Waterloo Region deploys content management platform

The Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ont. (Waterloo Region) recently automated its paper-based content management processes as a way to improve public accountability, a city official said Wednesday.

Waterloo Region recently implemented a corporate-wide electronic document and records management (EDRM) system from content management vendor Hummingbird Ltd.

Kris Fletcher, director, council and administrative services/regional clerk for the municipality said Waterloo Region is using the Hummingbird Enterprise platform as part of an effort to improve public accountability by lowering the risk of lost or unmanaged electronic and paper documents.

There is a strong requirement to comply with governmental legislative mandates, be it freedom of information, public health, or privacy and compliance legislation, Fletcher said. The municipality must be able to quickly and securely retrieve documents when the public requests it, she noted.

In terms of actual electronic content, the Region creates and receives a high number of Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, CAD drawings, database records, images, e-mail and e-forms.

Previously, the IT environment consisted of disparate servers that were responsible for different departments. From both a collaboration and records management perspective, Fletcher said the Region wanted the ability to exchange data across departments without having to copy and re-copy documents. “For example,” she said, “(previously) the Public Health department (could only) share data with the Social Services department via an e-mail attachment.”

In building a business case for the application, Waterloo Region did a preliminary investigation to determine the actual amount of document duplication. “One document…was copied over 400 times,” Fletcher said. The file showed up on the e-mail server, on various application servers and as a piece of paper. (That, she added, was probably an “extreme” case).

Waterloo Region’s notes, correspondence, corporate records and e-mails are now stored in a secure central repository, Fletcher said. The Hummingbird system tracks document, record, e-mail and file activity, which is maintained in an audit trail. Individuals and groups working on a particular document will use the same central copy when editing and saving changes, Fletcher said, adding this saves project development time and improves information accuracy.

A recent report from Gartner Inc. predicts that by 2008, 75 per cent of Global 2000 companies will have a desktop-focused and process-focused content management implementation. The Stamford, Conn.-based research firm’s report, 2004 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Content Management (ECM), marks Hummingbird as a market leader, along with other ECM vendors such as Open Text Corp., Vignette Corp. and EMC/Documentum Corp.

According to Gartner, Hummingbird’s current challenge within the core document management market includes migrating users from the older client/server Hummingbird DOCS Open platform over to the Hummingbird Enterprise solution and improving its application integration capabilities.

Back in Waterloo, the final roll out to approximately 1,400 system users should be completed by the end of the month, according to Fletcher. Once the project is complete, Waterloo Region will be doing some “hard monitoring” on how having a central repository for content diminishes the actual number of duplications within the system, she said.

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