As the IT Director for Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) in Ontario, Canada, Mike Hiltz provides IT leadership and proactively brings technology opportunities to HWDSB’s various departments. Several departments within the district were already using Laserfiche to manage content, and Hiltz knew that expanded deployment could help the school board solve many of the issues it was having with content organization, storage and access—not to mention save a significant amount of time and money.
The Facilities Services/Plant Management Department was using Laserfiche to digitize content like electrical drawings and floor plans, but other departments still relied on third-party storage and manual search methods. Filing, storing and locating records were not only extremely difficult processes, but also very time consuming.
“Managing primarily paper records in an organization of our size was often a slow, arduous and expensive task,” says Hiltz. “We were forced to rely on outside storage facilities, and manual workflow processes were extremely inefficient.”
In addition to eliminating the need for paper storage altogether by building a digital records repository, HWDSB also needed to improve its ability to readily locate records—both for faster customer service and easier compliance with government regulations.
The Ontario Ministry of Education requires a student’s records to be kept for five years after the student graduates, while other information is to be held for 55 years, including:
- Student transcripts.
- Special education information.
- Disciplinary records.
- Copies of diplomas and certifications.
In a district of 50,000 students and 7,000 employees, this amounted to an enormous quantity of records that were on paper, CD-ROMs or microfilm—often stored in boxes in basements of schools that had the extra space. “If someone graduated in 1960 and contacted us for a copy of their diploma, we had to take the time to manually search through each box until we found the record,” Hiltz explains.
Overhauling Old Methods
In an effort to overhaul its paper-based approach to content management, streamline processes in multiple departments and ease regulation compliance, Hiltz pushed for change. “The IT Department began an education campaign around content management. We held information sessions and group discussions to figure out how additional departments could use Laserfiche and if it was the right choice across the board.”
Turns out it was: Citing ease of use as the number-one selection criteria, Hiltz says that the scalability of Laserfiche allowed HWDSB to roll it out at a workable cost, expanding use by one department at a time.
“The biggest user of Laserfiche is the Director’s—or Superintendent’s—Office,” he says. There, the Director and other senior officials use Laserfiche on a daily basis, not only as a mechanism for storing records, but also to manage:
- Committee meetings and minutes.
- Trustee meeting agendas.
- Ontario policies and procedures.
Hiltz’s own IT Department also uses Laserfiche to manage its forms, invoices, purchase orders and records. Rather than wait for other departments to respond to information requests—which entailed locating the information, making necessary copies and then sending them over—now Laserfiche allows authorized users to retrieve records themselves from the Laserfiche repository. “All of the departments working with Laserfiche are eliminating storage and getting rid of excess paper, but we’re also focusing on improving interdepartmental access to records and making them faster to retrieve.”
In addition to IT, Facilities and the Director’s Office, HWDSB deployed Laserfiche in Business Services as well. “Accounting, Payroll, Purchasing—they all use Laserfiche now. When it comes time for audits of our invoices and purchase orders, everything we need is easily accessible,” Hiltz explains. “Previously, we had to send this information to offsite storage, which made retrieval extremely difficult.”
HWDSB was pleased to see several immediate benefits after expanding its Laserfiche implementation, including:
- A reduction in the need for offsite storage.
- Optimization of office space.
- Easier compliance with government mandates and a streamlined auditing process.
- More efficient use of staff time.
- Quicker searchability and accessibility of records.
“Laserfiche has become a part of how people do their jobs on a daily basis,” Hiltz says. “It’s evident people are committed to using it—it’s just a more efficient way to operate.”
A substantial amount of paper has been removed from HWDSB’s offices as files can now be accessed from the secure Laserfiche repository, both optimizing much needed office space and allowing the staff to work more efficiently.
“Laserfiche has allowed our staff to work more productively, saving our Board money and providing us with the confidence that we can quickly access critically important documents when needed,” Hiltz continues. “Staff is able to complete tasks in a fraction of the time and reduce the possibility of lost or late arriving documents.”
In addition to using Laserfiche for enterprise content management, Hiltz says that HWDSB is also working to develop a SharePoint Enterprise Portal, with plans to use Laserfiche as the ECM component to provide content management, search and retrieval and Workflow automation. The integration will enable staff—and eventually students and their parents—to access documents stored in the Laserfiche repository right from the portal, eliminating the need to launch Laserfiche separately or toggle between screens. Staff-related documents types will include:
- Staff benefit statements.
- Vacation requests.
- Professional development portfolios.
- Mileage requests and reimbursement claims.
Staff will be able to log into the portal from anywhere and search information stored in Laserfiche. “One of the keys to this integration is the ability to instantly search for documents. Laserfiche makes it so easy,” says Hiltz.
Although HWDB is still at the beginning stages of implementing Laserfiche Workflow, Hiltz says that the organization is planning to use the full range of BPM functionality. The Director’s Office is eager to use Agenda Manager, while the HR department is very interested in using Workflow to automate processes for job applications, benefits information and staff records. “Using Workflow to complete forms and requests, while integrating with the portal, will boost efficiency in paper-heavy departments like HR immensely,” Hiltz explains.
HWDSB also has plans to make Laserfiche a part of its education initiative called 21st Century Fluencies. “We’re asking, ‘How can teachers teach like they’ve never taught before?’ The classroom needs to prepare students for careers, and of course technology is a huge part of that,” says Hiltz. “Both students and teachers are adjusting to learning and teaching with technology, and Laserfiche is the perfect fit with the idea of paperless classrooms—where reference materials, student papers, grades and so on are accessed and organized electronically.”
Hiltz concludes that HWDSB decided to expand its Laserfiche implementation because it is “far superior” to other ECM systems. “Even if Laserfiche is implemented in individual departments at first, the benefits are clearly enterprise-wide. It’s definitely important to focus on working toward implementation across the entire organization.”