Regulatory paperwork will always be a headache. But it’s not as much of a problem for Bell Canada since the telecommunications company created its Electronic Regulatory Information Kiosk (ERIK) content management system.

With a recent upgrade to ERIK, only four people can manage the more than 400,000 documents in the system, a job that once took seven. And regulatory affairs staff can find the documents they need with a quick search rather than having corporate librarians hunt down the hard copies, said Sonia Diaz-Sotomayor, associate director of regulatory affairs at Bell.

Until 1998, Bell’s regulatory affairs staff relied largely on paper documents, and on software that was accessible only to the company’s corporate librarians and helped them find the documents their co-workers needed. Finding the right documents – and making sure they were the correct versions of those documents – was difficult.

The company needed something more robust and reliable, Diaz-Sotomayor said, and it needed to provide version-control capabilities so the company could comply with regulatory requirements to keep track of all revisions to documents related to regulatory filings.

Many businesses are turning to content management tools to help them meet regulatory demands, said Warren Shiau, lead analyst at research firm Strategic Counsel in Toronto. Stricter requirements to retain documents are a major driver behind this, he said, and this is leading to alliances between content management and storage vendors.

Bell chose Livelink ECM, from Open Text Corp. of Waterloo, Ont., as the basis for its system. But an off-the-shelf package couldn’t do everything the company needed, so there was considerable customization involved.

Bell built several modules to handle its requirements, such as a module for tariffs – short documents that outline specific information about goods and services offered – and one for regulatory information services documents. 

Carlos Burmeister, client delivery manager at Open Text, described the creation of ERIK as a joint effort. “Bell brings the subject matter expertise in terms of what is that process and what are the business requirements for filing to the CRTC,” he said. “We bring the product expertise and know-how to incorporate that into the software.” 

ERIK uses a Web interface, so anyone can be given access without the need to install software on every user’s computer. According to Diaz-Sotomayor, about 70 people in Bell’s regulatory affairs department use the system, and another couple of dozen Bell employees outside the department also have access to it.

Early in 2006, Bell completed an upgrade from Version 8.1.5 of Livelink ECM, which it had been using since ERIK was developed, to Version 9.5. The switch took about six months, Diaz-Sotomayor said, because of the amount of custom work Bell had done on top of the Livelink software.

The major benefits of the upgrade for Bell are significantly faster searching and a library structure that allows documents to inherit attributes from the folders in which they are stored, which saves time and effort that would otherwise be spent attaching those attributes to each document individually.

Bell also took the upgrade as an opportunity to switch from running the system on a Unix server to a Windows server. The main reason for that was the greater availability of Windows skills, said Diaz-Sotomayor. “I am the only one who knows Unix,” she said. 

Diaz-Sotomayor said Bell would like to expand the system to capture and store all e-mails related to regulatory matters, a capability Open Text among others can provide.

Open Text’s acquisition of Toronto-based document management software vendor Hummingbird Ltd. last year might present some opportunities as well. Burmeister said the acquisition brought some business intelligence and Web content management capabilities that might be valuable to Bell in the future. And Diaz-Sotomayor says Bell’s legal department uses Hummingbird software and has approached her department to learn more about Open Text.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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