South East Water puts SharePoint in its place with Open Text CLM

A horses for courses approach to SharePoint and ECM is paying dividends for Marcus Darbyshire, Chief Information Officer of South East Water, a Victorian Government-owned provider of water and related services, which has just deployed Open Text Content Lifecycle Management (CLM) Services for SharePoint.

The new software is providing lifecycle management services for approximately nine million physical and electronic records, all of which are maintained in two distinct enterprise content management (ECM) systems – Microsoft SharePoint and Open Text's ECM Suite.

The CLM solution brings VERS-compliant records management policies and practices into the organisation's SharePoint environment. This allows the application of consistent retention and disposal policies across all of the organisation's records and, for the first time, is enabling staff to conduct a single search across the contents of both systems.

South East Water has a long history with its two ECM environments. The Open Text solution was introduced as an asset management tool in 1997 while Microsoft SharePoint has provided collaboration and workflow support since 2003. The latter is used extensively by engineering and project teams, and provides the platform for the organisation's external website, its intranet and alliance partner extranet.

The records management capability from Livelink is a natural fit for the environment in which SE Water operates, as the organisation must deal with numerous stakeholders, Acts and Regulations at all times.

More than 2000 items of customer correspondence are now scanned daily and immediately available to SE Water call centre operators. Autonomy Teleform middleware provides the capacity for scanning correspondence for evaluation, verification and and exported to the company’s billing, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and GIS/Maps systems.

More than 8000km of water mains and 7000km of sewers are under the control of SE Water along with infrastructure for water delivery and sewage.

The huge repository of engineering drawings describing this network is managed and can be marked up on Livelink (through the Brava tool), which is also used as an image library by the communications and marketing divisions of SE Water.

With over 9 million documents in the Livelink ECM repository, it continues to grow at an average of 4GB a week, pushing the repository size over 1 Terabyte

Marcus Darbyshire, Chief Information Officer of South East Water, said, “We've had strong records management practices for printed material for many years but electronic content hasn't received quite the same attention. It tended to be stored in repositories such as SharePoint, Open Text or shared drives. Documents were rarely archived and there was always the risk of accidental deletion.”

As part of the software implementation, South East Water's project team conducted extensive research into staff and management attitudes towards records management practices. A new set of policies was developed to streamline processes, better engage staff cooperation and to take maximum advantage of the organisation's new unified records management capabilities. These policies and an overview of the capabilities are now being rolled out to records managers and key stakeholders.

Darbyshire adds, “The benefit of this deployment is the peace of mind that it offers around document lifecycle management. As a water provider our assets can live for 100 years or more. Applying the Open Text records management capabilities to SharePoint means we now have the security of knowing that our information is not being deleted before its time. It is properly managed and can be easily found.”

Staff have the choice of saving documents and emails into SharePoint or the Open Text ECM, and many are now using SharePoint's Web 2.0 capabilities to create blogs or wikis instead of emailing documents.

"People are starting to use MySites instead of local hard drives for storage, so the message is getting through," said Darbyshire.

The idea of treating SharePoint as a front end for existing ECM or document management technologies is gaining traction in the public sector in Australia, according to new research from industry analysts Hydrasight.

Hydrasight was commissioned by Open Text to survey a number of its existing customers within the public sector in Australia with the intention of determining their beliefs, intentions, activity and experiences with ECM.

John Brand, research director at Hydrasight, said, “Microsoft SharePoint is developing a role as the primary user interface for collaboration and record keeping. It is effectively “pre-processing” organisational content to reduce the burden of compliance and record keeping for end-users.”

“We see that Microsoft SharePoint will increasingly become a key component of a structured information management process improvement program for the majority of Australian and New Zealand based organisations through 2015.”