A Wombat's Eye View

A Wombat's Eye View

By Stuart Finlayson

May 01, 2005: How a Melbourne local authority turned to a cuddly Australian icon to simplify and accelerate the accessing of information across the organization.

The City of Stonnington Council is one of Victoria's leading local government organisations with over 400 employees servicing some of Melbourne's most prestigious inner eastern suburbs.

Sounds peachy, but it has not always been all sweetness and light down Stonnington way, at least in terms of managing information.

As the IT manager at the City of Stonnington Council, Danny Cheung is responsible for managing the resources and operations of the IT department. The IT department services over 500 computer users, with more than 50 applications in use across 28 sites. In addition, Cheung is responsible for the contract of Central Records Service.

"In essence the role is a technology, information and records management one and a critical part of it is knowledge management," says Cheung. "It is this component that WombatView Search assists the Council in managing information, which became part of my IRMA (Information, Records Management and Archive) strategy.

The WombatView Search Server is the creation of Wombat Technology (formerly Web Wombat), a wholly-owned Australian company that has been providing enterprise search technology and services for almost a decade.

WombatView complements existing council IT Infrastructure and is a tool that is designed to deliver greater value from their existing investment in data resources. In the case of the City of Stonnington Council, it provides every employee with their own personalised view of all the content to which they have security permissions to access.

"For the first time, any and every employee has the same ability to use appropriately secured [against their permission profile] information to help them with their day to day work function," proffers Peter Maniatis, CEO of Wombat Technology.

The WombatView Search Server scans content from the councils' various File Servers, Lotus Notes databases, TRIM document management system and a number of SQL databases to produce a searchable Index.

Internal council users then access the search function via an Internal Intranet address linked to their Intranet and have search results returned to them against their security permissions from any and all of the data sources across the council.

So enamoured has the local authority been with the WombatView system, the employees have even christened it with a name closely connected to another well-known search engine.

"The WombatView developed at Stonnington is called Stoogle, which stands for Stonnington's Google," reveals Cheung.

Some of the areas of the council's activities the system has helped to improve include reduced reworking and duplication of tasks; less time searching for information; speedier response to requests and more comprehensive use of council information.

As well as being successfully deployed at local government level, Maniatis says WombatView is being used across all levels of Government to provide an extensive and scalable means of finding and accessing information from across the organisation.

"Local Government Councils are using WombatView to deliver immediate access [with security] across Property System, Document & Records Management Systems, Content Management Systems, Lotus Notes Applications, email, rates systems and call centre systems. It allows any user to gain a unified view of all accessible information quickly and simply via a single interface, maximising the use of all corporate data.

"At State Government level, Departments are using the WombatView offering to deliver immediate value on Knowledge Management initiatives. IT personnel find it useful that the WombatView offering does not impact the desktop software environment as users access the tool via a web browser, rendering the solution immediately deployable.

"Finally, within the Federal Government, the ability to drop an appliance server into a Federal Government organisation can provide significant benefits in a speedy delivery of such an effective tool. Outsourced IT departments can still gain the benefits of such an effective tool as WombatView without the significant overhead of support and maintenance being carried by the outsourcer-deployment can be quicker than tradition software dropped installations."

Cheung says the introduction of WombatView has resolved what was once a major gripe among staff.

"Because we have a fairly big network of disk drives, Council users used to complain that they cannot remember the names of files or documents they've created and cannot find where they are stored. There was no document search tool to assist the users to find information stored in these network drives until WombatView-or Stoogle in our case-came along. The Stoogle server indexes and collates data and information and the search engine enable users to easily find information stored."

Cheung says the Council has been continually adding functionality to the system since it was implemented.

"We've developed the Web Wombat product to work with Lotus Notes applications and into a search portal encompassing documents files, photos and pictures. We've also added a picture catalogue for departments that have large number of photos or pictures to keep a track of where they are stored. We've called this Pictoogle."

Cheung says a few issues still remain with the implementation before it is ready to be rolled out across the organisation but expressed his satisfaction that "it has been generally well received, particularly Pictoogle as users can have a thumbnail view of the picture file during the search. The speed of the search has also impressed me.

"Only personal assistants, managers and coordinators have access to Stoogle at this stage, but the biggest difference we have seen already is that these users can now find documents they created without burdening IT."

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