Figuring out the whereabouts of grant files and financial records at Canada Council for the Arts used to be a sluggish process, dependent on an archaic paper-based method and a database limited in functionality.
Yet, the Ottawa-based organization, tasked with promoting the arts, receives most of its funding from the federal government and must be able to account for how funds are spent. “We didn’t have any way to determine that the media arts section had this file or the visual arts section had that file,” recalled Timothy Stevenson, administrator of the reference and documentation centre with the Council.
An enterprise content management (ECM) initiative – the ability to capture, store and retrieve an organization’s documents – at the Council several years ago introduced a records management system that allowed ease of file search in the event of an auditor or internal request, and file disposal as per industry standards, said Stevenson.
“So whenever (a file) gets charged out to someone or gets moved around Council … if someone comes looking for it we know exactly where it is at all times,” said Stevenson. “And it that makes our job a heck of a lot easier.”
While the initiative was successful, user adoption was not necessarily a given early on. “That was a big stepping stone because people were not used to using an automated records manager to find their information,” said Stevenson. The Council launched an awareness campaign designed to educate and train users on the new process.
Overcome ECM inertia
Organizations can often be tentative in the face of ECM initiatives given the perception of that it is still very new and not well-tested, when in fact it’s been around for years and based on solid standards, said Bruce Sharpe, founding technologist with Vancouver-based content management software vendor JustSystems Canada Inc.
Often, enterprises aren’t even aware that there exist alternative ways of managing content, said Sharpe. “Overcoming the inertia of just living with the systems they’ve got right now is the big thing,” he said.
The fact that Microsoft Office documents remain popular tools today to manage content reminds Sharpe of the early days of customer relationship management, when spreadsheets of names and phone numbers were considered sufficient. “That is a little bit the state we are in right now with content in the enterprise,” he said. “People have individual applications and individual repositories of documents on their computers and (are) not really sharing them with anybody.”