Hackney council boosts efficiency, cuts costs through Open Text deployment

By Martin Courtney
13 Sep 2010 View Comments
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The software provides a single view of case related documents to avoid duplicating business processes

In the summer of 2006, the London Borough of Hackney (LBH) began an extensive rollout of Open Text enterprise content management (ECM) software, which took three and a half years and a project team of up to 10 people at any one time to complete. Cost savings on document storage are estimated at £7m, and a further £200,000 per year for the lifetime of the system.

The council previously used disparate document management systems, like Comino for revenues and benefits, and IDOX for planning, with the bulk of its documents stored on multiple shared drives spread across the council’s offices in East London.

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With so many physical and electronic documents stored in so many different places, and with some departments employing their own working practices, it was vital for LBH to introduce a corporate-class electronic documents and record management system (EDRMS) that could impose tighter, more centralised control over their management and access. And due to a consolidation of its offices, LBH was also running out of physical storage space.

"Paper documents were stored in filing cabinets in offices or off site. In parallel with the EDRMS procurement, the council also tendered for a corporate bulk off-site storage and scanning contract, which was won by TNT. Some 41,886 boxes have been removed from LBH, equating to a space saving of 4,188m,” said a spokesperson for the council’s IT department.

Eventually, all operational documents used by LBH (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Visio, PDF) will be stored in the OpenText ECM suite, alongside email messages that form part of a record.

“Currently, 3,500 to 3,800 documents are stored in the system every day, with users typically accessing double that number daily,” said the spokesperson. “There are 1.95 million documents in the system overall taking up 1.3TB of capacity.”

Security is understandably important, with the council subject to rules and regulations about how it stores and manages information including various Local Government Acts, the Data Protection Act (DPA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOI, including the Code of Practice of Records Management).

LBH also aims to comply with national standards relating to information management, and is required to provide documentary evidence that the legislative requirements are being met.

"Sign-on for users is seamless via links with Active Directory, but security within the system is handled through organisational groups managed by the corporate information management team. The council does not use specific identity access management software," said the Hackney spokesperson.

The software also needed to integrate with the LBH customer relationship management (CRM) and housing application, and provide a single view of case-related documents to avoid duplicating business processes. The in-house team was able to achieve this using the Open Text application programming interface (API) and software development kit.

Having now completed the deployment, aided by consulting and business services group Mouchel, LBH says it has significantly reduced the volume of call-backs and follow-ups from on-site council staff and home workers who are now able to get hold of the information they need more quickly from wherever they happen to be using remote web access. This has had a knock-on effect on customer dissatisfaction associated with the time delays that often resulted previously.

LBH staff no longer send documents attached as emails – they provide colleagues with a link to the document stored within the EDRMS, meaning duplicate files are eliminated, documents have a full audit history and compliance rules are met.

More pertinently, the council estimates it has saved £7m just on avoiding the need for an additional floor devoted to physical paper storage at the Hackney service centre, with ongoing annual cost savings calculated at £200,000. By reducing the time to locate documents, it also estimates it has saved an average of £35,000 of man hours per year per 20 employees, and has also reduced its building control department headcount from 27 to 21.

The volume of building control site inspections staff can manage in any one time period has been improved by 11 per cent, for example, and FoI response times increased from 75 per cent within deadline to 95 per cent.

LBH plans to scan all documents into a digital mailroom in the future, and also deploy Open Text Business Process Management software to deliver more automation and information delivery, which it is hoped will result in faster claims processing than is currently possible with manual, paper-intensive processes.

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