From its Onamia, MN, headquarters, the Corporate Commission of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians operates Grand Casino Mille Lacs and Grand Casino Hinckley, which includes hotels, convention centers, entertainment venues, a golf course, food and beverage venues, gift shops, an RV park, and a marina. In addition, the Corporate Commission operates an RV and auto shop, gas stations, a movie theater, a Subway franchise, and a wastewater management facility. “We have 12 separate businesses in all, spread out over 55 miles,” says Lance Dutcher, Systems Engineer for the Corporate Commission.
A more efficient way was needed to manage the 500 contracts a year that keep these businesses serviced, supplied and staffed, says Dutcher. Each contract requires multiple approvals, which created ample opportunities for bottlenecks—sometimes costly ones. Missing deadlines could result in 10-15% fee increases because a discounted quote would expire, or due to penalties. And there was the potential for service contracts to lapse. “We could have a major piece of equipment go down and find out we had no contract,” Dutcher notes.
By 2008, Grand Casinos identified a need for an automated contract management system with three major requirements:
- Routing documents from outlying properties to the Corporate Commission’s office in a time sensitive manner.
- Tracking documents to enforce deadlines and address bottlenecks.
- Generating a required monthly report summarizing the activity/expiration of contract-related documents.
For almost eight years, the Corporate Commission had been using a Laserfiche system with Quick Fields advanced capture to scan HR documents. When Dutcher saw the document routing and tracking capabilities of Laserfiche Workflow at the 2008 Laserfiche Institute Conference in Los Angeles, he realized he already had the enterprise content management (ECM) and business process management (BPM) tools to build a contract management system using Laserfiche. “I literally went to one Workflow session at the Conference, came back, and started designing workflows,” he says.
Working with solutions consultant Clay Baer of reseller Crabtree Company, Dutcher laid the groundwork for a Laserfiche contract management system by:
- Moving the Laserfiche 7.2 server to a single virtual server running Windows Server 2003 SP2 and SQL 2005.
- Installing Laserfiche Workflow, Web Access, Quick Fields, and Audit Trail on the virtual server.
- Upgrading to Laserfiche 8.0.
Dutcher then worked with a five-member project team drawn from Management, Legal, Training, Purchasing and IT to develop and refine contract workflows over a two-month period. The team worked out routing processes, deadline times and designated the approvers.
While designing that process, Dutcher’s team found it made sense to have a backup person for every approver in the routing process, to keep the process moving efficiently.
Turning Months into Days—Without Incurring Costs
Following a month of designing and programming workflows, Dutcher led three months of trial testing using the IT Department’s own contracts. After training users, the system went live with all 39 departments in 12 businesses.
“Within six months, we had 22 Workflows,” he says. “We did all the training in-house without a consultant, so we were able to implement our contract management system without any outside services or additional costs.” Dutcher notes this is in sharp contrast to stand-alone contract management systems he had researched prior to implementing Laserfiche Workflow. “I looked at half-a-dozen contract management systems and went through all their bullet points, and I couldn’t find anything we needed that we couldn’t build ourselves using Laserfiche.”
Security and viewing is configured using Microsoft Active Directory groups, so only department heads can see their own contracts. Dutcher notes this keeps system administration to a minimum. “There’s actually no administration in Laserfiche.”
As a result of using Laserfiche for contract management, Dutcher says, the Mille Lacs Band has been able to:
- Centralize and standardize management and storage of contracts.
- Provide remote access to location-specific information and documents using Web Access.
- Track all contracts.
- Share documents between businesses and departments.
- Eliminate printing costs and duplication.
- Automate reporting.
The greatest benefit is time. “Most of our documents are now routed within 3 days or less, instead of weeks and in some cases months. We used to have an administrator at each location distribute paper copies for signatures that were faxed—and sometimes re-faxed if they weren’t legible. Now the documents are emailed to a single contract administrator, who uses Snapshot to add them into Laserfiche, and the contract is automatically routed for approval,” Dutcher says. “Upper management can review contracts from anywhere using Web Access. We’ve been able to have 12 people at different properties sign a document in less than 90 minutes.”
User accountability and timeliness has come from being able to track documents using stamps and annotations. “Anyone that has the ability to view the document can track where the document is and how long someone has had it,” Dutcher says. “We don’t need a spreadsheet of where a contract is or to search from office to office because we have automatic reminders to make sure that documents continue to be routed.”
Finally, using an “expiration” metadata field added to all contracts, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services creates monthly reports of contract activity for the company while alerting appropriate department heads of relevant contracts in danger of expiring. “It used to take an administrative assistant a full day to make these reports,” Dutcher notes. “Now, they’re generated automatically.”
The Run Smarter® Philosophy in Action: Best Practices Tips and Tricks
- Standardize contract forms and workflow creations for repeatable processes. “One of the things that we really found beneficial was standardizing the forms we use to create contracts. We found that keeping the same routing processes for all workflows helped to keep the amount of training to a minimum.”
- Import electronic documents instead of scanning documents into Laserfiche. “This will produce a more legible document and eliminate the costs and hours spent on scanning, paper, toner, printers and scanners.”
- Have a complete documented process before designing your workflows and start with a small one that can be used elsewhere or built on. “The best thing about Laserfiche is you can copy a workflow and modify it to fit the new process or link it to another workflow. You can also copy parts of a workflow into another workflow so that you do not have to create the same steps with each new workflow.”