Bell Canada cuts complexity, improves efficiency with new compliance kiosk


When developing a Web-based library for its regulations and compliance records, Bell Canada also sought to minimize the complexity of a customized application rollout.

So it decided to replace an older version of its content management software application, with one (also from OpenText Corp. of Waterloo, Ont.) that could be deployed quickly and with minimal customization.

Essentially Bell Canada wanted to develop a one-stop-shop compliance kiosk for employees and clients.

The telecom company says it achieved this goal swiftly and seamlessly.

Implementation began in September 2005 and in just four months, Bell’s Electronic Regulatory Information Kiosk (ERIK) was up and running.

The system can hold more than half a million records and make them available online for various internal users.

“Customization would have meant additional work, retraining and longer deployment time,” noted Sonia Diaz-Sotomayor, associate director, regulatory affairs, for Bell Canada in Ottawa. “This system came with nearly 90 per cent out-of-the-box features we could use with minor changes.”

The regulatory affairs department of Bell Canada promotes the organization’s interests before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission (CRTC), the Competition Bureau and the Privacy Commission of Canada.

The department manages documentation related to awarding broadcasting licenses, the approval of tariffs and the review of corporate mergers and acquisitions.

Diaz-Sotomayor said before implementing ERIK, the regulatory affairs department was bogged down by a lengthy records gathering process. These records were in various paper and electronic formats and scattered across Bell and its family of companies. The department used an older version of OpenText’s Livelink ECM (enterprise content management), which Bell had bought in 1998.

Over the years, however, the system could not cope with the organization’s needs as the volume of documents. In some instances, the process even involved manual completion of tariff documents.

Accuracy was also an issue. The older system allowed the completion of a process even when operators failed to key in certain codes or fill required fields.

Another problem was version control. “A tariff page can have as many as 12 versions as it goes through the process. We needed a way to track changes and retrieve older versions for data analysis,” Diaz-Sotomayor said.

Basically, the older ECM system had served its purpose, and needed to be replaced, according to an OpenText executive.

“Our objective was to reduce the degree of customization and [take advantage of] the shelf capability of the system,” said Carlos Burmeister, client delivery manager, global services, OpenText.

More than 200,000 documents in physical and electronic format were collected from across the enterprise and migrated to a newer Livelink ECM 9.5.

A review of the previous system was conducted to determine required features and areas where customization could be addressed by the default features from version 9.5.

The collaboration between Bell Canada and OpenText produced ERIK, a library system specifically tailored for the phone company’s regulatory affairs needs.

One significant custom module in ERIK deals with the tariff approval process. A tariff document contains information regarding goods and products offered by Bell. Burmeister said ERIK is able to support more than 12 types of tariff documents that come with associated controls such as specific access restrictions and bi-lingual formatting requirements. The system prevents the release of improperly completed documents.

“This saves us as much as 45 per cent of the time [we used to] spend re-tracing incorrectly processed documents,” said Diaz-Sotomayor.

ERIK also has an enhanced version control capability that allows users to track the series of revisions that a document went through. Users can view each version and put a lock on documents to prevent overwrite.

Diaz-Sotomayor said data is automatically routed from ERIK and published on Bell’s Intranet and made available to internal customers. Before, librarians had to extract a document from the system and send it via e-mail to whoever requested it.

A faster search capability also helped cut down request fulfillment time by as much as 50 per cent, she said.

An effective ECM system has become “absolutely crucial” for large enterprises such as Bell, according to George Goodall, managing director at Info-Tech Research Group Inc. an analyst firm in London, Ont.

Part of the issue, he said, involves “clearing out the IT closet” of non-essential data. “The IT department is very good in remembering things, but not too efficient in forgetting.”

An ECM system is effective in archiving documents and data and “weeding out non-vital documents,” he said.

Essential ECM features mentioned by Goodall include data capture, document access and editing controls, hold features that govern document lifespan, search indexing, archiving and Web content management.

The ECM market has evolved along with the data management needs of corporations over the last five years, according to the Info-Tech analyst. “The volume of data that a $50 million company handles today would be equal to that handled by a company with $5 billion in revenue five years ago.”

This has opened up a potential battleground for ECM stalwarts and new entrants.

“Now we have companies such as Microsoft expanding their SharePoint collaboration platform to include document and record management as well to entice smaller companies,” said Goodall.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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