Nov 16 2012

Multiple Paths to Document Management

Agencies seek improvements in efficiency, transparency and security.

The research that the Army Corps of Engineers conducted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina took the agency six months to complete. With a new electronic records management system, based on HP Trim, to make document retrieval much more efficient, ACE’s Jean Gilleo expects that similar follow-up research would take six weeks.

That kind of improvement in efficiency was precisely what the agency was looking for from a document management system. “When we look at the return, we look at the logic of doing a system like this. It just makes sense,” says Gilleo, who serves as chief of governance and architecture within the corporate information directorate of ACE.

Gilleo says that, along with responding to events, ACE wants to improve records management because it needs a more efficient way to meet Freedom of Information Act requests. “The Corps is constantly subject to litigation, so we need a better way to search our records,” she explains.

The new system, which will be fully operational in early 2013, will let ACE staffers simply drag all the official signed documents the agency collects during a project, including e-mails, to their desktops. The HP Trim software classifies the documents, sets up metadata and stores the documents and e-mails in their native form. The system supports just about any file type, from PDFs and Microsoft Office and Visio documents to CAD files.

Katey Wood, an analyst with the Enterprise Strategy Group, says it makes sense that ACE would opt for a more sophisticated content management system such as HP Trim.

Wood says one of the greatest challenges enterprises face is the inability to access or search electronic data in the event of a lawsuit. In a 2011 ESG survey of corporate counsel, records and content management systems were the second most frequently used method of collecting and preserving potential evidence for litigation, after archives. Forty-six percent of respondents currently use content or records management systems, and 25 percent had plans to purchase one in the next year.

“IT shops may start off with SharePoint as an entry-level option but eventually reach the limits of its native features for organization, compliance and other content management initiatives,” Wood explains. “Yet once they graduate official business records to enterprise content management, they may have difficulties with unified search across both the new system and existing SharePoint farms, which have become ingrained into day-to-day workflows for less-critical documents. This is one reason why HP integrated Autonomy’s search into Trim in the latest release, to search across SharePoint and file shares.”


The number of working days that federal agencies generally have to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request

SOURCE: National Archives and Records Administration

Making Documents Public

ACE has also responded to congressional requests to make the district histories of ACE projects available to the public. The histories are of interest to local politicians and engineers, who may want to know how a watershed area or river has changed over the years, or for prospective homeowners or real estate executives interested in a specific neighborhood.

Gilleo says the historical documents are scanned by ACE staffers and posted to a third-party system for retrieval via the web.

“In the past, someone interested in the information would have to file a FOIA request or have a local librarian help them,” she says. “Now, engineers around the world can access the information online.”

The Department of Transportation also uses document management to better comply with FOIA requests and other compliance activities, such as the Paperwork Reduction Act, records retention and improved information security.

DOT leverages capabilities within several technologies, such as Microsoft SharePoint, rather than setting up separate document management systems for its many departments. A department spokesperson says Transportation anticipates significant reductions in terms of processing times for standard daily activities, supporting efforts to leverage information and data across DOT, as well as reducing time spent finding lost documents.


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