Policy management quick, clean and green for VUW

Policy management quick, clean and green for VUW

By Brendan O'Hanlon

Document management system puts policies in order

Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) has more than 16,500 students and some 4,200 staff. Like any large organisation, it has a plethora of policy documents including statutes, policies, procedures and guidelines that require management.

In mid 2002 some very complex administrative difficulties identified the need to replace the existing policy framework. To add to this, the new interface needed to be aesthetically in keeping with the VUW's existing Web services.

The existing Policy Framework was a custom built application. There were no "off the shelf" products that met VUW's original needs. This original application proved to be convoluted to use; policies were split into individual parts and stored in a database which then reassembled them on retrieval. Allison Holt, the Project Manager at VUW said that the original document templates were restrictive and difficult to maintain in line with branding and style changes.


VUW decided on a set of strategic objectives to get a consistent, university-wide process for writing, approving and disseminating policy. The goal was to make policy documentation electronic and Web enabled for easy access by staff and students. Students and staff need to keep abreast of any changes, as policy consultation and development can occur at any level of the University, and with official policy documents themselves being rapidly released, updated or amended.

SilentOne was chosen to implement its Knowledge Library System following the evaluation of several systems. The system runs on VUW's network, which hosts an eclectic range of devices and has a gigabit core and an interbuilding/intrabuilding capability with speeds of 10/100 Mb/s available at the desktop.

The implementation process ran in VUW's favour. The University Policy Framework project team and SilentOne worked closely to execute the new system, with the entire installation process taking 40 hours. Public access to the site was provided by the SilentOne "passive" HTML-only browser client. Select VUW staff were then given access to the "active" client, allowing them to add and meta-data profile the policy documents.


There were a number of factors contributing to the brevity of SilentOne's implementation. Prior to the project team being assembled, Alison Holt redesigned VUW's policy home page to match the new application. Accurate times were estimated for each phase of implementation, and the required systems management staff worked at the same time as SilentOne personnel during the installation, which meant that the project team wasn't waiting around for someone to finish a previous installation step.

Nor was it time alone that was saved during the implementation of SilentOne. The legacy system was made unavailable for use in the fortnight prior to implementation, which meant there was ample time to take down the old system and install the new, which kept expenditure to a minimum.

The transition to SilentOne is having tangible benefits for policy management at VUW. According to staff, it has good search facilities and is easy to administer, to put up new versions of documents and look at old versions of documents. The ability to present documents in a variety of formats is probably one of the most important features, with policies available in both PDF and Word format. Furthermore, SilentOne's document URL always points to the current version of the document.

A gateway page was also created to provide a link between the university's Web site and the policy repository. This streamlined the document search process for the user, by providing access to predefined searches and commonly accessed documents.

The newly implemented records management system has gained approval from crucial quarters, with Linda Bowden the Policy Administrator at VUW saying, "SilentOne has made the policy management process much more streamlined, it's easier and quicker to use than the previous system, simple to understand for a non-techno person like myself, and I think easier for our clients to search and access policies. I believe that because it is a more user-friendly system there is more acceptance amongst the university community of the whole policy and statute process - because the previous system was so cumbersome, people were less inclined to try to write up their policies."

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