIH and FAI, both examples of what you could call 'failing compliance issues'."

Off-the-Shelf Solution

When the federal government's Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (FaCSIA - formerly the Department of Family and Community Services, or FaCS) decided they needed a DMS, there was scant thought given to opting for an in-house or self-build system

"We always went with the intention of buying something off the shelf because of lessons learnt from other departments," says Kerrie van Schieveen, project manager for the DMS roll-out at FaCSIA and ex-Australian Tax Office. "We were looking for a proven, latest generation electronic document management solution used widely by industry rather than the traditional isolated records management approach adopted previously by other departments.

"Buying a ready-to-install product is more reliable and to be honest, internally we don't have the sort of expertise and skills to maintain something we develop ourselves; we just didn't have them and we didn't want to have them," van Schieveen says. "You buy off the shelf and you just know it's going to develop over time and that you're going to get upgrades and that you are going to get experts helping implement it."

FaCSIA went through a lengthy tender process - six months from start to finish - partly because they had to involve many stakeholders inside FaCSIA, including IT and security personnel, but also because there was such a large choice out in the market. Eventually they opted for Interwoven's DMS, WorkSite, which van Schieveen says is competitively priced. "I'd say it's good value for money, especially when you take into account it's saving us time and now we know where everything is, and we didn't always know that before. Now we can find everything we need when we need it!"

FaCSIA rolled out WorkSite progressively across the organization over a 12-month period, which is no mean feat when you consider FaCSIA is one of the country's biggest government agencies, responsible for sending out more than $60 billion a year to Australian families in age pension and income support payments.

Before the new DMS was put in place, FaCSIA documents were stored in several servers spread across the department's eight offices around Australia, on networks, in e-mail systems and even on individuals' PCs, making information increasingly difficult to manage or find. Implementing a centralized DMS that would not only manage e-mails as a corporate record but would manage the sheer quantity of case material was a high priority for the department.

"The goal in implementing WorkSite is for the organization to have control over all documentation, complete records of all transactions, accountability assurance and the ability to capture knowledge as it is created. WorkSite will also ensure an audit trail of which documents were accessed, who accessed them and when," says van Schieveen.

"We previously had 13 network drives as well as separate silos of information, so there wasn't an easy way for different offices across different states to share info. We are bringing all of it together and though we are not fully there - we haven't yet done things like link our servers, for example - we can now use documents across states, which was very hard to do before. We can also use document links for sending documents around instead of attachments. One thing we did work out was that some pieces of paper were duplicated up to 20 times, so reducing that through the use of links instead of e-mail attachments was very important and useful."

After awarding the contract to Inform Systems for up to 2000 seats of WorkSite, FaCSIA began the implementation program with a roll-out in NSW to 110 users and began progressively expanding to all the remaining states last year.

Van Schieveen says that the change management aspect of the roll-out is one of the most challenging aspects, a fact shared by all those who embark on a move from a largely paper environment to an electronic DMS.

"The change management aspect is and has been huge. The culture of FaCS is all about social welfare, and the people here are very much focused on those sorts of outcomes, so getting them to change from any perspective, let alone an IT perspective, is difficult. It took a lot of time and it's been a lot of consultation. We went out and met with users, we have done a progressive implementation rather than rushing it through and also we kept our scope quite contained; we didn't go out and do too much too quickly because organizationally we just wouldn't have been able to handle it.

"There wasn't a lot of persuasion needed because we just made it mandatory. So from that perspective the take-up is good, it is 100 percent, simply because we didn't give people a choice. If we had given them a choice they probably would have avoided it. We moved all of their existing documents into the new iManage system and we intercepted Save and Open functions in Microsoft Office so people couldn't work around it. Now, they are all okay on at least the basics - which doesn't mean they are getting the most out of the new system but they know enough to be able to use it."

Alphawest's dal Maso agrees that getting staff to accept a shift of culture from a paper environment to a largely electronic world is always difficult, and if there is not sufficient buy-in from staff the system can fall over.

"People are used to saving things to their C-drive and looking for [documents] there. Getting them to participate in a records management system is not always easy, partly because it asks staff to be fully involved. If no one contributes, or they contribute badly, the whole exercise can be futile. But you have to consider this: there have been cases where judges have criticized government departments for not being able to provide all of the relevant records for a court hearing to go ahead in the timeliness it needed to and also failing to be able to provide all the relevant information to allow the court to make a decision. That's because they just didn't know where things were and they couldn't find things. With a good DMS that should be a thing of the past."

Version Control

While increasing numbers of government departments are opting for a DMS and finding that it ultimately does make their job easier, there is also a growing need for specialist DMS options that fit inside the all-encompassing DMS. Just such an example is being used by Parks Victoria, which has opted for SpeedLegal's SmartPrecedent system.

SpeedLegal's Wodetzki explains. "A lot of the time a department wants to buy something and they have to create a set of tender documents. If you have a DMS it may have a Word template in it but it doesn't really help anyone to finish that document off and these documents can, of course, be quite complicated. That's what our application does. If you've got your documents organized in a central place, how can you make the document itself smarter? How can you do it quicker, do it consistently and so ensure you are producing quality documents which also reach the rigorous compliance standards they increasingly face? That is where we come in."

SpeedLegal typically provides a document assembly application - called SmartPrecedent - which sits inside a DMS and which is then used to create documents, whether standard tender documents or letters or employment contracts. They are all fed into the DMS, so ultimately you end up with a much smarter way of getting high-quality documents much more quickly and with fewer possibilities for error.

"In government, we see the demand growing all the time," Wodetzki says, "not least because it is heavily regulated when it comes to documents and there has to be compliance with these regulations. Putting in a DMS is an important across-the-board infrastructure but once you've done that, you think, well, that's not solved anyone's specific problem. Now that you've got these documents all in one place, what do you do with them?"

"It's got to the stage where governments, both state and federal, are constantly changing regulations and it was almost impossible to catch up to which version people were using in contracts or tender documents our people were sending out," says Malcolm Downes, senior contracts officer at Parks Victoria.

"Our staff can now get quality tender documentation ready in a fraction of the time, with a much lower risk of using the wrong template or releasing non-compliant documents to vendors. This saves us time and cost, and helps us to avoid all the problems of tenders gone bad," he says.

"We had some standardization in our area, but in some cases other areas within the organization were also instigating these documents, which meant a whole lot of stuff was being left out of contracts and tenders, or put in when it shouldn't have been put in. We've also taken on other areas and functions across the department, whereas previously, although there was a process, people liked to change documents around to suit what they thought were the requirements without maintaining any sort of consistency.

"The real problem is that some people have been dealing with these things over a period of time, so they have a rough idea of what's required, they just can't keep up with every edict that's coming out of the state or federal government or occupational health people," Downes says. "So even those involved in the process can have trouble staying up to speed."

Smart Templates

The way SmartPrecedent works is that it provides tender and contract templates that are set up for the services most commonly purchased through any of Parks Victoria's offices. These templates are then made available to staff via the departmental intranet and staff simply answer a series of questions in their Web browser - with practical notes and comments to help explain and clarify any issues - and then the system picks the correct document and clauses for the works or services being sourced. SmartPrecedent then delivers tailored documents in the correct style and format. On top of that, a PDF output helps to avoid risky last-minute changes that someone might think of making, while a rich text format output lets approved users make final edits in Word.

Downes says the system is a good one but his problem is that at the moment he has little time to get it up and running fully because, somewhat ironically, he is so busy putting tender and contract documents together. But he can see that there are significant savings, mostly in time, to be had.

"Basically you are taking a job that could have typically taken four to five hours and knocking that down to 10 or even five minutes and with better consistency and better risk management," says Downes.

"There is definitely a benefit in time saved. For a lot of our people, spending time in the office is time wasted. If they can spend less time doing paperwork then we're making a saving."

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