Canada Council for the Arts performs document management upgrade

A national agency that provides funding to Canadian artists is getting creative with the way it manages thousands of applications across several databases. 

The Canada Council for the Arts is planning an upgrade later this year to the latest version of EMC’s Documentum, which is has been using for several years to handle grant applications and its library catalogues as well as integration with its in-house finance and Arts Tracking Systems.

Each year the council receives between 15,000 and 17,000 grant application files, said Michelle Chawla, the organization’s corporate secretary. Included with the forms are examples of artist’s work.

“Depending on what art discipline we’re talking about there’s slides, there’s music CDs,” she said. The Council has also started offering online applications, which creates another form of file to be managed.

The original system the council used was not Y2K-compliant, which was the original business driver for the move to Documentum, Chawla said. The other goal was to reduce the time spent re-keying information into multiple systems. One of the issues in the past is that a lot of data existed in other databases across the council, said Debbie Stenson, administrator of the council’s Reference and Documentation Centre. Some of these databases were built in-house and others came from outside software companies. Documentum Records Manager is now linked into seven databases across the council, and the organization is looking to integrate with outside databases, Stenson said.

The council directors’ correspondence needs to be tracked quite extensively, Stenson added, and considerable work has been put into developing a workflow process based on the Documentum software. “We’re now able to send e-mails for notification back and forth so that the status is recognized,” she said. “A lot of times you didn’t know the status in terms of who has it or who has to respond.”

Besides productivity improvements, the council says it is seeing an average annual savings of $324,700 through the EMC tools, and has increased the research time for handling grant requests from days to seconds. 

Kevin Quinlan, who specializes in document management and archiving as director of the enterprise services group at EMC Canada, said the council was smart to work with its IT group and other stakeholders early in the process.

“They weren’t too dissimilar to a lot of organizations we see in that they had a mix of systems, a lot of it paper-based. It’s a matter of how you enable that (automation) in the enterprise,” he said. “It’s easier with organizations who are out in front of that and have developed some thoughts and processes.”

Chawla said one of the biggest gains came from the ability to have users file their own documents in less than 15 seconds with a throughput of about 240 documents per hour.

“It’s helped to decentralize some of the work in the sense of giving ownership to the staff to indicate we all have responsibility for managing documents,” she said. “They don’t need to wait until the records office is open.”

Stenson said the more recent version of Documentum Records Manager will give the council increased administration capabilities and better reporting, though it shouldn’t have a major impact on how users handle the product.

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