It was the end of an almost three-year project designed to bring Water Corporation's record keeping practices in line with compliance requirements laid down in the State Records Act 2000.
The utility is responsible for delivering water and waste water services to households, businesses and communities across the 2.5 million square kilometres that make up Australia's largest state.
Headquartered in Perth, the organisation has 45 offices and depots from which it manages more than $11.5 billion worth of water-related assets.
Those assets range from modern irrigation schemes to 1900's dams through to small bores sunk in remote regions during the 1800's.
Until recently, making data accessible and shareable across multiple sites - and remaining well protected - wasn't an easy task.
Konrad Tauber, IS relationship manager, Information Services branch, Water Corporation, said the biggest issue was being able to find things.
"Given the type of work that we do and the nature of the assets that we are responsible for, a lot of our documentation needs to be kept permanently and finding past records can be critical," he said.
"Historically, information was maintained by separate departments in a range of systems.
"There was also a hard-copy system where important documents would be put into a central file and this would have to be sent around if someone from another area or department wanted access to the records."
Electronic files made it easier to send copies of documents to others but this raised issues of original content. Recipients would save copies to their own server and, as amendments were made, different versions of the document would be saved to files throughout the organisation.
Trissa Dent, information and ECM project coordinator for the Water Corporation, said the challenge was sharing information across 45 locations without duplicating it.
The question of compliance
The introduction of Western Australia's State Records Act 2000 dramatically increased records management requirements for State Government entities.
The Water Corporation responded by implementing an Open Text records management solution for its management and records management teams.
The solution worked but by 2005 it was apparent that the limited roll-out was not enough to meet compliance.
A broader enterprise content management deployment was needed, one that would centrally store and support document life cycle management for all Water Corporation emails, office applications, graphics and engineering files.
To resolve the problem, the Water Corporation turned to WA-based ECM system integrators WindowLogic.
The two organisations had worked together on a number of projects in the past and both Tauber and Dent were confident it could provide a depth of document management experience and knowledge that wasn't available internally.
Another factor in the decision was that WindowLogic was locally based.
"Whenever we have to rely on expertise that is outside this state, it makes it a lot harder," added Tauber.
Defining the problem
The first step for WindowLogic was to help the Water Corporation define what it needed.
Keith Walker, managing director of WindowLogic and program manager for the ECM solution, said the client realised that enterprise content management was a problem area.
"Even though [the Water Corporation] had an Open Text solution for several years, it was being treated as a tactical solution primarily for records management and it wasn't getting full value for its investment in the technology," he said.
An investigation showed that in addition to the fragmentation of information, Water Corporation staff were confused about the roles of various information systems within the organisation.
There were inconsistencies in language, structure, security and processes between departments. The situation was also complicated by a lack of original content control and audit trails.
The net result was that work was duplicated, there was limited re-use of existing material and records keeping practices were not compliant with state regulations.
"One of their biggest issues was the use of email as a document management repository, making high value document contents practically invisible to the corporation," said Walker.
"This kind of siloed information meant that Water Corporation had a limited ability to manage the life cycle of electronic documentation."
With the problems now identified, four projects were set:
- Simplify and standardise the creation and capture of information assets throughout the Corporation;
- Improve users' ability to correctly capture context and manage the lifecycle of content;
- Improve access to and control of all document-based assets for all Corporation staff, key alliance partners and contractors;
- Support other corporate information management initiatives.
WindowLogic also led a technology review to examine available ECM solutions before recommending that Open Text was the right one for Water Corporation's purposes.
Dent said it had experience with the solution and was happy with it, so it made sense to stick with Open Text.
Given the size and geographical branches of Water Corporation, the eDOCS deployment was always going to be a large and lengthy assignment, but Walker said he was never fazed by the project.
"WindowLogic handles deployments of this scale on a regular basis and we've developed a solid methodology through our experience in deploying ECM products," he said.
"It's a foundation methodology more than anything which adapts to whatever internal project management disciplines our clients follow."