Solving our document dilemma with Enterprise Content Management

One district was able to completely revamp its document management.

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – we’ve all heard the term “paperless office” too many times to count. It’s a term so undefined and it often appears too far-reaching to become a reality. In today’s fast-paced, information-overloaded education system, we seem to be working in the opposite direction of paperless. There are mountains of paper tests, student records, instructor guidebooks, course outlines, and supply requests continuing to pile up, while old records and documents are stored  away in filing cabinets, often cluttered and disorganized.

Kawartha Pine Ridge School District’s document dilemma began years ago. We looked at the mounds of paper crowding our desks, hallways, and file rooms, and saw we were using paper for everything – sharing communications, tracking legal records, and creating content like training manuals, policies, and teaching material.  So many of our administrative processes were based on paper forms and manual routing; even our relationships with partners, vendors, and suppliers were largely supported by paper in the form of invoices, purchase orders, and catalogs.

We had to regain control of our documents, starting with the processes that drive their creation. There’s more to managing documents than just shuffling papers and finding an efficient filing system. In the education realm, we also have to consider the privacy and confidentiality of the information captured in these documents – who has access to these records, and how are they being used?

We tested a number of different solutions, such as implementing an electronic records system, deploying an archive scanning project, and installing three separate staff intranets. Each project on its own was a small success for the specific goal it was implemented to achieve. The problem: while we were individually achieving our goals, we weren’t interacting across groups – think about how much productivity could be gained if we worked together.

Our district’s needs were met when we implemented Xerox DocuShare’s enterprise content management (ECM) solution.  DocuShare has become our staff intranet platform for sharing information, resources, and applications across the district. We’ve seen a significant reduction in the amount of paper records generated and managed, and are actively working to migrate more business processes over to the digital repository.  Staff members are also starting to realize the benefits of the collaborative workspaces to share information and resources among workgroup or project team members.

The software features access controls and security enhancements to keep track of who views and edits a document, as well as who has access to specific files. Dynamic routing ensures a paper trail so we know where a document should go next. And when we’re finished with the document, it is electronically archived in the appropriate file so it’s easy to find when we need it again.

Along the way to adopting this ECM solution we’ve learned a few things:

  • Identify your goals first. What are your school or district’s business priorities? Would you like to eliminate paper altogether? Or is your hope to organize information for easier access?  Is it to modify overall document processes throughout the district? Is it to allow for increased collaboration among staff? Maybe it’s a combination. Make a projection about where your district sees itself in the future and work backwards to put processes in place to get there.
  • Know the differences between content management and records management. If you’re looking to re-engineer document processes – as we were – a content management solution may not be enough. You’ll need to integrate things like eForms and workflow management, for example.
  • Understand the legal requirements for electronic record keeping. What rules and regulations are in place in regards to school board information? Make sure the solution you choose has security options in place to keep all information secure at all times.

We now have a handle on our document processes – whether it’s sharing training manuals, tracking an absentee request, or managing a student referral. We can build new processes using electronic forms, deliver them using DocuShare, and manage the records throughout their lifecycle.

The implementation of this system helped our district reduce costs, improve productivity, and even helped us meet some of our sustainability goals. By not generating as much paper, we’re doing our part to reduce our district’s carbon footprint. Many of the time-consuming manual processes for administrative and teaching staff are automated now, which means we’re able to focus on what’s most important: making sure our 33,000 students receive the best education possible.

Kellie Barron is the ICT Director in the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board in Ontario.

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