VicRoads drives ahead with eDocs

VicRoads is in the driver’s seat with a major rollout of the eDocs EDRMS platform to more than 2500 employees across the state.

After the successful conclusion of a EDRMS pilot in 2009, Vic Road s awarded an $A1.8 million contract to WindowLogic to implement and support the eDocs document management system.

Tony Ljaskevic, VicRoads' Program Manager, Information Management & Technology, said the staggered rollout was progressing successfully and is now up to the 850 user mark, with around 30 to 40 new staff being added each week.

"There have been many examples of disastrous EDRMS implementations where an executive decides on Friday to roll it out to everyone on the following Monday," said Ljaskevic, who completed a Masters of Information Management at Monash University

"My experience pointed to a staggered approach, so when we roll this out to a business area we spend four to five weeks engaging them and getting their input with regard to the file plan, picking a few champions to train as expert users over a few weeks and engaging them to continue tidying up the file plan for their area. Only then do we train the end users.

"Its a long lead time but you just can't dump this on people in a day. We find that about six hours of training is adequate. The system is quite easy to use but they need to contextualise how they save documents in their role within their given business area.

"We have three people providing this training, one external trainer, a member of the project team who explains the importance of the project and why the organisation is doing it, plus an advanced user who has already had the training, and understand the file plan in that business area. We've found that mix works quite effectively."

VicRoads is implementing the EDRMS to solve the problem of capturing documents and emails created on the desktop and providing more structure for this data. The Standard Operating Environment is Windows XP, Office 2003, and Lotus Notes email.

A separate project is underway to upgrade VicRoads' core transactional application for licence and registration processing.

Much of VicRoads' transactions are paper-based, as forms are provided as PDFs on the VicRoads' Web site to be downloaded, printed and submitted by fax or post. There are a number of links to police and other government agencies in Victoria and around Australia where data is transferred and shared electronically either in realtime or via batch processing The scope of the EDRMS is confined to managing documents and records created on the desktop. Many of VicRoads' 2500 employees are dealing with the public at the front counter, where they are processing applications and inputting data directly into transactional systems using purpose-built dedicated applications.

"We also have a large number of administrative staff creating reports, emails, spreadsheets in Office applications which may or may not be saved in a structured readily accessible format.”

Project scope

"The scope of the EDMRS project was to tackle that element that was previously handled by distributed network drives," said Ljaskevic.

"Each office had their own drive where everything was stored on a file server locally, and each office would have their own naming and filing conventions, albeit loosely following some corporate conventions. We couldn't search and share each other's documents all that easily which meant people would resort to emailing documents internally. Instead of many decentralised unstructured repositories, the goal of the EDRMs is to provide a centralised bucket, with an agreed filing structure which captures all of the business function and activities wherever staff are located in what we've branded as our "QuickDocs" platform.

"Having done this before, I am aware that it can't be too onerous or people will shy away from it. Previously when a staff member saved an item on a shared drive, it didn't necessarily capture their business area, their name, position and physical location. That organisational data is now automatically appended so we can search for documents based on these criteria.

"We automate as much of the metadata collection as possible, although there will always be some human intervention required."

The majority of staff may eventually have no option but to save documents in QuickDocs, although some business areas have differing requirements. For instance the engineering division uses a dedicated document management system from Bentley. It will continue using that system.

Once a multi-layered engineering drawing for a project is finalised it will be saved as a PDF into QuickDocs and that will become the authoritative source.

The eDocs platform will accept 200 different file formats, and the file plan will allow users to browse a whole range of different content that is stored, for instance, under a particular traffic intersection.

In the case of one notorious road intersection blackspot, the folder contains an engineering drawing, an imaged complaint letter from motorist, jpg pictures of the intersection, email from Lotus Notes with Word documents attached, and a WAV file of a recorded radio interview conducted by the Minister for Transport.

"Anyone who wanted to know what had gone on in relation to that particular intersection could open that folder and get the full picture, whereas previously that would have been distributed and hard to compile," said Ljaskevic.

"We are also beginning to merge some of our financials into QuickDocs so that invoices and purchase orders are saved into the repository. More and more people are seeing the benefits of not having to attach physical documents to their database any more, they are able to attach an HTML reference which is a pointer to the QuickDocs document and ensures you always have the latest version.”

VicRoads has also elected to link the metadata to the official Victorian road names database, which is helping to bring in a level of standardisation and solve the problems that arrive from the fact that people colloquially refer to roads by a number different names. Dandenong Road, for instance, is also known in sections as the Princess Freeway.

Before this database integration was completed, if a particular road was referred to by more than one name, all three versions would have to be appended to the document as metadata, whereas now, a link to the official road names database provides consistency to file names and documents.

Other data, such as property IDs, geospatial references or asset IDs, is also appended to documents in metadata to provide for more efficient search.

Implementation challenges including linking to external databases within the organisation and ensuring they were appropriately maintained and updated.

"In some cases were were providing staff with access to internal databases.

“They had not been able to view before the rollout of the centralised EDRMS, and they were able to question the data which in effect allowed our staff to do some of our data cleansing for us," said Ljaskevic.