Located just outside of Richmond, VA, Hanover County serves a population of more than 100,000 residents. During tax season, keeping up the books for the constituency can be a daunting task for the Commissioner of Revenue’s Office, which manages all of the county’s real estate, personal, property and state income tax information.
In 2000, Commissioner Scott Harris pushed for the office to eliminate all paper processes to decrease the time staff spent finding and filing tax records. After saving funds every year for an enterprise content management (ECM) system, the office purchased Laserfiche in 2006.
The department began using Laserfiche simply as a digital file cabinet and digitized over 85% of its tax documents in just the first year. However, when the department’s systems administrator, Amy Johnson, attended a user meeting hosted by the county’s reseller, Unity Business Systems, she saw how other organizations were leveraging Laserfiche’s advanced functionality and knew Hanover County could use its ECM system to do more than document search and retrieval.
To take advantage of Laserfiche’s newest features, the county upgraded to Laserfiche Rio in 2010 and started not only storing records, but revamping entire business processes.
The most beneficial module for the department has been Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool included with Laserfiche Rio. Even without a background in IT, Johnson quickly learned the system and began using it to automate the processing and review of the department’s statutory assessment worksheets.
Every year, the office completes statutory assessment worksheets to measure the personal property assets of each local business in the county. Before Laserfiche, compiling and processing these worksheets prior to review led to significant printing costs and time delays.
An integration between Laserfiche Quick Fields and the department’s AS/400 database has the eliminated cumbersome, upfront manual data entry for the process. Instead of re-entering information into new worksheets, staff simply relies on Laserfiche to pull related information stored in the AS400 (i.e. name and address) and insert it into multiple records at the same time.
After data entry, Laserfiche Workflow automates the entire records approval process for managers. New worksheets are immediately searchable in Laserfiche from managers’ desktops, allowing staff to quickly review worksheets and better serve customers on the phone and in person.
With Laserfiche Snapshot, an image capture tool, the office has also completely eliminated redundant printing of these records. Prior to using Laserfiche, documents were collected daily, sorted and filed by date and taxpayer name in file cabinets. Using Snapshot, staff can digitally “print” both scanned paper and electronic documents directly into the Laserfiche repository for filing.
“Snapshot seems like a minor thing, but it was a huge benefit for us because we don’t have to print paper anymore,” says Johnson, estimating that the system saves the office from printing about 15,000 pages a year.
The county also relies on Laserfiche as an automated backbone for records management and retention. With paper, each staff member dedicated at least one day a week to sorting records for filing. Laserfiche has eliminated the need for this rotating position by automatically filing and storing approved documents by type and name for the six-year retention period.
“Everything we do is linked onto a foundation based on Laserfiche Records Management Edition, which allows us to log our records according to state records management standards,” says Johnson.
Johnson says that up-front planning with every employee involved in the process has eased the office’s transition to digital document approval. When she began using Laserfiche Workflow, Johnson invited all the managers responsible for approving documents, along with the division manager, to join her as she drew out the process on a piece of paper. The group discussed every detailed step together and determined how the managers would prefer to approve worksheets in Laserfiche.
“Time spent diagramming upfront will more than pay itself back later. Because we took the time to evaluate our documents, we ended up eliminating a lot of junk in our paper files,” notes Johnson. “It’s also really important to give staff ownership over the process.”
Beyond her work at the county, Johnson is also a leader of the Laserfiche User Group in Virginia, a consortium of Laserfiche users that holds quarterly meetings to foster the exchange of ECM knowledge. The group has grown to include more than 100 members throughout the state. Johnson helps organize special presentations for members, such as a recent workshop by the Library of Virginia on improving compliance with state records management standards.
“The User Group is so beneficial for networking and talking with other users. It’s a great place to hear about the lessons that other users have learned,” says Johnson.
Additionally, Johnson cites the annual Laserfiche Empower conference, reseller support and technical white papers as invaluable resources for improving her skills in using the software.
“Our implementation is so successful because of the community. Laserfiche listens to feedback and uses it to shape its next release. Everyone’s so approachable and helpful, and that makes it easy to like the product,” she says.
With the upgrade to Laserfiche Rio in place, the county plans to implement Laserfiche as a standard tool in many more of its 45 departments. The County Administrator’s Office is currently using Laserfiche to scan, distribute and file daily correspondence to deputy county administrators. Johnson is also working with the Treasurer’s Office to shore up the security of confidential documents with Laserfiche.
The county is also excited to use the upcoming release of Laserfiche Forms in conjunction with a redesigned Website. Online form submission is the most requested feature from the county’s taxpayers, and Laserfiche Forms will give the county the ability to gather constituent data for business and personal property forms, business license applications, land use documents and the like directly from the county Website and use this data to kick off related business processes within Laserfiche.
Adopting new software functionality as it becomes available has helped Hanover County gain top value out of its ECM system. With these new tools, the county is truly leveraging the power of its constituent data in digital form to help transform the way county business is accomplished.
“Laserfiche is the one tool on your desktop that actually does what it’s supposed to do and what you ask it to do,” notes Johnson. “It’s one of my favorite parts of my job.”]]>
Additionally, the county must store and organize most of its departments’ records in complex records structures according to state and federal laws for records retention. With paper records, enforcing retention schedules while ensuring staff could still find and retrieve records involved tedious manual steps for staff across the county.
“There was a complicated system of filing with colored labels on the folders,” says Devin Goble, Programmer Analyst for Jackson County’s IT department. “Complying with retention meant staff had to look through each folder on the shelves, a very time-consuming process.”
Even though the county knew its departments needed an enterprise content management (ECM) system, skepticism toward digital content—and new IT projects—was strong among employees.
“It was a hard fight to get ECM implemented in the county. People were thoroughly entrenched in their paper processes,” says Goble.
To offer a valuable solution to staff, Goble led a search for an ECM system that could satisfy many different users’ needs and eliminate manual paper processes.
Laserfiche appealed to the IT department because it offered a well-supported feature set with a solid, built-in records management component. After hearing the positive experiences of other cities and counties using Laserfiche, Goble was assured that his IT department could structure Laserfiche in a way that would win over skeptical departments.
Although many departments wanted a solution to their paper problems, the county began its Laserfiche implementation in the Sheriff’s Office in 2011. The diverse types of records handled by law enforcement staff offered the perfect testing ground for an improved records management process. Felony records, for example, must be retained by the department for ten years, while records managers can destroy certain types of warrants after five and others after ten. Keeping track of different retention schedules while making paper documents easily accessible to clerks was difficult for the department.
Laserfiche’s Records Management Edition, a DoD 5015.2-certified records management solution, allowed the IT department to separate what Goble calls the “nuts and bolts of records management” from general document use. Using Laserfiche’s transparent records management approach, the department was able to customize content management based on staff members’ job functions and easily organize the same documents in different ways for records managers and deputies.
For example, the four types of warrants handled by the department all require two separate retention schedules. When a warrant is received and scanned into the department’s digital document repository, Laserfiche automatically puts every warrant in its own record series folder, allowing records managers to view warrants in a batch by type or year and purge them at the appropriate time.
At the same time, Laserfiche establishes a separate folder structure for deputies and clerks that lists individual warrants by warrant type and warrant number. Because deputies are usually searching for more granular information within a specific case or a subpoena, Laserfiche automatically organizes documents so that deputies can easily find the detailed case information within a record.
It’s a best of both worlds solution: records managers can easily find and filter warrants based on disposition schedules while, at the same time, deputies can access individual warrants without knowing anything about records naming conventions. Everyone can work with law enforcement documents in the manner they prefer.
“Laserfiche’s transparent records management tools allow us to create a second view of the data in as many places as we need to. Records managers see it in one way. Clerks see it in another way. In some cases, others in the Sheriff’s hierarchy can see it in a completely different way,” says Goble.
Furthermore, an integration between Laserfiche and Tiburon, the department’s CAD/RMS system, pulls relevant names, place and incident dates from the police records upon scanning. Laserfiche Quick Fields auto-populates this information as metadata within the warrant file. Laserfiche Workflow then routes the warrant through the transparent records management filing process, eliminating the time-consuming, manual data entry and document routing steps for staff.
Laserfiche has also completely automated the department’s civil jacket process, which once included tedious data entry by records managers.
For civil cases, deputies compile an envelope of documents called a civil jacket that includes court documents and other records related to an incident when a subpoena is served. When these envelopes are scanned into the document repository, Laserfiche automatically fixes the civil jacket number to comply with the state’s records policy and forwards the documents to clerks for quality assurance.
“We take that act of moving data around and complying with retention policies out of users’ hands as much as possible. In some cases, users never have to touch the documents after they scan them. Laserfiche does all the rest,” says Goble.
Eliminating manual steps helps staff focus on getting their jobs done instead of tracking down and organizing paper. Temporary staff can complete scanning tasks without needing to be trained on document retention parameters, and records managers aren’t burdened with data entry. Laserfiche’s automation tools also eliminate the security risk of records being moved out of their records series.
“Not only do users not have to worry about where things go, they can’t change the filing structure even if they want to. This structure is locked in place by policy,” says Goble.
Furthermore, the Sheriff’s Office can directly push documents to the District Attorney’s office using Laserfiche WebLink, an online Web portal that provides read-only access to documents. High-profile cases often require transferring thousands of pages of records to the DA. With WebLink, the Sheriff’s Office can upload select documents to the online portal and give DA staff secure access to the information, eliminating costly printing and shipping expenses and streamlining litigation.
The initial implementation was so successful that the skeptical end users have started evangelizing Laserfiche to other departments. Goble says he is fielding questions from other departments about records management and Laserfiche all the time.
“It’s nice to give users something solid. Now that our staff has had a chance to see what the product can do for us, they’re getting excited about it,” says Goble.
In addition to using Laserfiche for other documents like purchasing records and contracts for the Sheriff’s Office, IT has expanded ECM to the County Assessor’s Office. The department uses Laserfiche to scan and store historical deed cards, 100-year old property assessment jackets and current personal property returns for local businesses. The county’s Human Resources department has also started integrating Laserfiche with its Oracle ERP system to manage personnel records.
Using Laserfiche Workflow and Laserfiche Quick Fields to automate as much of the capture and indexing process as possible went a long way in showing the value of the application to multiple departments. Goble says that setting up a system that requires as little user interaction as possible was key to expanding ECM into an enterprise application.
“I’m more proud of our users than anything else. We’re really happy to see the expansion that we’ve been able to do with Laserfiche,” notes Goble.]]>
As its membership base grew, the League faced an influx of documents and service needs that its previous document management system, Alchemy, couldn’t handle without instability issues. To build a stable, long-term content management plan for the whole enterprise, which houses 16 departments and 170 employees, the League turned to Laserfiche ECM based on its widespread use among Florida governments.
“We selected Laserfiche because of its reputation as an industry leader,” says Chris Noyes, Business Systems Analyst for the League. “Laserfiche was chosen not only for its reputation and ROI, but for the stability and scalability it would provide our internal operations.”
In fact, purchasing Laserfiche prompted the organization’s IT department and business units to collaborate on new, more efficient ways of structuring business processes.
“For the first time in years, we have directed significant resources into dissecting our existing processes and reengineering them to fit new business conditions using Laserfiche. It has forced us to rethink how we do business—in a positive way,” says Noyes.
The League initiated partnerships between IT and business units during its first Laserfiche deployment in the worker’s compensation claims department, which handles more than 180,000 documents from doctors, providers and the state every year.
The IT department started by mapping out the entire claims process into large-format flowcharts and then hosted inter-department meetings where IT staff and business heads worked together to identify antiquated paper processes, identify business goals and create a strategy for improving the flow of claims information.
Within six months, this collaborative effort resulted in a completely reengineered claims processing cycle. Instead of manually passing multiple copies of documents around the office, claims adjustors and clerical staff now use Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool, integrated with a backend SQL database to automatically route claims to the right adjustors in both the Orlando and Tallahassee offices.
“We’ve gained efficiencies by creating a centralized intake department. The printers are silent and there isn’t an army of personnel moving documents between cubicles,” explains Noyes.
The claims department saved 3,400 labor hours in just the first year of using Laserfiche and reduced a process that once took up to 24 hours to complete to just a few hours. With files in a central location, the department’s special investigations team no longer needs to rifle through the contents of CDs and DVDs and can work more proactively during insurance fraud investigations.
The League’s Property and Liability Claims Center, comprised of statewide field members who assess losses from natural disasters, also implemented Laserfiche to automatically push property claims received by phone to claims adjustors in the field through a completely paperless process.
An integration between Laserfiche Web Access, an online version of the Laserfiche digital document repository, and the League’s risk management software automatically links claim files, bills and state forms together in an online portal that’s quickly accessible by field members.
“In the event of a regional disaster, Laserfiche Workflow promptly notifies our response team and coordinates claim information between our offices and field staff,” says Noyes. “We know immediately if a member has incurred a loss and can act upon it quickly, greatly improving customer service.”
The Property and Liability Claims department is now routing more than 55,000 claim documents a year and has reduced printing expenses by 80%, saving more than $9,000 in operational costs.
With these time and cost savings, insurance staff in the Worker’s Compensation and Property Claims Centers can redirect their efforts to adjusting claims instead of performing back-office tasks like printing faxes and alphabetizing checks. Claims staff are collaborating more quickly with other departments, like underwriting, finance and risk control—the League’s ultimate goal.
When other business units realized what interdepartmental document collaboration and Laserfiche’s ease-of-use had achieved for the insurance groups, suddenly everyone wanted to get in on Laserfiche Workflow, says Noyes.
“Laserfiche Workflow is easy to understand even if you don’t have a lot of technical skills. It’s a tool that helps logically show how information can flow efficiently through the organization. You start seeing light bulbs go off in people’s heads,” he explains.
The League’s Finance department requested a more streamlined solution to its check printing and invoice approval process. Clerks were spending 30 hours a week just matching checks with supporting documents generated from multiple applications.
Using Laserfiche’ integrative abilities, the IT department combined Laserfiche Workflow with Great Plains, the department’s ERP system, the League’s Microsoft CRM system and RightFax faxing software to streamline this process. Laserfiche acts as integrative middleware that updates member information between the databases and pushes customer information through the approval process, from the arrival of fax documents to the printing of a check or invoice.
The IT department also connected Laserfiche with the Apple iPad, giving management the ability to review and approve invoices off-site. Staff can simply access their desktop remotely and open Laserfiche to view files. In the future, the IT department plans to migrate the department onto Laserfiche’s iPad app, an app that allows employees to securely create, upload, view and act upon content from wherever they are.
The department has saved over 500 labor hours using this Great Plains and Laserfiche Workflow integration. Instead of relying on staff to pass information back and forth, Laserfiche now automatically routes 800 invoices a month, significantly improving check turn-around time for vendors and customers.
“Laserfiche Workflow handles our manual processes while also adding value, security and accountability to the process,” says Noyes.
Accounting staff has enthusiastically embraced the solution, which Noyes credits to Laserfiche’s integrative capability. Because Laserfiche works with, not against, applications that users are already familiar with, IT was able to create solutions that didn’t burden staff with learning an entirely new system.
“The more you can integrate Laserfiche with your existing applications, the happier and more productive your users will be. Laserfiche allows for so many different methods of hooking into your existing systems, whether they are off-the-shelf or custom-built,” explains Noyes.
In total, over 155 employees across the League use Laserfiche and the organization manages two digital repositories that house over 10 million pages from various departments. With Laserfiche, the League has reclaimed 700 square feet of office space, allowing the organization to add more staff and service more customers as business grows.
“Potential costs savings are everywhere, and the business process analysis combined with the Laserfiche toolset can greatly increase productivity,” says Noyes. “You can translate a single solution that you come up with into an interoperable process across your organization.”
IT approaches every implementation as an opportunity to learn a department’s business needs and to create solutions that employees are comfortable learning and using. The result is a collaborative mindset that empowers staff to discover their own innovative ways of configuring Laserfiche.
For example, Noyes says finance staff brainstormed a new method for indexing and routing their annual renewal packets. Their solution ended up reducing the task from a two-week project into a four-hour activity.
“Through the business process discovery, departments have come together, collaborating like never before. Technology Services is now a partner with the other business units, giving the non-technical folks more ownership of the tools they use every day. We’re not just a service utility anymore.”
Noyes says the League plans to use this collaborative spirit to thoroughly evaluate more business processes and continue to deploy Laserfiche across the enterprise. IT also plans to provide more iPads with the Laserfiche Mobile app to staff to power mobile content management.
“We have just scratched the surface to uncover the potential uses of Laserfiche within our organization,” he concludes.]]>
“HIV is a global problem and we are just one research center in a worldwide effort to learn more about the disease,” says Newell. “But HIV infections rates here are higher than anywhere else. It’s possible that what we learn here about the transmission of the disease here may help slow the spread of the disease elsewhere in the world.”
Over a decade of detailed field research, Newell and his colleagues at the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies in KwaZulu-Natal have painted what may be the pandemic’s most deeply detailed portrait.
According to avert.org, as of 2010, there were 22.9 million people living with HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa, increasing from an estimated 22.5 million people, including 2.3 million children, a year earlier. The organization reports that the increase in people living with HIV could be partly due to a decrease in AIDS-related deaths in the region. There were 1.2 million deaths due to AIDS in 2010 compared to 1.3 million in 2009. Almost 90 percent of the 16.6 million children orphaned by AIDS live in sub-Saharan Africa, according to Avert.
During the time the Centre staff has been working in Africa, they have painstakingly transcribed millions of pages of field surveys into a computer file—with the hard copies then stored in a warehouse a few hours’ drive, or a day’s walk, from the office.
Whenever data errors or discrepancies arose in the computer file, staff members were dispatched to the warehouse to rifle through filing cabinets in search of the originals. “When you’re gathering data in communities where running water is a luxury, unemployment is 75% and 40% of households cook with wood, errors are a daily fact of life,” says Newell.
“You have to understand that in South Africa we’re in a time-rich, cash-poor society, and very often it’s much more economical to employ more people rather than employ a high tech solution,” he explains. “We’re about 10 kilometers away from the next Internet user. If anything goes wrong, spare parts and tech guides coming to fix things is a very difficult job, so for many things we tend to go toward the low-tech solution, at the expense of making more mistakes.”
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for any technology at the Centre. It just means that any technologies embraced must be effective, easy to use and, above all, reliable.
Since 2000 the Centre has been conducting deeply detailed demographic surveillance of 90,000 people in 12,000 South African homesteads, visiting each one twice annually to gather information. Every round of visits produces about 600,000 pages.
Until recently, the Centre’s technology was limited to the one computer file used to catalogue an endless stream of documents coming in from field researchers. But imagine what happens, an all too real possibility, when the computer malfunctions. The Centre IT’s staff came up with a solution: using Laserfiche to store an unlimited number of digitized documents and retrieve any one instantly through a barcode connected to its 13-digit survey subject identification.
Eighteen months later, half of the 15 million survey forms have been scanned into images stored in a new database connected via the barcode information to the old database.
“Now we can easily go back and resolve discrepancies instantly,” explains Newell. “We can see where transcriptionists might have misread a date scribbled by field workers and that clarification can lead to other vital pieces of information falling into place.”
Africa Centre may even be setting a trend not just for this beleaguered part of the world but for its many peer organizations, says Christian Kyony, head of IT at the Centre. According to Kyony, there are 45 similar outposts across the world, generating 10 to 20 million pages of field surveys annually.
“Those organizations all have the same challenge,” says Kyony. “How to keep information archived in the source document and how to easily access the information in the source document. Our office is the first office to employ this technology.”
Kyony estimates that using Laserfiche has allowed Africa Centre to reduce overall operational expenses by 10 percent. But those savings could be dramatically higher for organizations in other, more advanced areas of the world, says Sheldon Halgreen of Nashua, SA, which sold and installed Laserfiche at Africa Centre.
Halgreen is talking to medical researchers elsewhere in Africa about using electronic forms on computer tablets to monitor patient health in field research. Such forms allow all the data gathered in the field to be stored as text along with the images, enhancing the value of the forms for medical research while greatly reducing the transcription costs of manually inputting all the information. Moreover, where wireless internet access exists, the information from field research can be downloaded automatically, allowing researchers and doctors to get new information in real time.
“Africa Centre is seeing great results from the software,” Halgreen says. “This software can improve the quality of health care on a global scale, while saving healthcare organizations a great deal of money.”
Newell understands well the potential advantages to applying such technology to the patients in the communities the Centre surveys. However many other things must change in KwaZulu Natal before he can take full advantage of the technology.
“The end goal is not just research but also tracking the success of ATR therapies now being administered to thousands of people in all sorts of living conditions,” Newell explains. “Armed with that information, we can better contain the spread of this disease under all conditions. As a center, we’re quite proud of what we do and we’ve managed to keep quite a number of people alive who otherwise might have been dead.”
In the meantime, he’s cleaning up 12 years of research at a pace he never imagined possible just two years ago.
“It’s a big advantage just having clean data,” he says.
*An edited version of this story appeared on TMCnet’s HealthTechZone.]]>
Central to achieving THECB’s mission of promoting access to quality higher education is its Loan Program Operations (LPO), which disburses state financial aid funds to Texas universities and assists with student loan collections and litigation for the State Attorney General’s Office. As the gatekeeper for state-appropriated financial aid, LPO handles more than 1.5 million documents each year—a number that’s grown steadily as cuts to state scholarship funds have driven more loan applications to the department’s College Access Loan and B-On-Time incentive programs. In 2011 alone, the agency disbursed over $143 million worth of funds to students.
“For cases that go on to become loans, it’s a very paper-intensive process,” explains Debbie Whitis, Manager of LPO Operational Support Services. “Every single piece of information related to a student loan, from electronic applications, paper sources and screenshots, must be documented and archived according to state retention guidelines.”
Although LPO had a document management system in place, the legacy system couldn’t handle the high-volume processing needed to handle the growing volume of loan applications. As a result, it needed rebooting at least eight times a day.
On average, the agency was losing 19 cumulative hours of staff time across its departments every day—wasted effort that cost the LPO $76,000 each year and generated customer dissatisfaction.
“If a debtor called to inquire about their loan status and the system was down, we couldn’t give them a real-time answer,” explains Whitis. “Staff still had to manually fill in field classifications, and our process wasn’t very transparent.”
LPO began searching for a new enterprise content management (ECM) system that would cut out inefficiencies and save staff time. When reseller MCCi showed the organization Laserfiche Avante’s flexible, customizable administration and workflow tools, the agency was convinced that Laserfiche could easily reduce its bottlenecks, track documents throughout the loan record lifecycle and make information readily accessible to many different users at once.
Whitis was impressed that so many of Laserfiche’s key functionalities aligned with LPO’s checklist of requirements, including Laserfiche’s ability to:
Even with this wide range of features, Laserfiche still offered an affordable price point. “Laserfiche was the most cost-effective solution and best value we found,” says Whitis. “When you’re paying with tax dollars, value is important.”
Furthermore, Laserfiche’s ease-of-use ensured a smooth implementation when turnover in LPO’s IT department reduced the project’s technical support. Using Laserfiche’s free user education materials along with her knowledge of ECM system implementation, Whitis was able to teach herself the ins and outs of the entire Laserfiche system.
“I was able to learn the system simply by using the white papers, customer presentations and everything else that is available on the Laserfiche Support Site,” explains Whitis. “The information really is readable and digestible for Laserfiche users.”
Armed with these education materials, Whitis started the implementation by sketching her ideas for improving the loan process out on paper. She then brought those ideas to life using the Laserfiche Workflow 8.3 Designer, a business process configuration tool, to build complex, automated document routing and archiving procedures and data queries to third-party systems.
In total, Whitis created 29 different workflows that process and route the diverse types of content the department receives, streamlining many steps in daily activities, especially for the agency’s Operational Support Services (OSS) department.
Some of the benefits realized include:
By automating and centralizing information access with Laserfiche, the agency can now process documents within a matter of milliseconds versus hours. Laserfiche Snapshot alone has helped the OSS department reduce its document processing times by up to 24 hours and eliminate 66% of its staffing expenses, a total of $15,000 in savings.
With Laserfiche Workflow, LPO can ultimately ensure that every step of the loan record cycle is transparent and that documents are saved in a searchable format, even as multiple users interact with the document.
“Changes to the document remain consistent no matter where the document goes,” says Whitis. “I love the fact that I can go into the Workflow Designer and find exactly where a document is. We can resolve an issue in a matter of minutes or within a couple of hours. Before, it was just a shot in the dark.”
LPO managers and directors also love Laserfiche’s time-saving reporting tools. Prior to Laserfiche, managers could spend two full days compiling statistics about their teams’ productivity and quotas for the Assistant Commissioner of Business and Support Services. Using Laserfiche Audit Trail, an enterprise risk management tool that tracks user activity, managers can now generate performance reports on their staff with the click of a button.
To bring managers and staff up to speed on Laserfiche, Whitis committed to several onsite demos and trainings on searching, reporting and data capture.
“People here had been married to our old system for the duration of their careers,” notes Whitis. “But when they saw Laserfiche’s capabilities compared to our old system, they were impressed. They really took ownership of the software in their daily processes when we gave them a voice in how it works.”
This ownership translated into greatly increased staff productivity, especially during peak processing seasons. Even though the number of loan applications has increased by 12% since LPO started using Laserfiche, the agency has decreased its error rate to a mere two percent with the system. In just the first year of using Laserfiche, LPO estimates that it has reduced about 30% of its overall operating expenses.
In the future, the department plans to expand its Laserfiche system to handle the litigation documents it files with the state court. Using Laserfiche Quick Fields, a high-volume indexing tool, LPO will automate the costly, time-consuming manual indexing of legal files.
Whitis says that what makes Laserfiche so attractive to state agencies—and other organizations—is its flexible architecture. From document capture to automated workflows to reporting, Whitis praises how easily Laserfiche has accommodated LPO’s evolving business needs.
“There are a lot of unique financial things that you do in a family office that you may not do in a typical bank, trust company or credit union. We handle all their accounting and tax work, for instance. We’re essentially a one-stop shop,” explains Ed Wright, Managing Director of IT and Middle Operations.
“One thing is you never seem to get rid of any information—and that works great until you have nothing in your office but a ton of file cabinets.”
By 2008, the firm began looking into enterprise content management (ECM) systems to get rid of file cabinets by digitizing information, and also to automate how that information moves and is used in everyday business processes such as transaction approvals.
“We looked at some solutions that were great at loading a TIFF and filing it away so that, 10 years from now, if you needed to go look for it, you searched and found it and there you were,” Wright says. “But we were looking for something more—we wanted to automate workflows and document filing and things like that.”
The firm discovered Laserfiche through a user group for another one of its software providers, Advent Software. There, Wright met Kevin Smith from One Source Document Solutions, a Laserfiche reseller also based in Greensboro. “We were impressed with the fact that Laserfiche was such a well-known name in the industry and with how many people were using it,” recalls Wright. “One of the things that attracted us to Laserfiche was that each company tends to use it in a different way. I felt that Laserfiche was able to bring me a lot of things with workflows, intelligent capture, great search capabilities and other things that I just couldn’t get from other vendors.”
Together with One Source, Wright mapped out a plan to integrate Laserfiche with Piedmont’s Microsoft Dynamics CRM system to better serve clients. They also determined how Laserfiche Workflow could automate transaction approval processes using notification e-mails, as well as serve as an integral component of a composite application for client reporting using Advent Portfolio Exchange and Fi-Tek’s Trust Portal trust accounting system.
Says Wright, “Laserfiche gave us the most flexibility to store data, it gave us great search capabilities, and we were able to integrate it with our other solutions.”
Migration from various shared-drive folders into the Laserfiche repository took six months. In essence, Piedmont created a centralized “hub” to service information to staff and departments. Says Wright, “We took this hub approach, where we our staff are constantly going in and retrieving Excel files or Word documents and depositing them into Laserfiche using the add-on features that work with Microsoft Office.”
Key to this hub approach, Wright explains, is giving Relationship Managers access to all client documents directly within the CRM by integrating Microsoft Dynamics with Laserfiche. Relationship Managers can now click on Account Documents in the Account tab of the CRM to view all of the documents associated with that particular account directly in Laserfiche Web Access. (Read more about how Piedmont Trust Company refined customer service on the Solution Exchange.)
As part of the hub approach, Laserfiche Workflow is used to automate the transaction approval process. “Many of the trusts we deal with have large numbers of transactions, disbursements, receipts and transfers associated with them. Each of these transactions has to go through a multi-step approval process called OFAC (Office of Foreign Asset Control). This process basically involves checking that the people involved in the transaction aren’t on a list of suspected terrorists,” Wright says. “In the past, we would have to manually run through a ton of these transactions in a day, which was very painful for us being such a small office.”
Today, the automated OFAC process is much simpler:
“So what in effect happens is you take a process that could take three hours to complete for three signatures and turn it around in a matter of minutes,” Wright says.
In order to give clients online access to their important documents, Piedmont created a custom Website and integrated it with Laserfiche using the Laserfiche SDK. Once logged in, clients are able to both download and upload documents through this portal using a secure log-in. (Learn more about Piedmont Trust Company’s custom Website on the Solution Exchange.)
In addition, the portal is used as part of a composite application to enable client reporting from the firm’s Advent Portfolio Exchange system and its Fi-Tek’s Trust Portal trust accounting system, which is not only more convenient, but saves paper costs and printing headaches as well. (To learn more about this and other composite applications leveraging existing infrastructure and Laserfiche, read the white paper.)
Last year, the firm went through its first paperless audit with the North Carolina Banking Commission. “We decided we were going to leverage the electronic technology that we had in Laserfiche and in our CRM system. Basically, when they gave us a list of the accounts they wanted to review, we moved them into a secured folder in Laserfiche that the auditors could access with an audit login and password. They were only able to access that one folder. The response we got was very positive,” Wright explains. “We felt it was a very successful trial and we intend to continue with this paperless approach moving forward.”
Wright says the ongoing value of using Laserfiche has been more time and space. “The time savings have given us the capacity to take on additional work. We’ve also cleared out so many file cabinets that we’re actually getting ready to reclaim the storage space in the form of new offices, and we’re all excited about that.”
Watch an interview with Ed Wright, Managing Director of IT!]]>
“I came on board at Carroll County nearly 25 years ago,” says Mark Ripper, CIO, “right when the county was getting its first IBM PCs with 10 MB hard drives.”
Since then, the county’s IT infrastructure has come a long way, and Ripper is particularly excited about the new fiber network the county is building to deliver high speed data and bandwidth to Carroll County businesses and residents.
“One of our primary goals in building the fiber network is to help the county build its economic base by attracting more business and industry to the area,” explains Ripper, noting that the network will connect seven primary business parks and 16 secondary business parks in addition to 102 local, state, federal and public safety sites.
“Another motivator is to establish a direct connection with our outside agencies and allow everyone to take advantage of enterprise IT systems such as Laserfiche,” he says. “Essentially, we’re creating our own private cloud.”
Ripper notes that Laserfiche wasn’t always viewed as an enterprise IT system. In fact, it was first purchased as a departmental application for HR back in 2001. However, flooding in the nearby City of Annapolis highlighted the need for the county to formulate a better plan around disaster recovery—and enterprise content management (ECM) took a central role.
“All of our documents were stored onsite, which made them vulnerable to catastrophic events,” Ripper explains. “We also wanted to free up our document storage space so that it could be put to better use. Those two things were the primary drivers for ECM within Carroll County.”
Ripper notes that although the HR department had a track record of success with Laserfiche, the IT department did its due diligence before selecting Laserfiche for its enterprise roll out. “We looked for ECM contracts already in place in Maryland to see which systems might meet our needs. Then we had vendors come in and set up their software so that end users from different departments could demo it to see what would be easiest to use,” he says.
From both a change management and a project management point of view, Ripper says, “It’s always important to involve the everyday users at every stage of the project.”
The CIO notes that he was particularly impressed by Laserfiche reseller Unity ECM. “It was clear that the Unity team was knowledgeable and understood the needs of our county. In fact, of all the vendors we work with, Unity ECM is easily in the top five.”
Ripper’s team selected Laserfiche in 2008 and has since deployed it across six areas of the organization, including:
Next on the list are the Bureau of Aging and the Bureau of Permits & Inspections.
“Our goal is to get all 14 of our county departments onto Laserfiche, along with the Sherriff’s Office and Circuit Courts,” says Ripper. “The great thing about Laserfiche is that it’s so easy to maintain that, once it’s in place, there’s very little for us to do.”
He notes that since the county upgraded to Laserfiche Rio in November 2010, it now has individual repositories for each department. “Separate repositories are great from a management point of view because all of our departments are so diverse in what they do and how they store their data. Laserfiche Rio gives us the flexibility to meet the needs of different areas of our organization with one centralized system,” says Ripper. “The ability to create a test environment without additional costs was a big factor in our decision to upgrade to Laserfiche Rio, as well.”
Carroll County’s IT department is comprised of 30 IT professionals, five of whom are client service analysts. Those five are assigned to a handful of departments/agencies, acting as project managers and application specialists. According to Ripper, this model works well for Carroll County because of the strong relationships that are established between the analysts and the agencies they serve.
The CIO notes that each department that’s implemented Laserfiche now finds it much easier to find and retrieve content. He also explains that “Laserfiche has given us a good reason to clean up our files and scan only what we really need. We follow the ‘garbage in, garbage out’ principle.”
Departmental benefits include:
Although the county has yet to take full advantage of Laserfiche Workflow, Ripper notes that business process improvement is high on his list of priorities moving forward. “So far, we’ve been able to achieve all of our initial goals for the Laserfiche system: we’ve gained peace of mind from a disaster recovery perspective, made it easier for everyone to quickly locate the documents they need and reduced the need for onsite file storage. We’re looking forward to implementing Laserfiche throughout the rest of our agencies and exploring how we can use Workflow to increase our efficiency.”]]>
The medical center’s health information management (HIM) department maintains all of the medical records produced by the hospital. A group of seven employees led by HIM Director Margaret Bass works to service requests for records from the organization’s business office, quality control department and emergency room. In all, Bass estimates that her group handles about 350,000 pages a year.
“We’re the guardian of records,” explains Bass. “However, the manual processes of retrieving records, pulling the relevant information and copying and distributing the information delayed our response time to information requests.”
These inefficiencies led to major backlogs in the center’s medical billing cycle and impeded the hospital’s ability to meet weekly benchmarks set by its parent company, Community Health Systems (CHS). CHS operates 130 small hospitals around the nation and monitors the outstanding accounts each hospital accrues.
It also enforces a three-day allowance for sending bills to patients from a hospital’s accounts receivable department. If unbilled accounts remain after three days, the hospital enters what Bass calls the “red zone” for AR billing. Due to the HIM department’s inability to quickly access paper patient records, transferring documents to the hospital’s AR department used to take weeks. The hospital frequently reported up to $3 million in unbilled amounts per week to CHS and often reached the unfavorable red zone.
Before implementing Laserfiche, Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center was also paying a third-party company to host its emergency room (ER) records on an outside server. Several days after records were sent to the company for scanning, staff could access and print records from the company’s secure Web portal—at the cost of $1,000 a month.
As Bass sent the company more and more records to be scanned and hosted, she was inundated with growing retrieval and storage bills. The result was a cumbersome, costly process that consumed staff time and restricted the hospital’s bottom line.
When EMI Imaging, a Laserfiche reseller, approached the medical center about replacing its hosted storage server with an in-house Laserfiche Avante enterprise content management (ECM) system, Bass and the hospital’s CFO didn’t need much convincing. “When EMI showed us that you can just scan in the record and it appears immediately to read and manage, we were blown away,” says Bass. “The CFO turned to me on the spot and told me we should do it. We were sold on the solution immediately.”
Bass said the ease-of-use of the Laserfiche product suite convinced her that the system could dramatically reduce the time that her staff spends retrieving and printing records. Plus, at a price tag that eliminated 75% of the department’s scanning and storage costs, Laserfiche offered clear financial appeal on top of its functionality.
Kim Spencer and Adam Wright from EMI helped the organization set up security rights to patient records that ensured document control would stay within the HIM department and business unit, while providing read-only records access to the quality control department. For ER records, Laserfiche provides a streamlined process that reduces bottlenecks and makes the records instantly available to Bass and her colleagues:
By switching to Laserfiche, the HIM department has cut the time that staff spends retrieving and relaying records by about 90%. In fact, the HIM department gained so much extra time with Laserfiche that Bass is actually lending her staff to other area hospitals to help them manage their paper coding processes.
As HIM Director, Bass wears many hats, juggling security and HIPAA compliance in addition to the constant information requests. From an administrative perspective, having one technology system that can provide straightforward security features also cuts down on the time she spends monitoring the security of patient information during those requests. “On a daily basis, I’m the compliance officer, the privacy officer and the health information management director,” she emphasizes. “Having one tool that can handle all three functions is a major plus for me.”
Using Laserfiche Audit Trail, an enterprise risk management tool that tracks user activity, the department can configure strict parameters for document sharing that align with HIPAA compliance standards and can monitor which employees in the medical center have accessed particular records.
Bass says the system amazed her when it automatically detected and prevented a HIPAA violation. When the hospital’s risk manager attempted to forward an ER report from the Laserfiche repository to a department head, Laserfiche blocked the attachment because it would have broken compliance regulations outlined in the established Laserfiche access rights. “We’re the only department that has the rights to send documents to outside individuals, and Laserfiche caught the error. I called EMI and told them that the system was smarter than me!”
Spencer adds, “The system is helping to prevent the hospital from incurring possible lawsuits relating to patient confidentiality. That’s a huge benefit for a small hospital.”
HIM’s improved efficiency translated into benefits for other areas of the hospital, too. No department has profited more from HIM’s improved efficiency than Accounts Receivable: When documents are scanned into the Laserfiche repository, the AR department can now retrieve the records immediately, reducing the medical center’s weekly unbilled amounts by $1.5 million.
“CHS wants us to work smarter, not harder, and it was clear to us that Laserfiche could help us reach the goals that CHS sets for our operations,” says Bass, noting, “We haven’t been in the red zone for our AR activities in over a year!”
This reduction of unbilled accounts has helped Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center pave the way for other regional medical groups to improve their operations, too. When Bass told a colleague at Springs Memorial Hospital the amount of unbilled payments that the AR department had eliminated with Laserfiche, Springs Memorial immediately purchased its own Laserfiche system.
Bass emphasizes that her organization’s success can be attributed to cultivating a relationship with the right ECM reseller. “I’ve gotten so much help from Kim and EMI Imaging,” she says. “Whenever I have a question, they are very helpful in figuring out what’s going on.”
The medical center plans to rely on EMI’s expertise as it expands Laserfiche to other departments. Registration staff will use Laserfiche to scan patient consent forms, which the department regularly provides to both internal and external units. As the hospital prepares to phase into a new electronic medical records system, it looks to integrate Laserfiche with the system to attach the consent forms to patient records already scanned into the Laserfiche system. Bass hopes that the medical center’s case management and human resources groups will also begin taking advantage of Laserfiche.
“We’ve just been so thrilled with what we’ve been able to accomplish. I can’t wait to help other departments benefit from Laserfiche,” says Bass.]]>
This forward-thinking approach led the company to implement Laserfiche enterprise content management back in 2006. “There’s a lot of miscellaneous paper associated with medical billing, a lot of non-standardized communications coming from patients, payers and providers,” Brajkovich explains. “We knew that digitizing the paper and automating associated processes would make us more efficient.”
Prior to implementing Laserfiche, Computerized Management Services housed its paper archives in bankers boxes at offsite storage lockers, making it difficult for staff to find older documents. Files that had yet to be reviewed for coding and billing purposes were kept in filing cabinets, creating bottlenecks when documents were misplaced and limiting the management team’s visibility into the company’s overall workflow.
To facilitate access and improve productivity, the company now uses Laserfiche to process, manage and store four main document types:
“We’re constantly scanning, uploading and processing information,” Brajkovich says.
Documents are processed and stored using Laserfiche Quick Fields 8, a high-volume capture and processing tool, and Laserfiche Workflow 8, a business process management tool. These tools eliminate the need for manual data entry and filing by:
For a company that receives thousands of documents a day from more than 100 locations in California and Arizona, this automation results in a big productivity boost. It also makes it easy for employees to retrieve documents by conducting simple field and text searches.
Further enhancing productivity, Computerized Management Services uses Laserfiche to manage the explanation of benefits (EOB) forms that most insurers still send in paper format.
“We use Quick Fields to convert paper EOBs into usable data, and Workflow to facilitate EOB processing,” explains Denise Van, Vice President of Operations.
Via document shortcuts, the company uses Workflow to route EOBs to the appropriate client teams for processing. Client team personnel work with dual screens, so they’re able to view a document on one screen while performing data entry into the company’s CPU billing software on the other.
Although CPU and Laserfiche aren’t yet integrated, the Laserfiche Entry ID for each document is logged in each patient’s record in CPU so that it is easily retrievable. After the EOBs have been processed, Workflow removes the EOB shortcuts from the client team folders. Workflow then archives the EOBs by date of service.
Computerized Management Services also uses Laserfiche in conjunction with A-Life, its computer-assisted coding system.
When the company receives new information from a client site, it imports it into Laserfiche using either Laserfiche Import Agent, which captures electronic faxes, or Laserfiche Snapshot, which converts electronic documents into TIFF images. Documents are then processed by Quick Fields and exported to A-Life. Once documents have been coded in A-Life, Workflow archives the documents.
The biggest benefits of Laserfiche, however, are felt when the company can’t use A-Life. “If a facility changes the format of its reports or face sheets, it takes time to reprogram A-Life,” says Brajkovich. “When that happens, Laserfiche takes over.”
According to Van, employees need a mere 24 hours to complete the coding process in A-Life. When done on paper, the process takes 5-10 days. When used as the company’s “coding back up,” Laserfiche enables staff to complete the coding process in 48-72 hours.
“Laserfiche helps us solve problems,” says Van. “If we had to code on paper every time a facility changed its format, we’d lose a lot of time.”
The coding process in Laserfiche works as follows:
“Workflow is a wonderful tool,” says Van. “We rely heavily on it.”
Brajkovich and Van stress that Computerized Management Services’ success with Laserfiche is the result of a phased approach to implementation and training. They first worked with Laserfiche reseller JPI Data Resource to configure the system to their specifications, and then they trained their staff.
“We didn’t roll out everything at once,” says Brajkovich. “Implementing the capabilities of Laserfiche slowly allowed us to make sure that adjusting to the new system didn’t slow us down.”
Initially, staff learned how to use Laserfiche to search and retrieve digital documents. Once the company rolled out Workflow, Brajkovich and Van took a train-the-trainer approach, working with key staff from the data processing and client teams to ensure that they were comfortable with the system and able to show their team members how to perform their various tasks.
Today, as always, the company is in the process of improving its workflows. “Continuous improvement is important to us,” says Brajkovich. “In order to ensure that we offer truly exceptional service to clients in the heavily nuanced field of radiology, we constantly look for ways to fine tune our processes and our use of technology.”]]>
Serving the metropolitan community of Fargo-Moorhead, RRRDC handles more than 121,000 emergency calls a year, dispatching responders from:
According to Renee Lura, Professional IT Services Manager for the City of Fargo and an IT liaison/lead for RRRDC, “In the realm of public safety, sharing resources across agencies allows everyone involved to get more bang for their buck. Multi-jurisdictional agencies allow participants to pool their funding so that they can invest in more sophisticated technology and provide better, faster service to their communities.”
Lura notes that in 2009, during the transition from RRRDC’s legacy AS400 CAD/RMS system to the CAD/RMS/CMS from New World Systems, the team looked for an enterprise content management (ECM) system that could integrate with New World to make it easy for staff to access and share reports, photos, warrants and a variety of other scanned or electronic documents.
“Three of the agencies in our consortium were already using Laserfiche independently,” Lura explains, “so the opportunity to benefit from all that internal expertise was a major factor in our purchase decision.” Working with Laserfiche reseller Cities Digital, she notes, was another. “The City of Moorhead and Cass County had worked with Cities Digital for years, and everyone was comfortable with them from the start.”
Ultimately, though, it was Cities Digital’s ability to build a seamless integration with New World that sold RRRDC on Laserfiche. “By integrating Laserfiche with New World, we can share documents across departments and jurisdictions. Anyone with security rights to a certain document can open it by clicking a button in the New World record. It’s easy and intuitive.”
The Laserfiche/New World integration works as follows:
“Officers, detectives, dispatch and other authorized users all access pertinent information from one integrated interface,” says Lura.
Furthermore, because RRRDC uses Laserfiche Records Management Edition, a DoD 5015.2-certified solution that simplifies compliance with records management mandates, new records entering the system are automatically classified and filed into the proper records series.
“We use Laserfiche to manage everything from Wants and Warrants to animal tracking documentation to case notes from officers in the field, and different laws apply to different types of records,” says Lura. “Depending on a document’s metadata, Laserfiche automatically calculates and assigns cutoff and eligibility dates, making it easy for us to manage our records and comply with regulations.”
Lura notes that there are hundreds of users across the 58 agencies the dispatch center serves. “The thin-client solution, Laserfiche Web Access, is great for us because we have so many users spread out over so many different locations,” she says. “In the future, we look to give officers access to Laserfiche from their patrol cars, and Web Access is how other agencies are making this happen.”
Making sure that all the users have the right security permissions to see only the information that pertains to them, Lura says, has been relatively easy. “We’re a Microsoft shop, so it’s great that Laserfiche allows us to use Active Directory-driven security. We came up with a dynamic, matrixed approach that’s easy to administer and update as new staff is hired.”
The consortium has also benefitted from Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management (BPM) tool that enables agencies to automate document-driven processes. “Different agencies maintain their own workflows, explains Lura. “The system is flexible enough to accommodate the needs of both RRRDC and the various agencies it serves.”
She notes that “automated approval workflows are particularly popular, as are case notification workflows that automatically notify records management staff after an officer has added information into the system.”
For example, the Moorhead Police Department implemented a series of workflow projects to minimize the amount of work involved in finding, completing and approving the paperwork associated with cases.
According to Troy Weber, Information Technology Specialist for the City of Moorhead, “Before we implemented Laserfiche Workflow, our permanent case files resided in a separate set of folders alongside our regular cases. This caused a lot of duplicate searches and errors as users needed to work with two paths because of the different permissions. Workflow now automatically sets permissions when any of the permanent case types are chosen, and the files are stored in the standard folder layout.”
He explains that case files are stored in a series of folders that match up with New World. “Because we needed the layout in Laserfiche to match up with the way New World is structured, our Laserfiche folder arrangement is not as user-friendly as it could be. In the past, our users spent a lot of time browsing to various subfolders when scanning documents,” Weber says. “We resolved this with a simple routing workflow that moves files from the new scans folder to the appropriate case folder based on metadata that was already being entered. This small change has saved a significant amount of staff time.”
In terms of approvals, Weber says, “We wanted an easy, paperless way for supervisors to ‘sign off’ on reports. Since this was only for internal purposes, we did not need an actual signature, but we did want to know which supervisor approved the document and when. Further, we wanted the documents to retain the original owner and created dates. Workflow provided an elegant solution.”
He explains, “We added a couple of fields to our template, but did not give users modify rights to them. One of the new fields is an approved field that only supervisors can modify. When populated, the workflow enters the logged in user’s name into the ‘supervisor’ field, along with the current date and time.” He further notes that this solution has given users the ability to search for documents based on a given supervisor’s approval.
Weber says that the Moorhead Police Department has found the software to be flexible and easy to configure. “Laserfiche Workflow has enabled us to transform useful digital document storage software into a full business automation solution,” he says.
From Lura’s perspective within RRRDC, “With everything it offers, from the New World integration to the business process automation and records management, Laserfiche allows the agencies in our consortium to save money each week on clerical tasks like filing. We find more and more ways to use the software every day.”]]>
“The biggest thing we fight,” says Patrick Gray, Database Applications Analyst at Wichita Falls, “is people getting stuck in their ways.” He explains that his department’s goal is to move employees off technology from the 1980s and ‘90s and “get our city current.”
To that end, the city’s selection of Laserfiche as it enterprise content management (ECM) system of choice has been a surprisingly good tool for motivating departments to upgrade their operating systems and other IT infrastructure. “The more people see what Laserfiche can do, the more they want it—and the more they’re willing to change the way they work to get it,” Gray says.
Prior to implementing Laserfiche in 2010, Wichita Falls was overrun with paper. “We had the usual filing cabinets and bankers boxes stored away in various rooms maintained by various people,” explains Gray. “Records retention was rarely enforced, so the paper was stacking up and we were running out of storage space.”
Although two departments had legacy imaging systems in place, they were outdated, lacked vendor support and didn’t offer ECM functionality such as records management, business process management or batch processing.
“When we put out our RFP in 2009, we cast the net wide,” Gray says. “We looked at functionality, but we were very careful to weed out companies that didn’t have a secure and stable future. We wanted a system that would be easy to use, administer and maintain, regardless of any staffing changes here at Wichita Falls.”
Working with MCCi, a Laserfiche reseller that specializes in local government solutions, the city implemented Laserfiche in its City Clerk’s Office in 2010. “Our City Clerk, Lydia Ozuna, is our records manager, so she’s responsible for making information available to both employees and residents, and for staying compliant with Texas State Library recommendations for records retention,” Gray explains.
He notes that having digital records available in Laserfiche makes the City Clerk’s job much easier. Documents like agendas, minutes, bids and newsletters are “readily available for staff to retrieve and research, saving the City Clerk a great deal of time and effort.” In addition, Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool included in the Laserfiche suite, automatically applies records retention schedules to digitized documents, simplifying compliance, reducing training time and eliminating mistakes.
Gray says that Ozuna is looking forward to the launch of the city’s new Website over the summer, which will take advantage of Laserfiche WebLink, a browser-based thin client, to allow citizens to download public documents off the Web. “She won’t have to post PDFs to the Website anymore. Users will have access to the records they need directly from Laserfiche.”
After implementing Laserfiche in the City Clerk’s Office, the IT department turned to the Municipal Courts, where it has been able to implement a paperless case management system using a combination of Laserfiche, Infosol and the Apple iPad.
In the past, court clerks printed documents from Infosol, creating hard copy files that were then processed manually and stored in an active filing cabinet until the case was closed. Once the case was closed, associated documents were moved to another filing cabinet for the five-year retention period.
Today, Wichita Falls uses Affinity to integrate Laserfiche and Infosol, allowing the courts to automatically import documents into Laserfiche without the need to print. When a document enters the repository:
“By eliminating the need to print records, we’ve regained a lot of space that used to house filing cabinets,” Gray says, explaining that the Municipal Courts used to generate roughly 3,000 pages of paper a month, all of which had to be retained for five years according to Texas State Laws. “Even better, by decreasing the need for court clerks to find and file records, we’ve saved a lot of time!”
He notes that Workflow further enhances productivity by automating review and approval processes. For example, if a case file needs to be reviewed by the judge, the court clerk will update a template field in the case file, triggering Laserfiche to move it to a Review folder and notifying the judge by e-mail that the file requires attention.
By updating a template field when a case closes, court clerks kick off a workflow that archives and applies the appropriate retention schedule to the case documents. “Workflow is great because it saves time, cuts costs and leaves very little room for mistakes by end users. Once you’ve created a workflow, it basically does all their work for them,” Gray says.
Municipal Courts judges access Laserfiche on their iPads, ensuring that they can view and act upon case files from wherever they are. “I love the mobility of this solution,” says Gray, “and I can’t wait for the release of Laserfiche Mobile for iPad. Right now, we’re using Laserfiche Web Access on the iPad, but I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do with the new app.”
He notes that Wichita Falls’ full-time judge, Larry Gillen, uses his iPad so much that “he really doesn’t even need his desktop anymore.”
Gray is particularly excited about moving to a new court management system and adding wireless videoconferencing into the mix. “With access to Laserfiche and the new court management system on his iPad and the video conferencing in place, the judge will be able to administer remote judgments to prisoners at our downtown jail, decreasing costs while also improving the safety of our citizens since we will no longer have to transport prisoners to court.”
Vital Records is another heavy Laserfiche user. Using Laserfiche Quick Fields, a high-volume capture and processing tool, Vital Records batch scans birth and death certificates. Gray notes that, before Laserfiche, scanning a year of birth certificates into the department’s legacy system took about a month. Today, it takes two days.
“Laserfiche has exceeded everyone’s expectations,” he says. “We currently have a 50-user Laserfiche Avante system, but we’re looking to upgrade to Laserfiche Rio so that we can continue to expand our system to accommodate the demand from our users.”
Additional departments currently using Laserfiche include Purchasing, Risk Management, Finance and HR. According to Gray, “Installing Laserfiche within various departments has been easy, and troubleshooting has been a snap, especially with the quick response times of the Laserfiche tech support team.”
He notes that Budgeting will get Laserfiche next, followed by the police and health departments. The city is also planning to integrate Laserfiche with its finance and HR software.
“In just two years’ time, we’ve accomplished a lot with Laserfiche,” Gray says. “People are excited about this software. Now, when they come to me with requests, I have to tell them to take a number and get in line!”]]>
Now, after almost two years of using Laserfiche to simplify document management and compliance, the audit experience is a very different one, as Marcy Gitterman, Director of IT, iterates in this letter to Laserfiche reseller Accelerated Information Systems. “Anyone not using Laserfiche is wasting years of their life,” she writes. “The quick searches, the metadata and the workflow keep us on track.”
Looking to take the stress out of your firm’s compliance procedures? Register for one of our workshops for financial advisors: “Leverage Technology to Grow Your Business and Manage Compliance,” on April 19 and April 26 at 10 am PT.]]>
“In 2009, we had more than 25,000 active applications stored in 30 extra-deep, four-drawer filing cabinets,” explains Catherine Fair, Director of Energy Assistance Programs at Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties. “Due to state regulations, we need to keep past applications on file for three years, so we had even more paper stuffed into two onsite storage rooms and an offsite storage garage.”
Paper files slowed staff down, but they also complicated the energy assistance program’s twice-yearly audits. Fair explains, “As a state agency, we’re regularly audited to ensure that applications are accurately processed. Files are randomly selected by the auditors, and it was a daunting task to find the ones they requested among 25,000 others!”
She explains that, as she was researching content management solutions, Laserfiche’s name kept cropping up. “The tech sites I visited all mentioned Laserfiche as the industry standard for government organizations.”
Fair notes that Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool that enables organizations to automate manual processes, was a major factor in the agency’s decision to purchase Laserfiche. “We knew that automating our application approval process would make us more efficient and accelerate our ability to help households in need,” she says.
Laserfiche’s use of the TIFF file format was another big point in its favor. “Laserfiche stores files in the TIFF file format, which all computers can read,” says Fair.
The TIFF file format is the preferred digital archival format for many organizations because it is an open standard. There are a variety of freely available TIFF viewers available and every computer can natively view TIFF files. Scanning documents as TIFF images and extracting their contents as ASCII text is the only way to maintain “eye readability” in a digital format.
Further, choosing an ECM solution that uses an open file format ensures that system performance is continuously enhanced by advances in hardware, software and communication technologies. Selecting a closed format hampers the ability to migrate data from one ECM system to another.
Fair notes that the IT department for Community Action of Ramsey and Washington Counties did not want to implement ECM software that uses closed file formats because there is no guarantee that such formats will be supported in 25, 50 or even 100 years. “Vendor lock-in is a big concern for the IT department. If you choose a file format that’s controlled by a single vendor, you invite a lot of unnecessary risk from both an IT and an information governance perspective.”
After researching its options, the agency chose to purchase Laserfiche Avante, an ECM solution for organizations with fewer than 100 users, from Solbrekk, a Laserfiche reseller based in Minneapolis. Laserfiche Avante’s named-user model works well for Community Action of Ramsey and Washington Counties, since multiple staff members frequently need to access the system at the same time.
“We created and screened a home movie illustrating the way things were before Laserfiche. Then we showed how easy paperless application processing would be thanks to Laserfiche Workflow.”
Another important feature, says Fair, is that the functionality and appearance of the Laserfiche user interface is similar to Windows. “The familiarity is comforting for our less confident computer users.”
Fair notes that, once Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties selected Laserfiche, ensuring a smooth transition from paper-based to paperless processes was essential. She explains, “We have staff with varied computer competency, so a positive attitude to the new system was critical to the success of the project.”
For two years, energy assistance program staff used Laserfiche primarily for records management, scanning paper files into the system once the data entry and eligibility determination processes were complete. To mark the beginning of a new era—the era of workflow automation—the department held a fish-themed kickoff party that boasted fish balloons, goldfish crackers, glow sticks and a fish mascot to get everyone excited about expanding their use of Laserfiche.
According to Fair, “We created and screened a home movie illustrating the way things were before Laserfiche, with endless searches for files, frustrated staff and clients and so on. Then we showed how easy paperless application processing would be thanks to Laserfiche Workflow.”
Training on how to use Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool, to manage applications followed the movie screening.
In August 2011, the energy assistance program began scanning applications and documentation such as paycheck stubs into Laserfiche prior to determining income eligibility or entering the demographic information into a statewide Web-based client database.
“Many of our clients are very low income and have been disconnected from their utilities. We receive thousands of calls from clients anxious to know if we can help them,” says Fair. “Before Laserfiche, these kinds of calls were hard to field, since staff didn’t have the relevant information in front of them. Today, the calls are much more productive. We can find a client’s application immediately by looking in Laserfiche and can then let the client know exactly what he needs to do to complete his application.”
After applications are scanned into the system using Laserfiche Quick Fields, a high-volume capture and processing tool, staff members process applications for assistance by:
“By digitizing applications and automating the approval process, we have significantly improved crisis response time,” says Fair. “When an application shows a disconnection in progress, we route the file to an expedited queue simply by changing a template field. We can also sort through income documents much faster to determine grant amounts as soon as possible.”
Fair notes that Laserfiche, thanks to security features such as Windows authentication and named-user access, protects client information such as social security numbers. “The agency would face hefty fines if we had a breach of data security. With more than 100,000 files in four locations, we were taking a big risk. Laserfiche protects sensitive information while making our business processes more efficient. It has helped us tremendously and we hope that other non-profit agencies that deliver federal programs can learn from our success!”]]>
From the beginning, Laserfiche® enterprise content management (ECM) software has provided a technological foundation to help SSG provide that high-quality, dedicated service. “Based on our business experience, how paper-intensive our business would be and the necessary controls around that, we knew it was incredibly important to have a well-known, well-respected document management system,” says Dan Skiles, executive vice president of SSG. “Laserfiche certainly knew FINRA and understood the importance of the documents that we use to run our business.”
Over the past decade, the firm has expanded—as has its use of Laserfiche to manage its documents electronically. “Our business is growing dramatically, and so the scalability and reliability of Laserfiche has been critical to that success for us,” Skiles says.
“When we started, we had zero advisors, and today we’re pushing almost 1,000. Keep in mind those advisors have accounts—from as little as four or five to several hundred. Laserfiche has been there with us the whole time,” he adds.
Key to its usefulness, Skiles says, has been Laserfiche’s customizable folder structures, which makes it easy to use in different business units. “We have multiple departments—trading, new accounts, operations, cash management—all using Laserfiche for their various business processes. And the fact that it’s flexible enough to meet their needs, even though their roles and responsibilities are different, has helped us to have a cohesive group responding appropriately to clients as we use their documents.”
Skiles also lauds Laserfiche’s ability to manage documents of all types and ages, using various metadata and comprehensive search capabilities. “We’re a heavily regulated business, so yesterday’s documents are just as important as today’s,” he says. “The fact that Laserfiche has grown with us, and is scalable and reliable as we grow our staff, has been critical in our overall success.”
It’s this best-of-breed ease-of-use, he says, that has been especially practical when it comes to getting everyone on the same (paperless) page. “Certainly one of the things we’ve noticed with Laserfiche is how user-friendly it is, so that our staff—from someone who’s been on staff for eight to ten years to someone we just hired as an intern last year—can immediately be productive,” he says. “Because everyone in the firm is responding to clients, a short learning curve is critical.”
The result, according to Skiles, is a foundation for not only managing content, but also relationships. “When you run a broker-dealer, your documents are critical. They represent agreements. They represent authority,” he says. “With Laserfiche, with the way we’re able to work within the system, we have control of our clients’ information. They’re impressed by our ability to retrieve a document while we’re on the phone with them, which ultimately strengthens that personal relationship.”
Regulators, too, have been impressed, as they were earlier this year. “We had FINRA come in to our office for their regular audit. Laserfiche was such a critical component of that because everything that FINRA wanted related to our documents,” Skiles recalls. “Everything they asked for—new account applications, authorizations to do this for a client, this agreement that was established with this client, transfer instructions from other financial services firms—was in Laserfiche, so we were able to provide it to them electronically.
The cost of compliance has nearly doubled in the past three years, reaching an estimated annual cost of more than $25 billion, according to the Securities Industry Association’s Report on the Costs of Compliance in the U.S. Securities Industry. As Skiles points out, in an increasingly demanding regulatory environment, deploying an ECM solution not only improves the bottom line, but also helps simplify audits.
“It’s a big deal,” he continues. “Let me tell you, when you’re sitting there with FINRA and you want to respond efficiently and effectively to their requests, removing some of that anxiety is worth a lot to both your sanity and your sleeping at night.
“That’s why we have rules that if it’s not scanned, it doesn’t exist. It’s so critical with our growing staff that we all have access to the same information. Now with nearly 1,000 advisors, we all have access to information at the click of a button.”
The 2011 InvestmentNews Technology Study showed that, in the financial services industry, increased productivity was by far the most common consideration in technology spending. Automating routine, rules-based tasks allows staff at top-performing firms to spend more time serving clients.
When it comes to ROI, Skiles highlights the availability of information as one of Laserfiche’s defining factors—something that moves beyond getting rid of paper and filing cabinets. “Certainly the immediate ROI that comes to mind is not having documents and filing cabinets all over the place. But with a growing firm, the ROI I most appreciate is how quickly we can make an employee efficient. I can hire someone and have them up and running with Laserfiche in less than a day.”
The result, he says, is that SSG has kept operations optimal and compliance concerns to a minimum while also maintaining its competitive edge. “There’s been, obviously, competitive pressure on trading, and then of course the regulations have increased dramatically. What’s helped us a lot is technology,” he says.
“We took more trades over five days in August this past year than we did the first month that I was at the firm more than three years ago. And what’s exciting about that is that our trading desk was able to accommodate those trades just because of technology. Bottom line is that it does show you the technology strength that you have in this business.”]]>
The organization’s skillfully trained nurses and paramedics are some of the first caregivers who interact with patients on scene. Treatment takes just minutes to administer; yet in the past, the billing and filing associated with those services spent days in administration. The organization ailed under a paper-intensive patient care records (PCR) process that led to lost files and extraneous document copies.
“Our PCR process is a mission-critical activity that keeps everyone accountable for all of the services MedFlight provides to patients in severe situations,” says MedFlight’s Chief Financial Officer Chuck Ansley. “Our crews take charting notes on each patient, which numerous departments in our organization rely on following a transport. We needed a way to automate this distribution that wouldn’t disrupt our operations or compromise patient information.”
MedFlight purchased a Laserfiche enterprise content management (ECM) system in 2008 after its copier dealer, Gordon Flesch, showed the organization Laserfiche’s records management capabilities and ability to deliver a quick ROI. Before implementing the software, MedFlight organized a workgroup to determine which departments would realize the greatest improvements from automated processes, focusing on patient care records, AP processing and EMR system integration.
Alleviating MedFlight’s PCR chart jacket process produced the greatest time and paper cost savings. Piles of field notes on all services rendered while in transit, such as administered CPR and IVs, accumulated as soon as the helicopters touched the ground:
Laserfiche provided a powerful solution for this document-heavy procedure. The Laserfiche SDK offers a collection of programming interfaces in which users can construct their own Laserfiche scripts and programs that work in tandem with existing processes. Using the SDK, MedFlight built its own scanning client, FTP server and communications tools to help automate the entire PCR chart jacket process.
“We once used a very laborious process,” says Ansley. ”We had all these copies floating around and different departments using them for different reasons. Now, there is no more paper associated with the records. The possibility of something disappearing or ending up where it shouldn’t has been eliminated.”
MedFlight achieved these improvements by integrating Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool that automatically routes documents and content between users, with its EMR system, Zoll Medical. The communication between the two systems moves documents from the field into clinicians’ hands much faster and forms a legal record for the PCR chart jacket per below:
When the field crew scans and finalizes the EMR records, the automated PCR chart jacket workflow also ensures that MedFlight’s third-party billing company, MedBill, receives the records in a timely manner.
“Staff time improvement has been a huge gain for us. Before, if one person had a document, no one else could get it or the information on it without making a copy. By giving our staff access to information in multiple locations at the same time, we are processing our billing much faster and building greater efficiencies,” says Ansley.
Furthermore, since Laserfiche Workflow automatically moves the medical records into restricted folders based on security allowances, Laserfiche ensures that MedFlight meets HIPAA compliance regulations. Laserfiche Audit Trail, which monitors and reports system activity like logins, security tags and changes to metadata, allows MedFlight to track exactly which employees access and use the medical records.
In addition to simplifying the PCR process, Laserfiche furnished MedFlight with the flexibility to customize solutions for other departments. For example, Laserfiche Workflow also simplifies the organization’s accounts payable process:
“Laserfiche is truly an enterprise solution for our organization. It has grown into an application that nearly every department in the company, from Finance to Human Resources to Administrative Records, relies on in some way.”
MedFlight looks next to implement Laserfiche with its standard operating procedures/policies forms. The organization currently posts policies as PDFs on its Intranet system, where users can retrieve documents by policy title only. Laserfiche would bring search capabilities to the policy forms so employees could easily find documents by phrase and word search.
“Laserfiche is truly an enterprise solution for our organization. When we started our implementation, we didn’t have a real handle on what Laserfiche could do; now it has grown into an application that nearly every department in the company, from Finance to Human Resources to Administrative Records, relies on in some way,” notes Ansley.
These configurable solutions have also brought significant savings; over the course of the past three years, MedFlight has saved $100,000 in paper, printing and related costs. MedFlight credits the increased capability to share information between 30 users as a key propeller of Laserfiche’s wide acceptance among many departments.
“For the people who have been the beneficiaries of a reduced paper workflow, it’s an easy sell,” notes Ansley. “If you tell them you’re going to diminish the amount of paper they have to deal with, most people get on board.”]]>
“What started as a niche application in the County Clerk’s Office has now become an enterprise infrastructure investment,” says Wendy St. Amour, Essex County’s IT Manager.
The county implemented Laserfiche back in 2000 because “managing paper records in an organization of our size was an arduous, time-consuming and expensive task. Complying with a myriad of new government regulations and increasingly less physical space made it even more difficult,” explains St. Amour, adding that manual workflow processes were inefficient and time consuming.
She notes that the county “makes a point of making the right decision upfront,” and that based on a combination of good references from other municipalities, user-friendly technology and an affordable price, Laserfiche won the RFP process.
Initially implemented in the County Clerk’s Office, Laserfiche immediately began providing benefits.
Mary Brennan, the County’s Director of Council Services/Clerk, explains, “As the County Clerk, it’s my job to respond to requests for information. With Laserfiche, I never have to venture down into the dreaded basement vault to search for and retrieve records. By giving me a way to find documents quickly, Laserfiche has saved a tremendous amount of time over the years.”
Evolution of a Shared Service
What started as a solution for the County Clerk’s Office soon spread—not just to additional departments such as Engineering and Finance, but to seven municipalities within the County as well.
“Since we purchased Laserfiche in 2000, all seven of the municipalities in Essex County have implemented the software,” says Brennan. “The Municipality of Leamington was actually included in our RFP. The others saw the success we were having, heard similar success stories from other municipalities and decided that Laserfiche would be beneficial for them, too.”
At first, the municipalities maintained and administered their own Laserfiche systems. Over time, however, they began to understand the advantages of sharing, including the ability to leverage economies of scale, take advantage of a wider knowledge base and gain access to additional ECM functionality.
Brennan explains that Essex County dipped its toe into the shared service pool by jointly purchasing and using Laserfiche WebLink as a public information portal together with all seven of its lower-tier municipalities. The online portal provides residents with access to government material such as:
“Laserfiche WebLink is great because all interested stakeholders can easily view public documents with the click of a mouse,” Brennan explains. “Plus, it saves our staff the work of converting documents to PDFs and manually posting them on our Website.”
St. Amour notes that, with eight organizations using Laserfiche, the knowledge base staff amassed was substantial. “The ability to share knowledge and expertise with each other has proven to be very beneficial. That, coupled with the cost savings of sharing one enterprise system, gave us the confidence to upgrade to Laserfiche Rio.”
After consulting with MC Imaging Technologies, Essex County’s Laserfiche reseller, the County and its lower-tier municipalities all agreed that purchasing and deploying Laserfiche Rio as a shared service was the best way to empower employees and capitalize on everything the software has to offer.
“The ability to use unlimited servers is what made our expansion to Rio possible, because each lower-tier municipality uses its own server while taking advantage of the additional functionality Rio offers, such as Laserfiche Workflow,” says St. Amour.
“By taking a shared-service approach, we can develop a process once, and with a few small changes, eight different organizations can benefit from it,” she adds.
Enterprise Efficiency in Action
St. Amour notes that the County and its municipalities benefit from integration between Laserfiche, ESRI ArcGIS and Geocortex, an interactive mapping tool. Cathy Paduch, GIS Technician for Essex County, explains, “The integration allows staff to access documents associated with any spatial asset simply by clicking on a point on a map. This saves time and eliminates the need to store documents in multiple locations.”
Imagery supplied by the County is leveraged by many departments in local municipalities and is also available for public consumption over the Web. Residents can take advantage of an interactive map to locate schools, recreational buildings, municipal institutions, hospitals, churches and police and fire stations—along with associated documents available via Laserfiche WebLink. Paduch notes that protected information such as property tax information is only available to staff.
Mike Sherwood, GIS Technician, adds that the custom script the County created dynamically searches Laserfiche and returns a list of the number and type of documents associated with any given location. “We don’t have to do any maintenance on the GIS side to keep the integration working,” he says.
Although designed and administered by County employees, staff across all seven of Essex’s municipalities benefit from the integration. “It allows all levels of staff from administration, emergency services and engineering departments to easily locate documents,” Paduch explains.
St. Amour adds, “The ease and efficiency of being able to track down and locate multiple documents associated to spatial data within the map interface is a great time saver.”
Although Essex County has only recently implemented Laserfiche Rio, St. Amour says that the County’s priority is automating business processes using Laserfiche Workflow. “Our first priority will be to automate our agendas; then we’ll take a hard look at how we can make our accounts payable and HR processes more efficient.”
Overall, implementing Laserfiche ECM as a shared service across the County and its lower-tier municipalities has enabled Essex to leverage economies of scale, gain access to additional ECM functionality and decrease the amount of time staff spends on manual tasks such as filing and finding paper documents.
“We’ve already realized a significant ROI from using Laserfiche,” says St. Amour. “Now that we have Rio, we can’t wait to start reaping the benefits of business process automation!”]]>
Although the doctors’ attention is devoted to delivering excellent patient care, they recognize that if the medical group’s finances aren’t in order, their ability to continue serving patients is compromised. Therefore, they’ve charged their business office with employing the best people, processes and technology to optimize the revenue cycle and ensure the profitability of the practice.
Recession Brings Reimbursement Challenges
“The tough economy and changing California regulations have made it more and more difficult to collect payment in a timely manner,” explains Sue Kruger, Office Manager at Tri City. “Medicare and Medi-Cal pay only a fraction of the fee for emergency services, people who’ve lost their jobs and their health insurance oftentimes can’t pay for their care and private payers sometimes drag their heels.”
She notes that the group’s physicians treat an average of 6,000-7,000 patients a month. In terms of Tri City’s revenue:
“Our employees have to work much harder to collect the same percentage of payment they did three or four years ago,” says Kruger. “If we didn’t have a paperless system, we’d absolutely have had to hire more staff.”
Integrating Content Management with Practice Management
After transitioning to a new practice management system—CPU’s MED/FM—in 2003, Tri City began thinking about how to get even more value out of that system. When CPU introduced an integration with Laserfiche enterprise content management (ECM), Tri City jumped on board.
“Handling paper was a big expense that slowed our staff down,” says Kruger. “Our doctors recognized that purchasing Laserfiche would pay off in terms of staff productivity.”
J.R. Juiliano, Tri City’s IT Manager, explains, “We scan everything that’s related to patient encounters into Laserfiche. This includes demographic information, dictations, EOBs and correspondence from insurance companies.”
He notes that the hospital sends information to the medical group via an FTP site. “In the past, we just printed everything onsite.”
This, of course, was problematic on many levels:
“We have to keep patient information for seven years,” says Juiliano. “We used to rent four storage units at a facility that’s ten miles away. We kept a year’s worth of records onsite in a big filing room, but somebody had to go over to the storage units at least once a week.”
Kruger adds, “Efficient medical billing depends on keeping people in their seats so they can be productive. Manual tasks like retrieving paper records just aren’t the best use of employees’ time.”
Today, Tri City automates the document capture, indexing and filing processes with the following tools:
Verifiers, coders and payment entry staff work with dual screens, so they’re able to view a document on one screen while performing data entry into MED/FM on the other. With the MED/FM integration, documents are automatically attached to the appropriate patient records in the practice management system. When employees type a number into a specific field in MED/FM, Laserfiche opens the corresponding document. This ensures that employees don’t have to launch Laserfiche or toggle between screens to retrieve the documents they require.
Kruger explains that the integration keeps her staff in their seats. “Laserfiche makes our staff so efficient that we haven’t had to hire more people. In fact, we haven’t even replaced everyone who’s left.”
Visibility = Productivity
Documents—whether scanned or electronically imported—are time-stamped when they enter the Laserfiche repository so that the management team can measure staff productivity. Kruger explains, “If something comes in at eleven but doesn’t get finished until 4:30 pm, I can go to the person and ask, ‘What were you doing for those five and a half hours?’”
Juiliano appreciates how easy it is to run and store reports in Laserfiche. With Laserfiche Audit Trail, a monitoring and reporting tool, Tri City can create summaries of all actions taken on a particular document or record, making it much easier to prove compliance with HIPAA. “We can see who changed what when, where and why,” he explains.
In terms of other types of reports, Juliano says, “We run a lot of reports—collections reports, month-end reports, weekly reports. Even if we don’t run the report in Laserfiche, we store it there, which makes it easy to access and compare historical data with present trends.”
Lisa Newland, Tri City’s Assistant Manager, notes that the group’s RAC audits have gone smoothly thanks to Laserfiche’s instant search-and-retrieval capabilities. “Being able to instantly pull the information the RAC auditors want to see makes life so much easier than digging through filing cabinets or storage boxes.”
All in all, says Kruger, “Laserfiche is a great product. I don’t know how we ever got along without it.”]]>
According to Susan Lesovsky, Application Support Manager for the CWCB, the DNR purchased a Laserfiche enterprise content management (ECM) system in 2005 to replace a legacy IBM system that lacked an out-of-the box Web interface, optical character recognition (OCR) functionality and the ability to automate business processes. “Our old system was pretty much limited to search-and-retrieval,” she explains.
She notes that a top priority for implementing Laserfiche was making it easier for citizens to stay informed about government activities. “Ultimately, our customer is the public, and our success is measured on how we provide and process information for them,” Lesovsky says.
To that end, the DNR upgraded to Laserfiche Rio in 2009. According to Lesovsky, “Laserfiche Rio has allowed us to increase the transparency of information to the public, and it’s done it in such a way that we don’t have to worry about connections or cost.”
In particular, she describes the benefits of upgrading to Laserfiche Rio as:
Laserfiche Rio Enables Citizens to Cut through Red Tape
Lesovsky notes that Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper recently called for every department in state government to reduce red tape. Good government, he says, is characterized by “efficiency, effectiveness and elegance.”
“As one of only two recommended content management systems for the state, Laserfiche epitomizes all three E’s,” Lesovsky says.
She explains how easy it is for citizens to access documents such as the CWCB’s meeting documents:
Colorado’s Decision Support Systems Website also includes custom search boxes throughout its Website, such as the one at the top of this page that searches according to document type and a few other parameters, while a set of “Google-like” search results based on document type displays below thanks to an encoded URL string.
“We used the WebLink Designer to create custom searches because we noticed that our users would get overwhelmed when presented with a long list of templates and fields,” says Lesovsky. “Each custom search focuses on a particular program area or topic and uses a limited set of search criteria within the associated template.”
Quick, easy and efficient searches support Hickenlooper’s goal of driving the “three E’s” into government operations. Lesovsky explains, “In the past, people had to come to our offices to request information. Laserfiche WebLink provides a simple and elegant way for the public to get immediate access to the information they need whenever they need it.”
Integrations Make ECM “Mission-Critical”
By integrating Laserfiche WebLink with other software applications, the DNR has been able to make information even more accessible. For example, by integrating Laserfiche with ESRI ArcGIS, staff can click on a stream and retrieve associated court documents, while public users can quickly access information associated with flooding and flood hazards in the state.
To see the public-facing integration in action:
It’s the integrations with applications like ESRI ArcGIS that make Laserfiche “mission-critical.” According to Lesovsky, “When you integrate Laserfiche with business-specific systems, you embed it into your existing workflow processes and it becomes integral to how you operate.”
ECM Enables Electronic Forms Processing
Laserfiche Rio has been a particularly effective ECM solution for the DNR because different divisions can configure it to meet their unique needs. For example, the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) uses Laserfiche to enable an eForm application that provides an interface for oil and gas operators to enter and submit permit forms and supporting documents. There are currently six active forms and three in development.
According to Ken Robertson, Application Developer for the COGCC, “Uploaded files are stored in our production Web server. Once the operators submit the form to our internal server, we export the attachments to Laserfiche.”
He explains that the public can view the files directly from the production Web server or wait until the files are imported to Laserfiche and use WebLink to access them. Furthermore, he outlines how the COGCC has used the Laserfiche SDK to create customized Laserfiche scripts and programs.
Robertson says, “For those attachments still sitting in our production Web server, we created a Windows service to check queued files in the Web server every 15 minutes and use the Laserfiche Toolkit [SDK] for .NET to import files to the Laserfiche repository server. In the meantime, we also collect the Laserfiche reference numbers in our attachment table so that system (eForm) can provide a WebLink download page for users to view the attachments.”
He notes that there is a separate application that allows oil and gas operators to upload well logs, which are imported into Laserfiche using Laserfiche Import Agent, a tool that captures and processes electronic documents. Scanning staff members use Laserfiche Quick Fields to index other types of electronic documents.
The biggest benefit of processing permits and well logs with Laserfiche is time. Robertson says, “We used to shuffle files from one person to another until they were approved, and then we scanned everything into the system. Having the operators upload their attachments to their documents saves an average of 15 minutes of scanning and indexing time for our staff, not to mention the time saved on data entry.”
He goes on to explain that having everything available electronically at the beginning of the process allows multiple people to work on the same forms simultaneously, further reducing processing time.
“Not only do we save time,” Robertson says, “but the approval process is now more transparent for the public.”
Lesovsky adds, “Laserfiche is powerful, flexible and easy to work with. Even though all our divisions use the same system, we can all use it a little differently.”
Lesovsky is particularly excited to use Laserfiche to harvest data across organizations. She explains that the CWCB has already conducted a feasibility study and has a grant in place to make it happen.
“Colorado State University has an ECM solution other than Laserfiche but a healthy collection of water information. The Colorado Water Resources Development & Power Authority and the Colorado River Water Conservation District currently use Laserfiche, with repositories of useful water documents. By hooking our systems together and using common metadata, we’ll be able to search for information across all four entities and gain a more complete picture of accessible water information in the state.”
She says that the DNR is also working on integrating Laserfiche and SharePoint. “Most of our divisions use SharePoint for their external Websites. Right now, people have to conduct separate searches if they want to find content stored in both Laserfiche and SharePoint. What we’re looking to do is enable searches that return results from both systems at the same time.”
All in all, she says, “Laserfiche Rio is a great tool. The bottleneck now is just finding the time to make it do everything we want it to do.”]]>
Although both Arkansas’ supreme court and court of appeals have recently begun broadcasting—and archiving—live oral arguments on their Website, it is the courts’ use of enterprise content management (ECM) technology that has caught the Supreme Court’s eye.
“We’d had a document imaging system in place for several years, but it hadn’t been used much,” says Frederick. “Only a few techs even knew how to access it, and the search and retrieval capability for records wasn’t particularly useful. We had to ask ourselves, ‘Why scan anything if you can’t use the system?’”
He continues, “Our principal selection criteria for an ECM solution included the ability to manage content, automate processes, enable easy access to records and raise visibility for the legal community and the public.”
He notes that, ultimately, it was the unlimited servers included with Laserfiche Rio that won over the courts’ IT Department. “Both courts issue opinions of high interest that are heavily accessed, so we wanted to make sure we had failovers and test servers in place to accommodate that.”
Laserfiche Enables Electronic Opinions
In 2009, Arkansas became the first state to establish electronic reporting as the official medium for appellate court opinions. Substantial cost savings resulting from the transition provided the opportunity to implement Laserfiche.
“Before that, the appellate court opinions had always been officially reported in bound volumes,” says Frederick. “However, the volumes were produced and distributed approximately four times a year, which meant there was significant lag time between issuance of an opinion and its appearance in its official format.”
With declining subscription rates, higher production costs and advancing technology, the court determined that its current method of publication was no longer acceptable. “Although court systems in general have been slow to enter the digital age, we have to remember that we work for the public, and they’re used to finding information quickly on the Internet,” explains Frederick.
“One of the driving forces that led to the implementation of Laserfiche was to provide the official version of the opinions to everyone free of cost. The substantial savings realized by terminating the bound volume method was also a considerable advantage,” he says.
Using Laserfiche WebLink, a Web portal that provides instant, read-only access to documents over the Internet, the Arkansas Supreme Court and Arkansas Court of Appeals publish their latest opinions in PDF format on their Website.
“Most court records and paper copies of opinions are retained indefinitely,” notes Frederick. “In addition, we are required by statute to keep three copies of each bound volume; the final published volume count was 375 when we made the transition. From that standpoint, the storage of electronic records is far more efficient.”
In terms of search and retrieval, “metadata is a gift,” Frederick says. The Reporter of Decisions established the courts’ file structure, templates and fields, which allow anyone to access the opinions using one or more of the following criteria:
Current Integrations, Future Plans
After enabling live video streaming by implementing a Granicus software solution, the court integrated it with Laserfiche to enable the public and legal community to access archived video footage along with a copy of the opinion tied to the case in question. “We’ve made great efforts to become more transparent,” says Frederick. “By integrating Granicus with Laserfiche, we’ve created a comprehensive digital public record that’s accessible to anyone over the Web.”
The court is currently working on integrating Laserfiche with its court management system (CMS) so that court personnel can access documents stored in Laserfiche when they’re viewing a particular case in the CMS.
Although the courts haven’t yet taken full advantage of Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool included with Laserfiche Rio, they may use Workflow to route drafts of their opinions to:
“Flow is a big buzzword right now, so knowing that we can use Laserfiche to automate more of our processes presents tremendous possibilities,” says Frederick.
Change Management Methodology for Curing “Parchment Disorder”
“One thing I’ve noticed after working in IT across a variety of industries is that the public sector is a little more cautious when it comes to adopting new technology,” says Frederick. “Some people still get comfort in being able to touch a piece of paper, so educating and training everyone on the value of Laserfiche has been interesting.”
In terms of change management, Frederick’s philosophy is that history always denotes the future. “As we were moving to electronic publication, we focused on the input from the Reporter of Decisions and the parameters set by the supreme court. Full integration would have been more easily put in place had we also gotten input from the court about the opinion writing process upfront.”
As Frederick and his team prepare to use Laserfiche to enable attorneys to e-file briefs and other documents that make up the appellate court record, they are training the judges, judicial clerks and administrative assistants first. “The better we understand what each court needs, the more successful the transition will be,” he says.
Frederick explains that e-filing will eliminate the need for lawyers to bring 16 copies of their briefs to court. More importantly, it will allow both courts to quickly find specific pieces of information contained within those briefs, thanks to chapter and marker breaks within electronic briefs, as well as Laserfiche’s sophisticated search capabilities.
“Digitizing will lower our costs and increase our clearance rates,” says Frederick. “Training people ahead of time is a key factor for recognizing the value that Laserfiche has to offer.”]]>
Located just outside of Los Angeles, CA, the City of Long Beach turned to technology to cut costs—and create innovative ways to improve citizen service delivery. In fact, Long Beach has been so successful at leveraging technology that it has just been named one of the top ten digital cities in the U.S. with a population of 250,000 or more by the Center for Digital Government.
“The City of Long Beach takes great pride in our use of technology to be more efficient and make City Hall more accessible and responsive to the community,” says Mayor Bob Foster.
According to Curtis Tani, Director of Technology Services, the effort to reduce costs without compromising service delivery has been three-pronged:
“The Mayor, the City Council and City staff understood the value that technology could bring the city and were open to change at the foundational level to allow Long Beach to become a technology leader,” says Tani. “They understood that the shortfalls in our budget challenged operational efficiencies and gave the Technology Services Department the freedom to lead initiatives to make Long Beach a digital community.”
IT’s Strategy: Consolidate and Standardize
Long Beach has worked hard to consolidate technology functions to create budget efficiencies while still providing enough flexibility for each department to run efficiently. “By bringing our IT staff into one office and centralizing IT oversight, we’ve been able to decrease overall staffing costs as well as the number of overlapping technology investments,” Tani explains.
For example, in 2009, Long Beach chose to replace its existing IBM FileNet system in various departments with a Laserfiche enterprise content management (ECM) system that could be used across the city. “We selected Laserfiche to create more consistency, efficiency and transparency, while saving the city many thousands of dollars in equipment and maintenance fees,” Tani says.
In fact, by implementing a single Laserfiche system, the city cut its annual ECM support costs by 50%. “Our strategy is to implement shared services to capitalize on existing funding and consolidate services,” explains Tani. “Our ECM system is just one example of this.”
Other cost-saving IT consolidation efforts include:
ECM and Open Government
In April 2011, the Long Beach City Council adopted an open government policy identifying transparency as a core function of local government. To that end, making information more accessible by staff and citizens alike has been a top priority.
“Long Beach is dedicated to fostering and promoting open and transparent government where everyone in our community can easily participate and be engaged,” explains Long Beach City Clerk Larry Herrera. “As one of the largest cities in California, we are committed to exploring best practices, adopting new technologies that simplify and speed up all work processes and providing a level of customer service that is unmatched.”
Herrera notes that the City Clerk’s office uses Laserfiche to streamline paperwork and processes, helping the city deliver higher service at a lower cost. “In 2002, we needed 28 people to provide the public with quick, accurate and effective answers to their questions about our community. Today, with a staff of 17, our level of customer service is better than ever before.”
Over the past year and a half, the city has spent approximately $120,000 for offsite record storage. Staff had to manually retrieve paper records to answer requests, leading to delays in service and extra costs. As more and more records are added to Laserfiche, information access is improved and storage costs are expected to decrease.
On a daily basis, the City Clerk’s office scans thousands of records into Laserfiche. Just a few of the document types available in Laserfiche include:
Last spring, the city made all city contracts executed as of the first of the year available to the public through Laserfiche WebLink, a read-only public portal. With 24/7 online viewing access, city residents, contractors and employees no longer have to submit public records act (PRA) requests for these items, simplifying access and saving time for both requestors and the City Clerk’s staff.
ECM across the Enterprise
In addition to the City Clerk’s office, the Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) relies heavily on Laserfiche, using the ECM system to make information such as gang injunctions, citations, restraining orders, field interview cards and accident reports available to officers in their patrol cars.
LBPD Police Chief Jim McDonnell notes that since implementing an improved gang injunction system using Laserfiche, gang violence in Long Beach has decreased. In 2010, the first year of using the new gang injunction system, gang-related murders dropped by 53.8%. “By pairing technology with optimized policies and procedures, we’ve been able to reduce violent crime in the face of severe budget constraints. Our officers were able to spend less time on administrative tasks and reinvest this time to keeping the streets safe.”
According to Jonathan Stafford, Administrator of LBPD’s Records and Technology Division, “We were delighted when the city decided to standardize on Laserfiche. We were confident that the simplicity and flexibility of the system would enable us to be more efficient by streamlining our processes.”
Other departments that have undergone concerted efforts to digitize paper processes include:
For example, in 2011 the city expanded the types of permits and licenses that can be obtained online via the Website to include garage sale permits, temporary preferential parking permits, oversized vehicle parking permits and pet licenses. Technology Services also developed an interactive Fees and Charges Web application that allows the public to easily search for fees based on department, activity or keyword.
Long Beach began streamlining its accounting processes by integrating Laserfiche with its business intelligence (BI) system. Through the integration, images of the accounts payable invoices managed in Laserfiche are available to authorized users through the BI interface. This streamlines the process of researching expenditures by eliminating the need to manually pull the physical copies of the invoices.
Long Beach City Manager Pat West explains, “Our goal is to virtualize and streamline the access and flow of records and information within the city, while ensuring security. We have been pleased with the Laserfiche system, because it easily expands and adapts to the technological and human factor needs of various departments while providing central control that is needed to ensure accountability.”
Elements of Success
According to Tani, “All the right elements were aligned for the success of our technology initiatives. City leadership, staff and citizens were onboard with the transition and willing to go above and beyond to make our efforts to centralize and standardize Long Beach’s approach to technology successful.”
In addition to the Laserfiche projects outlined above, a few of the innovative ways the citizens of Long Beach can now use technology include:
Tani also notes that having buy-in from the community was essential to the city’s IT transformation. “We had overwhelmingly positive responses to different application launches—both from the media and end users.” He explains that the media provided ample coverage of different applications and technology tools for both public safety and general city services, and that the community was willing to try the new applications and processes and provide their feedback.
“Ultimately, increasing the dialogue between city officials and the community is what has given the city’s technology initiatives energy and poised them for success and sustainability,” he says.
As a result of the collaboration between city leadership, staff and citizens, Long Beach has used technology to position itself as a leader for the future.]]>
With approximately 150,000 residents, Franklin County comprises 52 different departments, including the Commissioners’ Office, Human Resources, Human Services and Risk Management, to name just a few. Yonker notes that these departments “operate like 52 separate businesses under the same umbrella.”
In this kind of environment, it’s especially important to establish enterprise-wide IT standards to promote consistency and cross-departmental collaboration, Yonker says. However, it’s often difficult to find technology that’s agile enough to meet the needs of many different departments and flexible enough to adapt quickly and cost-effectively to changing conditions.
“It’s hard to convince all the different departments that they can all use the same system,” says Yonker. “Because of that, we didn’t start out thinking Laserfiche was going to be enterprise technology. But after the enterprise content management seed was planted in one department, suddenly all our departments wanted to know more.”
Franklin County first purchased Laserfiche back in 2001. “We had some younger Commissioners come in, and they were more familiar with technology and the benefits it could have for Franklin County than previous Commissions had been,” explains Jean Byers, deputy chief clerk in the Commissioners’ Office. “They selected Laserfiche for its instant search capabilities, as well as the fact that we could install it directly on the computers already in use.”
She continues, “We immediately realized tremendous benefits from Laserfiche. Documents that used to take days to find became available with the click of a button. It used to take hours to find specific text within meeting minutes that were hundreds of pages long, but with Laserfiche it only took seconds.”
The new technology also made it easy to share documents with colleagues, and due to a similar look and feel as Windows, Laserfiche quickly became popular with both management and staff.
The Evolution of an Enterprise Standard
As Laserfiche took root in the Commissioners’ Office, other departments began to take notice. With their focus on compliance and prudent financial management, both the Fiscal Office and the Controller’s Office deployed Laserfiche in 2004.
“Laserfiche is great for accounts payable (A/P) functions and auditing,” says Yonker. “For A/P, instant document retrieval speeds and simplifies the review and approval of invoices. And with electronically stored documents, employees can quickly and easily pull the files needed to satisfy an auditor’s request, with no need to spend hours digging through file cabinets. That’s a pretty impressive efficiency boost right there.”
Yonker notes that rolling Laserfiche out to additional departments was an easier sell than other system expansions because there was buy-in from the top right from the start.
“Whenever County purchases exceed a certain amount, they need to be approved by the Commissioners,” he explains. “Because the Commissioners were already very familiar with the value of using Laserfiche, they never hesitated to give the go-ahead when other departments wanted to get on board.”
The next departments to raise their hands and ask for Laserfiche were Human Services, which was particularly excited about Laserfiche from a disaster recovery standpoint, and Human Resources. Both departments implemented the software in 2006.
The first thing the HR department did after implementing Laserfiche was to start scanning personnel files into the system. It took some time to develop an appropriate folder structure that separated employees’ employment records from their confidential medical records and discipline files, and then it took about a year to get everything scanned in.
“We probably spent between 4-6 months in the planning phase, but getting those personnel files into Laserfiche properly has had an enormous payback for us,” says John Aguirre, Director of HR at Franklin County.
A few of the benefits include:
Aguirre notes that in addition to managing personnel files in Laserfiche, his department has also added recruitment documentation and union and arbitration files to the system, which has led to quicker resolution of some grievances. In addition, HR is currently most of the way through scanning employees’ benefits files and leave of absence documents into the repository, and it has recently started on payroll documentation.
“Laserfiche is so secure in terms of access rights and privileges that we’re comfortable using it for everything we’ve got,” Aguirre says. “For example, I’m the only person in the HR Department who can view the union files, and I’m also the only one with deletion rights. I know that unauthorized staff can’t see confidential information, and I know that no one’s going to tamper with our files. The role-based security provides real peace of mind.”
Laserfiche Rolls across the Enterprise
With some technologies, organizations hit a tipping point for enterprise adoption. For Franklin County, that tipping point for Laserfiche was the implementation in HR.
“After HR deployed Laserfiche, everybody started to ask for it,” Yonker recounts. “People saw how successful the HR implementation was, and they began to talk about what the benefits for their departments could be.”
As Laserfiche was adopted by more and more departments, the types of content stored in the system grew more and more diverse:
With 26 departments already using Laserfiche, Franklin County recently upgraded to Laserfiche Rio to bring 24 additional departments onto the system. According to Yonker, “Court Administration will be the last big department to make the transition, and we’re going to integrate Laserfiche with the state’s case management system for them.”
Although the IT Department had not initially planned to implement Laserfiche as the county-wide standard for ECM, it’s now grateful to have that consistency in place. “We got rid of a couple departments’ antiquated imaging systems in order to move them onto Laserfiche, which makes my staff more efficient because it only has to administer the one ECM system. It’s also easier from a user training perspective, since everybody’s using the same thing,” Yonker says.]]>
According to Rochelle Waldoch, Compliance and Records Manager at Ramsey County, the need for more efficient paper-based business processes drove the county to investigate enterprise content management (ECM). “The Human Services Department had always been a paper-heavy department, but as caseloads grew, we started having difficulty with sharing paper files. In addition, client information was siloed, so employees had to collect the same data over and over again. It wasn’t an efficient process, and it needed to change.”
She notes, however, that the county wasn’t interested in deploying a departmental ECM solution. “If the Information Services Department was going to invest the time and resources in implementing ECM, the solution we chose needed to provide a standard systems architecture and methodology for managing all types of documents across the county—not just in one department.”
Needs Analysis and Selection Process
To that end, Waldoch and Toyia Arvin, EDMS Business Analyst, worked with county staff to analyze business processes and document needs in every department. This analysis included:
Armed with the results of the needs analysis, Waldoch and Arvin authored the county’s RFP. “Prior to implementing Laserfiche, we were using the DocuWare system to store a variety of document types, but it didn’t have the advanced workflow or capture functionality necessary to streamline business processes enterprise-wide,” explains Waldoch.
In terms of the selection process, Arvin says, “Laserfiche was beyond impressive when we were doing our RFP. Laserfiche Rio offered a familiar, Windows-like interface for our users; included all of the components we needed to achieve ECM success across the county, including Workflow, Records Management and unlimited servers; and received excellent recommendations when we did our reference checks.”
Central Control, Departmental Flexibility
Ramsey County implemented a 2,000-user Laserfiche Rio system in the summer of 2010. It is supported centrally by a four-person team within the IS Department. To date, the team has transferred more than eight million documents stored in the old DocuWare system to Laserfiche and brought a variety of departments onboard, including:
Waldoch and Arvin note that the Elections and Administrative implementations have gone smoothly. “Because there was an election recount coming up, Elections employees did their homework before their initial meeting with us. They brought a lot of document samples and mapped out what kind of folder structure they wanted, which documents would need to be barcoded, what information would need to be redacted and so on,” says Arvin.
“Because of that, we were able to get them up and running in a week,” she adds. “Working with Crabtree, we’d do a build, show it to them that day, and then tweak it based on their feedback. They’d been thorough upfront with their planning, so there weren’t a lot of changes that needed to be made.”
Efficient Case Management Commences
Implementation in Human Services, which started out with a 75-user pilot project (including 28 case managers), has taken a little more time. “Elections is a small department with a limited number of document types,” explains Waldoch. “Human Services, on the other hand, is a huge department with hundreds of users and hundreds of forms—and a heavy need for Workflow.”
To determine how to configure the Client repository that Human Services uses, Arvin sat down with key Human Services employees to better understand their processes. “Subject matter experts in each of the three areas of the pilot analyzed their current folder structure by reviewing case files. Together, we analyzed the tabs contained in the paper files and came up with a nine-sided file structure that could meet the needs of all the various Human Services divisions,” she says.
“The goal of implementing Laserfiche within Human Services is to allow case workers to collect information from clients once and share it electronically throughout all program areas,” explains Waldoch. “Electronic client files decrease delays in processing benefits since case workers have, via Workflow, near-immediate knowledge of document receipt.
“In addition, supervisors have greater visibility into the workload and productivity of their employees. With Laserfiche, they’re able to run queries showing them what’s being processed and what’s still waiting in the queue.”
Also adding to the department’s increased efficiency is an integration using LincWare’s LincDoc to create a Case Creation Form for the Client repository. “LincDoc makes two calls—one to a State system (SMI) and one to a County system (CAFÉ) —to pull the information needed to create a new case in Laserfiche,” Arvin says. “Automating this process saves staff time.”
After a case is created, it goes through the following steps:
Arvin notes that creating workflows for Human Services wasn’t as simple as she’d first imagined. “The biggest lesson I learned is that you shouldn’t try to replicate paper processes in an electronic workflow. We built a workflow this way only to find out that a chunk of it was unnecessary, so we had to ask the Laserfiche engineers to go back and build it again.”
In terms of additional functionality, the IS team is currently in the process of enabling electronic signatures, electronic forms and barcoding, all of which will simplify working with Human Services clients.
In terms of additional Human Services divisions, the team is working to:
“Although we have a long way to go before we’d consider Human Services a mature Laserfiche implementation, we’re definitely on the right track,” Waldoch says.
Change Management Methodology
“A lot of counties have to force content management into their departments, but we don’t have that problem here, due in large part to our extensive training program,” Arvin explains.
For the Human Services Department, the Laserfiche team involved all pilot participants in the project from early on. “The more involved people are in designing their own solutions, the more bought-in they’ll be when it comes time to use it,” she says. “We also had some strong advocates who’d previously worked in other counties that use ECM, so that was certainly a stroke in our favor.”
Once the Laserfiche pilot had been implemented, non-pilot employees started receiving information from Laserfiche on disk so that they’d become familiar with the way information was organized and presented. The team also created a lot of training documentation (available online), including videos of how to perform tasks in Laserfiche featuring the cast of The Flintstones. “Just because something is technical doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it,” Waldoch says. “If people are laughing, they’re paying attention.”
In-person training classes are conducted by unit, so that employees see the information and steps that are relevant to them. When needed, the Laserfiche team conducts individual training sessions as well. The Laserfiche team also plans to create a county-wide Laserfiche User Group to facilitate knowledge sharing between departments in the future.
Although Laserfiche is currently being used by several departments to enhance internal productivity, in the future, Ramsey County wants to use Laserfiche to directly help its citizens as well. It plans to do this by making information available to its constituents via a public portal, increasing transparency, and also by giving constituents the ability to complete and submit forms online. “We’re here to serve the public,” Waldoch explains. “We want them to get as much benefit from Laserfiche as our staff does.”
In conclusion, Waldoch says, “Laserfiche is a powerful enterprise system that’s already having a great impact in a number of departments.”]]>
Rather than implementing separate solutions for the clinical and non-clinical sides of the house, MCCMHS officials recognized that enterprise content management (ECM) would be the most efficient and cost-effective way to answer its document-related challenges.
ECM Supports EHR
MCCMHS’ search brought the organization to Jeff Nelson of Bolt Document Management, a Laserfiche reseller based in Elkhart, IN. “Initially the objective was for the Laserfiche system to act as a bridge between legacy information and future digital content,” Nelson remembers. “At the same time, implementation of Laserfiche allowed MCCMHS to address areas where working with paper was simply inefficient.”
In 2003 Pat Latimer, the former project manager, led the effort to implement a 118-user Laserfiche system in the agency’s centralized scanning bureau. Staff began migrating and adding patient histories and signature forms for use in conjunction with patient records, which were being generated from Avatar by Crystal Reports and then scanned into Laserfiche.
Dave McElfish, Director of Technology, says that although the original idea was for clinical staff to simultaneously access patient information from Laserfiche and the practice management system, “the reality was, even though we purchased Avatar with the idea of integrating it with Laserfiche, when we explored it further, it was going to be cost prohibitive on the Avatar side of the project.”
In the meantime, Laserfiche deployment had been extended to MCCMHS’s HR and finance departments, which likewise began migrating backfiles to ease storage costs and give staff the ability to retrieve information on command. System use has since grown to the point that the Laserfiche repository now houses over 800,000 documents.
More recently, McElfish says clinical staff have once again expressed interest in being able to access to information from Avatar and Laserfiche at the same time, even going so far as to revisit the idea of using Avatar’s add-on imaging module. “After much consideration, our clinical staff felt that would put us no further ahead in our goal for a true, single database to model our EHR from,” McElfish says. “The reality is that Laserfiche is designed to manage unstructured data, so in that respect it’s closer to that single database because we are able to include unstructured data, such as lab reports and doctor’s notes.”
McElfish adds that MCCMHS has been speaking with Nelson and Bolt to explore ways to simplify and streamline how data is entered and accessed between Avatar and Laserfiche. McElfish says staff is especially encouraged by the release of Laserfiche Mobile, which could be used to grant clinical staff in the field comprehensive access to patient data via Web Access. He says several options are being considered, including taking advantage of the Laserfiche Q3 Promotion to upgrade the agency’s current system to Laserfiche Avante and receive Web Access (which is required to use the Laserfiche Mobile app) for free.
“We know that allowing staff to access information from Laserfiche on iPads in the field would be a huge boost in our productivity,” says McElfish.
An Avante upgrade would provide lot of potential for automation as well. McElfish notes that Nelson and Bolt have recently been discussing implementing distributed capture processes for paperless faxes and digital signatures via virtual rubberstamps, all routed by Workflow through the agency’s central scanning office for oversight.
Looking ahead, he is understandably pragmatic. “Although Laserfiche is not our primary practice management system, it represents a critical and necessary content management tool that complements Avatar.
“We’ll continue to have paper and documents that need signatures, and the simplest, most cost-effective way to incorporate them into our EMR strategy is to use Laserfiche. There are digital signature solutions and other options, but Laserfiche lets us use what we already have,” McElfish adds. “Our goal was and is to have a single database to model our EHR from, and Laserfiche has provided us with the portability and flexibility to move forward with that goal from a solid foundation.”]]>
“The staff was really good in sitting down and critically looking at how they do business with their documents,” Filippi says. “Because of that, they were able to come up with the identifying fields that process 95% of their documents.”
In a series of narrated screen shots, Filippi provides an overview of the process, along with some best-practice advice:
1. Avoid inputting information from the same document at the same time.
“When you first open Laserfiche Quick Fields, it tells you the recent sessions you already opened based on your log-in ID. If someone is using that session, you can’t open it—which is good because you’re avoiding the cross-scanning, as I call it,” says Filippi. “You might have people trying to input information from the same document at the same time. Some users don’t like it because they say, ‘Well, it cuts down on productivity,’ but you have to think of the bigger picture here: We want to make sure we have accurate document data in our repository. That overrides everything else, so I’m glad Laserfiche considered that in the software’s design too.”
2. Use best practices and practical needs to manage metadata.
“Metadata management is a good source of one-stop shopping for us to identify what we’re using, what we have as far as templates and fields, and where we can cross reference data and information in our document repository,” says Filippi. The Assessor Recorder’s 26 templates below were developed in-house working with department staff to determine their respective best practices and practical needs. “Everything you see is what we’ve created internally going through the processes, testing and then streamlining.”
3. How the Property Transfers Division configured its template.
“Property Transfers has decided to do ‘one-stop shopping,’ so this is their template,” explains Filippi. “All the field names on the left are common to every single document type they use. What’s really important is on the right under ‘required.’ When staff scans these documents through Quick Fields, the only field that needs to be inputted at the time of capture is the document number. Good or bad, that’s how they’ve maximized their efficiency. They’re identifying their best business processes to help them sort and go to these documents.”
4. 67 database fields shared across 26 document templates.
The Assessor Recorder’s Office uses 67 different types of fields to process and index documents—social security numbers, permit numbers, names, notice dates and so on. “Laserfiche has hundreds and hundreds of field capabilities you use to name your documents or manage your repository with,” Filippi says. “Pretty much everything in our repository that is searchable has a field and is listed here.”
5. “People love stamps here.”
In addition to fields and tags, departments use stamps electronically affixed to a document that employees have customized to their needs and preferences. “As you can see, there’s quite a few of these. I’d like to see less,” Filippi laughs, “but people love stamps here.”
6. Processing ‘Claims for Reassessment Exclusion’ forms.
‘Claim for Reassessment Exclusion’ forms are required by Proposition 58, which exempts a property from tax reassessment when it passes between parents and children. On the left, the ‘Page Processing’ list displays the ‘menu’ of adjustments and refinements that will be made to the document. This session, for instance:
“You only have to do this once—when Quick Fields identifies this document type, it will process it according to that configuration,” Filippi says. “Laserfiche has given us a lot of options on how to process documents at the time of capture.”
7. Extracting data from the form.
Says Filippi of the ‘Fields’ highlighted on the right, “When the users created this document, they identified that these pieces of information—the year, the document number, the APN and so on—are all critical to identifying, processing and efficiently moving this document through their business processes.”
8. Create templates first to help determine fields.
Before determining fields, Filippi recommends, “The first step is to create a template for a particular document type,” or a ‘blueprint,’ as he calls it. “Then, from those templates, you get an idea of your fields,” he says. “The important thing is to understand the document types first, which are identified by your templates. And then, what fields you need in each of those documents to make them do what you need them to do.”
9. How tokens use fields to name documents.
The specific metadata fields in the ‘Property Transfers’ template will be used to name the document via a token, seen here in the ‘Default document name’ window ‘Fields.’ “When you see the ‘%’ sign, this is an actual script format that Laserfiche recommends to capture what you’re seeing right now. For ‘document number,’ the syntax is ‘%, bracket, field, doc number.’ Every time we run a session, we tell it, ‘capture this information in the document so our people don’t have to key it.’”
10. Include the document type in its name for future associated use.
“When you look up the document, you’ll see that it’s named according to the document number, the year and ‘Proposition 58.’ Now, the reason we do this—and this is just our business process—is to get to a point that whenever you type in a document APN, that eight-digit number will get every associated document that comes up with it, including a Prop 58. Some people say, ‘Why are you putting the name in again?’ Well, that’s why we do it,” says Filippi, adding, “Whatever fields you have, you can include up here. But this Division, in this document type-case, has decided only to put document number, year and the name.”
11. Can’t find something? Check the folder path.
When a file can’t be found, Filippi says check the ‘Properties’ column, a “one-stop shop for diagnosing problems,” as he calls it. “If you can’t find your document when you scan or capture, this ‘Properties’ tab on the right is the first place you should look. Most of the time, the folder path is wrong.”
12. Use Zone OCR to extract data from a specific area of a document.
Zone OCR is what allows ASR to pull data from a specific area of a document type, in this case the assessor’s parcel number (APN). Filippi says there was “some trial and error involved initially” with how big an area to OCR, eventually reducing the zone from the entire document to just the APN. The Department has since reduced its error rate from 20% to about 3%. “So if you know that your critical data is always going to be in one area of a given document, then I would suggest you maximize that ability,” he says. “Our clerical staff doesn’t have to key this information.”
Filippi points to this as another example of how Quick Fields is “really well thought out from a user perspective—you can tell it which pages to OCR. Again, it all depends on how you want it to work to suit your processes in-house. The critical components of the software have been really well thought out. But, you’ve got enough options to really make it your own. And that’s why it’s really been so huge for us here!”]]>
During tax season, staff regularly doubles from 15 to 30, owing to the sheer volume of work—and paperwork—associated with tax preparation. But as HFG’s businesses steadily grew, the firm had also steadily outgrown what Chief Operating Officer Ali Mroue calls its “Stone Age document management system.”
In 2004, the firm had implemented the proprietary and non-SQL based system, which was an add-on module for the firm’s Intuit Lacerte tax preparation software, “purely for storage,” he says. Data transfer to PDF was difficult and error-prone, and “we were essentially scanning to create a back-up for the actual physical file. But that was unreliable—we lost data once, and it had no security or audit trail of any sort.”
From just paperless to purposeful: An ECM vision takes shape
By 2010, HFG files containing 10 years of data were simply too big to manage and too hard to find. “We’d already added a scanning clerk and a designated file clerk, but it was quickly becoming an operational nightmare, with more staff to manage and more documents getting misplaced,” Mroue remembers.
The irony is that when the firm’s search for a proper enterprise content management (ECM) solution brought Mroue to Laserfiche, it was not the first time. “We first looked into Laserfiche in 2006, but back then, we weren’t looking at ECM in terms of business process automation or any bigger-picture operational improvements,” he says. “We just wanted to get rid of the paper.”
Working with Patrick Welsch of Laserfiche reseller Cities Digital, Mroue began to see how integral ECM deployment was to not only keep up with, but also anticipate, Hewitt’s projected growth. “We looked at a few solutions, and they all did things in their own way. Only Laserfiche offered the flexibility to develop our own folder structures and templates—and we’d be able to change them depending on requirements without calling in a consultant,” Mroue says.
“Plus, we required that Laserfiche integrate with our Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Intuit Lacerte tax software, as well as send Microsoft Office documents directly to Laserfiche. We wanted everything to mesh together, other systems either didn’t integrate, or if they did, it was going be complicated and expensive.”
Ease and familiarity of use speeds an already speedy deployment
HFG purchased a 15-user Laserfiche Avante system with Web Access (for deployment to its Ventura County office) and Audit Trail in December of 2010. With April 15 on the horizon, initial deployment focused on the tax preparation side of HFG’s business, beginning with a substantial backlog conversion of paper files. “Considering the holidays, it took around 30 days to deploy, customize and integrate the system. We had one day of training for full-time staff. And it took me 30 minutes to train the part time staff on how they’d be using Laserfiche,” Mroue recalls. The ease of deployment was significant, he adds—based in no small part on Laserfiche’s ability to mirror the firm’s familiar paper filing structures. Tax worksheets are automatically sent to Laserfiche with a single click from Microsoft Office programs, while all forms from the Intuit Lacerte system are sent to Laserfiche using Snapshot.
“We were able to mimic our exact process in the Laserfiche system. Nothing changed for staff; I told them, ‘The client file doesn’t exist—it’s now a client folder.’ That made it easy for the employees to understand the change. Instead of people getting up and moving files from cabinets, it ‘jumps’ by itself,” Mroue says.
Workflow makes a $20,000/1,000 hour difference
The jumping-by-itself, Mroue continues, is the result of implementing Laserfiche Workflow. “A file used to jump between seven sets of hands, from client meeting to the client delivery,” he begins. “File clerk/ front desk staff/preparer/checker/scanner/processor/mail clerk, and back to the file clerk.”
“Now, using Workflow, the front desk sets up the appointment and creates the file for the preparer, and it’s just ‘click’ the field, ‘approve,’ ‘approve,’ ‘approve,’ all the way through the process. If something isn’t approved, it is sent back automatically with a ‘sticky note’ on the document in Laserfiche. Nobody has to leave their desk, and I can monitor the whole process and see where everything is so I know what’s getting done. It just raises the level of efficiency and accountability,” he adds.
“Operationally, we had the best tax season ever, especially for me since I could monitor every detail of the business and everyone’s performance from my screen,” Mroue says. “We delivered content on a CD instead of paper, so we used five boxes of paper instead of 50, plus we saved a lot on postage. We also saved the cost of our part time clerks—which is about $20,000 a year. We made our ROI in the first year alone. But the biggest savings was the preparers’ time—at least 10 minutes for every hour. When you add that up, that’s literally a thousand hours our staff can spend working with more clients.”
Coincidentally, the firm’s Laserfiche installation and training took place right around the time of the annual Empower 2011 Laserfiche Institute Conference in January, inspiring an even quicker adoption. “Everyone from our office agreed the Conference was pretty amazing in the amount of knowledge provided,” Mroue adds. “I was actually able to continue writing the Workflow automations for our tax preparation process at the Conference.”
Expanding deployment, saving more clicks with image-enablement integration
As of June 2011, the firm has extended scanning to Al Hewitt, Inc., its RIA firm. “Our goal is to eliminate all the files in our office by the end of August—which will free up a big space,” Mroue says.
For next tax season, Mroue says HFG will utilize Cities Digital’s Unfetterfiche to image-enable their Lacerte system with a single hot key. Deployment for the Al Hewitt, Inc./RIA side of the business is also being mapped out. “Each client file has about six folders, so that transition will be immensely beneficial,” he says.
“We’re taking things step by step,” Mroue adds. “One thing we’ve learned from this process is that in order for the transition to a totally paperless environment to be successful, users have to accept it and want to use it. Laserfiche has the flexibility to make that happen.”
For his part, however, Mroue is very satisfied. “From an IT standpoint, Laserfiche is easy to maneuver and to develop and change. You’re not going back and asking the VAR for help all the time, so it won’t cost you money down the road,” he says. “We’re already thinking about upgrading the system and adding more users.”]]>
When Eastmont Towers’ Health Care Administrator Beth Nelsen RN, CHPN, began exploring enterprise content management systems, she soon discovered that “paperless” meant a lot more than just empty file cabinets. “First, we looked at outsourcing to a company that would scan our records onto disks,” remembers Nelsen, “but we were concerned about how we’d be able to use the information once it was digitally stored.”
Not to mention, outsourcing may have gotten rid of the paper—but it created an entirely new set of compliance concerns. Nelsen next began to explore solutions the agency could configure, use and administer in-house.
Quick Fields and Workflow: impressive possibilities
Kathy Gentile of Laserfiche reseller Bishop Business Equipment had worked with Eastmont Towers as an MFP hardware provider. Gentile, Bishop’s Laserfiche Document Management Specialist, invited Records Management staff from the agency to attend a workshop to see Laserfiche in action. Nelsen and her staff saw how Laserfiche Quick Fields could create files on the fly. Once files were created, Workflow could then notify decision makers of pending approvals and track those approvals throughout multiple business processes.
Nelsen was impressed. “We fell in love with Workflow,” she says, citing how it could help the agency:
“We’re a multidisciplinary team caring for people across a continuum, so that ability to share documents between departments, reduce paperwork and improve communication would greatly increase efficiency and positively impact patient care,” she adds.
Thus inspired, Nelsen and her team purchased a 30-user Laserfiche Rio pilot system and have spent the first half of this year preparing to roll it out. “Laserfiche Rio made the most sense in terms of meeting our immediate needs. It includes Workflow and the Records Management component to work with our EMR, as well as unlimited servers.
“As we progress, we can just add users to grow the system to meet our future needs and goals. Scalability was a big factor in choosing Laserfiche Rio,” Nelsen explains.
Goodbye filing cabinets, hello automated patient charting
Eastmont Towers’ medical records staff is now halfway through a backlog conversion process that Nelsen anticipates will eliminate at least four filing cabinets by the end of the year. Meanwhile, Nelsen and her staff have been analyzing business processes to guide the upcoming implementation. “After we had our initial training, we sat down to map out what exactly we do with our documents, where they are sent and why,” she says.
Initial focus has been on automating the patient charting process to compile and distribute client records and information as they enter Eastmont Towers from hospitals and other healthcare agencies. “We have several departments we need to route various information to, so we needed a way to streamline and simplify everything coming in and have it work with our EMR so staff could find everything in one place,” explains Nelsen.
Eastmont Towers is currently working with Gentile and Laserfiche consultants Our Support Services to automate and streamline the patient charting process:
Prior to implementing Laserfiche, paper files all had chart tab dividers. Every time a document was added to that tab, all documents had to be removed from the file so new information could be filed in the appropriate spot, then documents would be replaced in the folder and the folder refiled. A new feature in Laserfiche 8.2, dynamic fields, greatly simplifies this process, Gentile explains.
“When a ‘tab’ item is selected from the ‘Chart Tab’ field drop down, the ‘Chart Doc Type’ drop down list automatically populates to correspond with the documents that fall under that ‘Chart Tab’ category,” she says. “It’s saved staff a lot of time.”
Immediate practicalities, limitless possibilities
As Nelsen and her team continue to come up with ideas for future process automation, she sees even more potential for Laserfiche. “We wanted something that was would be fairly easy for the end user to learn but that also could streamline our processes better, and Laserfiche has met and exceeded our expectations,” she says.
Next up, she says, are integrations with the agency’s Keane clinical and financial software to support current EMR deployment and refine and automate processes in the Accounting Department. “We see a lot of value in having an ECM system that’s flexible and adaptable enough to meet clinical and non-clinical needs throughout our agency,” Nelsen adds.
“We have a lot of time and resources invested in our existing technology, so it’s important that Laserfiche enables us to build on the progress we’ve already made without interrupting the ways we’re used to working. Plus, the way Rio’s set up, we can keep building with it, which is very appealing to us. Technology’s always changing and Laserfiche is a great tool to adapt along with it.”
At the same time, Chelsea had been experiencing what Hyland terms “a slowdown” with some departments—IT and the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) among them—facing staff reductions of up to 15–25%. For Joseph Cooney, Director of Inspectional Services, servicing the FOIA/public records requests his department received every week from real estate agents and lawyers was affecting overall service levels. “We’re down enough staff that to devote one or two people to spend a whole day finding and copying paperwork to fulfill requests was just brutal,” says Cooney.
Filling a need, launching a vision
In 2009, Chelsea IT and ISD combined efforts to go before the Chelsea City Council to propose implementing an enterprise content management (ECM) system to address the problem. “It was a pretty easy sell,” recalls Hyland. His vision was to acquire a system that eventually all departments would use, with ISD leading the way. “ISD had the immediate need and the 100-year-old documents that made the case for digitization that drove the project.”
Out of the three vendor responses to the city’s RFP, it was the Laserfiche Avante ECM system proposed by Mike McDonough of area reseller Duplitron that met all the city’s requirements the most cost-effectively. “Several cities in our area were also already using Laserfiche,” Hyland notes. Faced with his own staff reductions, Hyland was especially encouraged by the idea of using Web Access to deploy, administer and eventually expand the system. “We have a virtualized environment, so the Web-based client made the most sense for us,” Hyland says. “The less desktop installation we need, the more resourceful it is for my staff, and Web-based deployment means more users can use the system from any browser in our intranet.”
For his part, Cooney was won over when Chelsea’s Deputy City Manager, a resident of neighboring city Peabody, showed him how that city’s Laserfiche Web Portal made public information instantly searchable and available from its website. “He literally typed in his name and every document came with his name in it came up right away. I was like, ‘That’s awesome. I’m sold.’”
Searchable, viewable, sendable
In April of 2009, the city purchased a 10-user Laserfiche Avante system with Import Agent and Web Access. Initial deployment targeted the ISD’s overflowing storerooms. Cooney’s staff began scanning in the 45 filing cabinets of building, electrical, zoning, etc. inspections, ranging from bulky legal size file jackets to 3×5 cards. Laserfiche in turn made all the documents, regardless of size, age or number of pages, immediately searchable by address and viewable as a series of thumbnail images. The improvement for Cooney and his staff was immediate. “We could literally be on the phone with a request, type in the address, ask, ‘What’s your email?’ And ‘Boom, boom, boom, see ya later’—it’s sent and done,’” says Cooney. “All our inspection notices coming in now are scanned in. We’re not bogged down at all.”
Building on the ISD’s initial success, deployment has followed to the City Clerk’s office, which has merged with the Licensing office to further consolidate and optimize departmental functions and systems. Planned implementations include the city’s Law Department, which, like ISD two years ago, has nowhere to go but the attic of City Hall with its file cabinet overflow. Hyland expects more to follow. “We envisioned the system to be something more and more departments will be using,” he says, noting that this makes sense not only from an IT resource perspective, but also in terms of establishing a single point of control for governance. “Our next step would be to securely open up our information to the community.”
Turning ‘physical ROI’ into a practical framework for increased efficiency and governance
To that end, Chelsea is considering a potential upgrade to Laserfiche Rio, which would include a WebLink Public Portal, similar to the one used in neighboring Peabody. With the ISD success as a cornerstone, he says, the idea at least has a fighting chance. “The reality is that using Laserfiche has given us a ‘physical ROI’ in terms of getting rid of hundreds of filing cabinets, so we have that foundation and momentum to work from.” With modest IT resources and city staff often wearing many hats (City Clerk Deborah Clayman also serves as de facto Records Manager, for instance), a Rio upgrade would offer Chelsea bite-sized benefits of an ECM strategy (incremental deployment/licensing; increased governance; simplified records management; test server environments) without the city—or Hyland’s modest staff—biting off more than they can chew.
The possibilities are many—from simply having a single, centralized repository for documents generated by all city departments to replacing its current PDF-based online documents available with links to view documents (with appropriate redactions) right from subdirectories in the Laserfiche repository. There are also other potential projects, from image-enabling the Police Department’s CAD/RMS system through its current SharePoint deployment to linking the city’s cloud-based GIS system to the centralized Laserfiche repository. Hyland is as hopeful as he is realistic. “Right now our concept of ‘workflows’ are limited to file-sharing,” he says. “But I think when once we get all the departments online, we’ll be able talk about how that will work for us and what ECM can do project by project.”
To Learn More
Attend a free Webinar on Document Management for State and Local Government next Thursday, July 7th, at 10:00 am PST to see what using Laserfiche can do for your departments and processes.
By 2004, handling all that paper manually had become so inefficient that the ASR Office’s Property Transfers Division was five months behind in processing documents, illustrating just how antiquated, inflexible and relatively unresponsive policies and procedures had become.
This led to the implementation of a Laserfiche enterprise content management (ECM) system in 2006. Utilizing Quick Fields to intelligently capture and process years of tax documents previously stored on microfilm, the impact was sweeping and immediate. Using Web Access, staff could now find and complete the review process without being tethered to their desks. Property transfers that took five months to process now only took 15 days. Reviewers could also stamp documents using electronic annotations. “On average, search and retrieval time per employee used to be two hours a week. Now, it’s less than 25 minutes a week,” says Vito Filippi, Systems and Procedures Analyst.
Quick Fields finds vroom for improvements
In fact, Filippi says, applying Laserfiche to the ASR Office’s operational framework exposed just how much more room there was for improvement. “We realized our people were supporting the processes instead of the processes supporting the needs of the department,” he explains. Between budget cuts, consolidation and attrition––from over 200 staff in 2008 to what would become its present 149 employees––the loss of institutional knowledge underscored the siloed, disconnected nature of how business was done, especially as the demand for services increased.
A Laserfiche upgrade in 2009 introduced the expanded capture functionality of Quick Fields––and a closer look at the status quo. “When we moved from Laserfiche 7 to 8.1 [in 2009], the enhancements to the Search function and Quick Fields capabilities––because that’s what we use the most––really were the catalysts that got us asking ‘How can we improve our processes?’” says Filippi. “The templates and ability to run batch sessions overnight had such an impact on how we were indexing that we began to analyze what we were doing in the first place. We were able to drill down our processes to where the bottlenecks were and apply Quick Fields to assist us in finding efficiencies.”
The ensuing improvements were game changing:
“Adapting Quick Fields is to the different processes that we have at both the micro- and macro-level has been especially effective,” says Filippi.
Enterprise, naturally; Process automation, repeatedly
In the fall of 2010, Fresno County upgraded to Laserfiche Rio, including a WebLink Public Portal, which has both expanded the depth of efficiencies while formalizing an e-governance and enterprise risk management strategy. Filippi is confident that the upgrade and new features will go a long way to ensuring the sustainability of core business processes that meet service expectations in the years to come.
The decision to upgrade to Rio, he says, was based on its inherent scalability and bundled functionality—including Audit Trail and the Records Management Edition. “Rio made sense for how we’ve seen Laserfiche evolve,” Filippi says––that and the fact that the county can now use Laserfiche Workflow to automate review and approval processes. “We know we’re going to get the biggest bang for our buck from Workflow.” One process in particular, he continues, will be Business Property audits. “We’ve got airlines such as Sky West and agricultural companies like Dole that we are mandated to assess and audit annually. These audits can easily run 300–400 pages. Each part has to be reviewed by an auditor, which could be verifying an audit page by page or just going to a summary page. With Workflow, by the time the audit comes to them, they can go straight to the final calculations page and review the numbers from the junior auditor. That’s going to have a huge impact on productivity and efficiency.”
The combination of Quick Fields and Workflow will also enable an intelligent capture process that the ASR Office will use to reduce paper use in 85% of state-mandated forms and questionnaires sent out annually to agricultural businesses within the county. “We used to have 35,000 pieces of paper that needed to be opened and processed manually. Each piece of paper would have to cross three different skill sets and touch half a dozen individuals in three divisions. In the near future, one person will capture the document as soon as it arrives using the import feature in Snapshot, and then Quick Fields will pull the data off the questionnaires in real time and auto index it. Now, it’s in our system in 30 minutes.”
The WebLink portal will make ASR documents available online, transferring “ownership,” as Filippi puts it, of documents to citizens. “It’s not only efficient in terms of responsiveness, but it also makes government more transparent,” he says.
The move to Rio, he says, has not only been cost-effective, but supports an overall governance and enterprise risk management strategy. “Governance means different things depending on whom you’re talking to, but it’s essentially how we’re making information secure and available, responding to our citizens and maintaining transparency as efficiently and effectively as possible,” Filippi notes. “We’re no longer dependent on the county’s central IT department to administer, support and respond to our business requirements, and now we have the tools to gather the metrics that allow us to improve productivity and performance. It makes us more agile and responsive, whether that’s to citizens’ requests or to state mandates.”
Future plans include making ECM functionality available as a shared service for use county-wide. For instance, the Real Property division is collaborating with local city governments to move all the Permitting and Plans to electronic formats for processing within Laserfiche at the ASR Office using Quick Fields. Besides the four departments already using Laserfiche (ASR, Auditor-Controller/Treasurer-Tax Collector, Department of Public Works and the Sheriff), the Behavioral Health Services department and Department of Social Services are both looking into implementing Laserfiche as well. Filippi, for one, is confident more will follow: “It’s been a very organic and positive process. Now the technology supports our business needs, not vice versa.”
Implementing ahead of inclement weather
Meyer says the move toward ECM was a proactive one. “For us, it was the general idea that we could increase efficiency by saving time and money while continuing to improve client service that first got us interested in an ECM. Also, the disaster recovery aspect really attracted us.”
As both an advisor and the firm’s IT Manager, Meyer brought a unique perspective to the search for an ECM. “Naturally, being in the financial services industry, auditing, security and compliance were simply ‘must haves.’ After that, flexibility and scalability were important to us in an ECM—we wanted a system that could grow with us over time as our business evolved,” he says.
The firm looked at several ECM solutions, including cloud-based options, before deciding on Laserfiche. “Laserfiche was the most feature-rich of the solutions we looked at in terms of the comprehensive functionality it offered,” he recalls. “Quick Fields, Bar Code Plug-In, Zone OCR, Audit Trail, Workflow—these were all appealing because they either directly or indirectly addressed our ‘must haves,’” he says. At the same time, Meyer continues, Laserfiche would improve day-to-day operations. “We wanted to reduce costs, and we found from talking to other firms using Laserfiche and reading about the software that, first, Laserfiche saves time—employees spend less time searching for documents. Second, it saves on paper and printing costs; and third, it saves on storage costs of client files and other documents.”
Last, but not least, Meyer adds, Laserfiche is a name synonymous with ECM in the financial services industry. “Having a tried-and-true, trusted name in document management was important to us as well,” he says. “The system was already approved by our broker dealer, Commonwealth Financial Network, which was also a plus.”
Laserfiche’s impact was felt not long after implementation. “The savings in time and paper realized after just one quarter was significant,” Meyer recalls. “We used to scan a copy of each quarterly report to a PDF using a multi-function copy machine (MFP). Someone would have to manually rename and file each report. At that time, we also kept a duplicate copy on file. Using Quick Fields and the Bar Code Plug-In, we were able to scan all of our reports and have them renamed and filed instantly. We also eliminated the need to keep a physical copy.”
Soon, hundreds of client files dating back to 1985 were scanned into Laserfiche, eliminating the need for several bookshelves and filing cabinets. While Meyer admits it was “a paradigm shift” for some employees to move from a paper-based system to a paperless one, after they experienced how they could literally file things automatically and then find them instantly, they embraced the concept completely. The transition brought peace of mind—and cost savings.
“There’s a reassurance in knowing that all of our important documents are stored electronically and backed up off-site, ensuring access to the data even if something were to happen to our office,” Meyer says, adding, “employees now have the option of accessing documents remotely [over Fure’s secured network], so they can work from anywhere.”
A key component to true enterprise consolidation of the firm’s information was working with reseller Cities Digital to integrate Laserfiche with CRM solution Junxure. “Before Laserfiche, we used to have some digital files in the CRM, some paper documents in a large client file and some documents in different filing cabinets; it was very disjointed,” he recalls. “Now, with the two systems integrated, we have one centralized location for statements, account paperwork, estate plans, correspondence and all relevant material related to a client.”
Automating compliance with Workflow
In addition, Laserfiche Workflow automates several business processes—chief among them logging client letters for compliance review. “We no longer need to make copies, depend on a person to manually log each letter, compile all letters into a binder for review and signatures or fax the letters every week,” Meyer says of the familiar process. “We used to create three copies of every single client letter we sent out. Now, we simply scan one copy right at our MFP, which Laserfiche Import Agent OCRs and applies metadata to before moving it into Laserfiche.”
Then, Workflow renames the document and applies the correct metadata by referencing Fure’s Junxure SQL database. The document is then routed to the correct folders automatically, which a Fure senior advisor is then able to review and sign—all electronically. “Once the workflow is completed, it even e-mails the signed document to Commonwealth’s compliance department,” Meyer adds. “Import Agent and Workflow, with some custom scripts built by Cities Digital and an electronic signature pad, have taken that process completely paperless with one touch of the button on our MFP.”
Audit preparation has likewise benefitted from the centralization and automation—utilizing functionality as simple as a robust search and as comprehensive as Audit Trail. “Laserfiche allows us to pull the necessary documents together for an auditor extremely quickly instead of going through file cabinets,” Meyer says. “The security and auditing of documents is also important as we are able to prove the integrity of our documents; any activity or change with a document is right there.”
The Laserfiche advantage: weather-proofed is ‘future-proofed’
For a family-oriented firm like Fure, the little improvements add up as well. “We can train new hires much more quickly—the system is that intuitive. We’re not having to give tours of file drawers or a bank of cabinets anymore.”
Meyer says he can recommend Laserfiche on two levels: “From an IT standpoint, the program is very easy to administer, and the flexibility of Laserfiche and the highly customizable security options allowed me to tailor the program to fit our needs as far as setting up template fields, adding users and ensuring compliance,” he says. “From a user standpoint, Laserfiche allows our financial planning team to access client documents and pinpoint what we need, when we need it, which translates into more time spent with clients and generating revenue and less time on tracking things down. That’s the real benefit—the reclaimed time and effort.”
Still, for all the operational benefits he can identify, Meyer credits the long-term value of Laserfiche to fitting so well with the firm’s holistic business philosophy. “Having a powerful ECM system like Laserfiche allows our business to adjust to the changing environment that many small businesses in any industry face,” he says.
“The more agile and flexible your technology system can be, the more ‘future-proofed’ you can become,” Meyer adds. “While it’s very hard to predict exactly where compliance, government regulations, clients’ needs and technology will be in the future, Laserfiche allows us to prepare as much as possible. Staying on course, no matter which way the wind blows, means having to adapt as conditions change without compromising on the final destination.”]]>
Before then, IT Director Lewis Paskin recalls PBC’s paper-based processes becoming overly cumbersome as the company grew, while escalating costs were adversely affecting profitability. There were shipping costs to receive charts; clerical costs to collate charts; and labor costs to copy, sort, log and distribute charts for coding, data entry and accounts receivable. “Adding to the paper overload were insurance claims that resulted in inbound Explanation of Benefits [EOB], patient payments, receipts, checks and correspondence—all of which needed to be opened, logged, accounted for and dispensed with daily,” Paskin says. “There were also significant paper costs from producing coding sheets for charts, making multiple copies of EOBs and eventually the long term offsite storage costs, as well as the HIPAA concerns that come with having all this copied and ‘travelling’ paper.”
Paskin led an internal committee to assess PBC’s needs in an enterprise content management (ECM) solution and began to search around four key features:
“We needed to make sure that billing records were easily retrievable, that protected health information was secure and that we could account for all our documents,” Paskin explains. “But we also needed a solution that was cost-effective and scalable. Our immediate goal was to be able to store billing records electronically, but our long term goal was a completely paperless workflow.”
Finding an ECM solution that fit—and would keep on fitting
PBC’s search soon took them to Laserfiche, and specifically to Laserfiche reseller JPI Data Resource. Paskin, for one, was initially skeptical. “When they said Laserfiche could dynamically create folders and structures as well as automatically extract text from documents, I told them I’d be shocked if it could. But it did,” he laughs.
“The Laserfiche product fulfilled our requirements,” Paskin continues, “but it was how it did it—the fact that it was really simple but also very powerful in terms of processing information—that’s how we knew it made sense for us. We have some of the least technical and most technical people working with our information, sometimes in a similar capacity. So, seeing how a staff member could just drop a document in a scanner and how Quick Fields automatically pulls and files all the metadata, or how Workflow would mean our users wouldn’t have to leave their desks, this was functionality we’d see improvements with immediately.”
Working with JPI’s Joseph Gutierrez, Paskin and his PBC team designed a 20-user Laserfiche system including Audit Trail; Workflow and Quick Fields; Bar Code and Zone OCR; Scan Connect and Snapshot for capture; and set up five different scanning stations. Installation, Paskin notes, was completed in less than a day, while user training took less than three days.
Paskin credits the comprehensive capture methods with making the transition to an automated environment a smooth one. “We’ve found that working with whatever file format a hospital is using with minimal modification is our best way to retrieve data,” Paskin says. “We do a lot of scanning directly into Laserfiche from our hospital clients’ facilities, which makes for a wide differential in chart documents. Some hospitals send charts with barcodes, others use file names, some just send text, but through the various Laserfiche applications we ferret out a way to get the data into the system.”
The biggest improvement, he notes, has been in processing paper. “Staff now simply scan those documents, either separated by bar-coded index sheets or by utilizing Zone OCR, into Laserfiche. Quick Fields reads the patient’s name and ID from the bar codes and automatically indexes the scanned files and fills in all the necessary document metadata.”
The effect was as impressive as it was immediate. “We were able to migrate one of our largest volume clients to a completely paperless environment in less than a week. Then we started bringing our other client applications online,” Paskin says.
Scanning volume soon hit 50,000 pages a day. “We scanned over 200,000 documents containing over 2.5 million pages in just under one year,” he adds.
The process(es) of coding and billing, better and more efficiently
The impact on PBC’s business processes was transformative:
Previously, PBC’s coders signed out up to three days’ worth of charts and held them at their desks until coding was completed. Charts were then passed in bulk to the insurance review department, then on to data entry for manual entry to initiate billing before eventually being archived in a file room and sent to an offsite storage facility. Now, PBC coders work and code offsite, accessing information over a secure connection to PBC’s terminal servers.
“An entire team of people no longer need to work in the office—everything’s accessed and managed centrally through Laserfiche,” adds Paskin. As the coders finish a chart, it automatically moves through the workflow to the next department, speeding up and evening out the process from inbound chart to billing.
“We have over 10 different client applications that reside in Laserfiche—five of which are hospital-related, and three that are used by our Accounts Receivable (AR) department to look up claim denials, track work batches and store EOBs. We’re using it in more than five distinct departments including coding, claims processing, AR, finance and Human Resources; it’s our document management back-end for all our lines of business,” Paskin says.
This centralized control has improved oversight to monitor productivity as well as to ensure HIPAA compliance. Using Audit Trail, a document ID number can trace the file’s history. “We can see who changed what—and when—for every document,” says Paskin.
Another benefit, Paskin adds, is the ability to use SAP Crystal Reports tools to help monitor PBC’s workflow. “We have about 15–20 reports that go out daily—one of which is referred to as our ‘bucket report.’ When we receive a medical chart, getting it coded and billed quickly is key to cash flow. The bucket reports tell us how many charts are sitting in a user’s folder. Because all this data is in a single, centralized repository, it’s easy to create reports,” says Paskin. “I credit Joe and JPI with understanding our business well enough to show us how we should have our information structured.”
Automating the billing process itself, Paskin notes, “works essentially the same way it does in the Laserfiche brochure that JPI showed us initially. Again, everything’s in a single and straightforward database. We simply wrote Java and Web-related scripts to pull the account number, CPT and diagnosis codes to automate the actual billing process. Of course, there was controlled testing for about two weeks before we went live, but that was it.”
Now, PBC’s business processes are synonymous with Laserfiche—and significantly improved. Paskin points to processing the hundreds of charts sent to PBC on any given day. “That used to take three employees a full day to process manually; now it takes one person about 15 minutes.
“Our original vision was a paperless workflow, and we’ve pretty much achieved that. We have over 800,000 documents representing 10 million pages, and that all happened within the past 2 ½ years,” he adds. “We have redeployed 60% of our FTE’s required to produce a claim, and no longer need a night shift to keep up with the workload. Considering how far we’ve come, it’s pretty amazing.”
For more information, read Laserfiche’s ECM for Third Party Medical Billing brochure.
Besides the already low user adoption rate, the county faced stringent formatting for annual submission of digital copies of its land management records (“fee book pages”) to the state’s County Land Records Information Services (CLRIS) agency—now the Iowa Land Records System (ILR)—utilizing an application provided by the state to upload images. Or at least it was supposed to.
“We were never able to get this integration set up with our old system,” Koehler admits. “We had to pay the ILR an extra $2,500 in fees because we were simply unable to submit our images to the state.”
Agility in Action, Part 1: A New System for Less Than an Upgrade
By January of 2010, Koehler faced a challenge—and a choice. The county was on version 5 of EMC Application Xtender (AX), and it was being phased out by provider EMC/Documentum. So not only was Koehler’s team facing a mandatory upgrade, but also a service agreement renewal. And they were still likely facing $2,500 annually in fees to the state for fee book page submission.
“We were looking at a substantial enough reinvestment to retain our current system that it made sense to start looking at other solutions,” he says.
Koehler researched other CLRIS/ILR-approved systems and discovered Laserfiche via Advanced Systems, Inc. (ASI) based nearby in Waterloo, IA, which had a relationship with the county from servicing its printer and copiers. ASI solutions consultant Steve Lewis showed Koehler how Laserfiche’s Quick Fields Zone OCR component could capture and index information from specific areas of land records forms, which could then be used to submit images to ILR utilizing the state’s uploading application.
What’s more, implementing Laserfiche could address all of the county’s information management needs in a single system—at less cost than upgrading their existing system.
Agility in Action, Part 2: Deployment to Six Departments in Two Months
In March 2010, Bremer County purchased a 24-user Laserfiche Avante system with Quick Fields advanced capture, Import Agent and SDK. Just two months later, Laserfiche was successfully deployed to six county departments:
Each department was equipped with a scan station that Shane Peterson, solutions engineer at Advanced Systems, set up to automatically recognize and retrieve index information based on the standard forms used by each department.
The impact on scanning efficiency was immediate: in the Assessor’s office, four stacks of tax credit forms two feet tall were scanned and indexed within a few days. “Quick Fields automated all our scanning processes in all our departments,” Koehler says.
Agility in Action, Part 3: Six Months of Scanning in Less Than a Week
To illustrate the scale of improvement, Koehler uses the example of Bremer County’s Zoning Department. “Zoning was six months behind on their scanning,” he begins. “It would have taken staff over a month and a half to scan in all those documents using our old system. Instead, using Quick Fields, we were able to get those documents scanned in less than a week.”
At the same time, Koehler adds, staff who had given up on the previous system and scanning in general have warmed up to Laserfiche. “I am starting to see more people getting rid of the paper and using Laserfiche,” he says.
The end result of significantly improved scanning, Koehler says, is the reclaimed staff time. “We can devote the man hours we save from scanning for other projects.”
Agility in Action, Part 4: Integration Saves $2,500 in Fines
By November of 2010, Bremer County was submitting land records’ fee book pages automatically to the ILR, thanks to a combination of Quick Fields, Laserfiche Workflow and a custom integration developed by ASI:
Koehler says this process is not only more efficient, but more cost-effective, too. “We’re no longer charged $2,500 in fines for not providing the digital documents to the state that was such a problem with our old system,” he says.
Agility in Action, Part 5: Adding the Sheriff’s Office and More
The newest chapter of Bremer County’s information management overhaul has been the 2011 addition of five more named users for the Sheriff’s Office, which will use its own repository to catalogue video, photographs, ticketing, incident reports and other documents. The expanded implementation will include Laserfiche Web Access to enable the county attorney to retrieve information without going to the Sheriff’s Office to request that a detective put files on a disk for the attorney to review.
Koehler notes that with the addition of the Sheriff’s Office comes enhanced document security concerns. “We’ll be utilizing the auto-redaction capabilities of Quick Fields for more sensitive information, but we’re also able to manage the system from a central point of control,” he says.
Laserfiche use, Koehler predicts, will keep growing with each departmental success story. “The remaining three departments that don’t use Laserfiche are seeing how much the other departments love its ease of use and speed, so they’re starting to ask how they can use it too.”]]>
By 2007, CapitalCare’s decade of growth had the side effect of generating more paperwork than the group’s 14 offices could efficiently manage—at least not the way they had been. “We were on our fourth expansion in our central office building in Albany; our offices were running out of storage and our CBO had rooms of files and boxes everywhere. So we asked ourselves, ‘Why all this space for storage? Why all this time to find things?’” says Charles Hagstrand, CIO of CapitalCare. “After 10 years, we needed a solution to move us forward.”
Hagstrand envisioned a true enterprise content management (ECM) solution from the start, one that could manage CapitalCare’s spectrum of information needs, including 700,000 patient encounters a year being stored remotely to over 280,000 EOB documents generated annually, as well as other documents and business records associated with its various practices. Eventually shared back-office business processes would be automated, beginning with AP processing.
“Initially we looked at a lot of vendors who had products that handled specific document types, but we were looking for something that wouldn’t pigeonhole us,” recalls Hagstrand. “You see a lot of departmental applications in larger organizations. We wanted a single system that could fit a variety of needs in different departments, and that ultimately could grow with us.”Hagstrand found what CapitalCare was looking for when his evaluation team discovered Laserfiche through reseller JPI Data Resource. “It was the product’s versatility that really won us over,” he says. “We liked that Workflow was a push technology that could keep things moving more effectively.”
Adds Jason Wicks, business analyst, “Laserfiche was like one-stop shopping as far as addressing the range of projects we were looking at, from HR files to Accounting and through-processing contracts and invoices. It’s very flexible.”
Wicks worked with JPI and CapitalCare department heads to design and deploy a pilot 20-user Laserfiche system with Records Management Edition (RME) and Workflow. They mapped out a multi-phase implementation that would eventually include using RME to automate retention and compliance, as well as Workflow to route invoices from CapitalCare’s central business offices in Albany to the group’s various remote locations for AP processing.
The first order of business was addressing Hagstrand’s storage and access concerns. “We took the approach that we should start by working with the items that didn’t involve Workflow first,” Wicks says.
Implementation began with backlog conversion of a decade’s worth of historical files in the HR and Medical Management departments, “just taking paper and getting it in Laserfiche to get people used to archiving,” as Wicks puts it.
The impact was immediate. “Our first touch is our site managers who are working with our patient encounters—that totals over 700,000 documents a year,” Wicks explains. “We used to have to process those in our central business office, then send them back out to the sites to store for seven years. Now they’re all inputted when received from the site and accessed as needed through Laserfiche.”
Standardizing to streamline AP processing
The next phase of implementation deployed Workflow to help automate AP processing for CapitalCare’s accounting department—which has seen the number of sites it supports grow from 14 to 27 in the four years since Laserfiche was acquired in 2007.
“Before Laserfiche, AP processing wasn’t very efficient, nor was there a common practice for approving invoices,” Wicks explains. “Some bills were received at the site, approved and forwarded; others came to the CBO and were distributed for approval and return. Laserfiche allowed us to standardize the process, and that’s been a big time saver.”
Thanks to Laserfiche, turnaround time for AP processing was reduced from 7–10 days to 2–3:
“Accounting now knows what documents need approval and which documents are in a queue once the site has approved the document,” Wicks says. A backup copy of the exported document is created using Workflow, which, after 30 days, is automatically deleted by a Workflow activity.
The next phase, Wicks adds, will be to establish a centralized shared service center, where invoices will be processed directly from the central business office. “Workflow will set up queues for each of our sites’ accounting departments to process invoices,” he says.
An overall benefit, Wicks says, has come from the time saved making action items more available to site staff. “Although we have a separate solution to store patient medical information for continuity, middle management at each site—typically one or two employees—utilizes Laserfiche to access past patient encounters, approving invoices and coding corrections, and this has eliminated a lot of lag time.”
The future of the future: Workflow
Future projects are already slated—including implementing RME. “The functionality of Records Management Edition will assist with purging documents once they have reached their shelf life, while Audit Trail will help keep us in compliance,” Wicks says.
Hagstrand says even the IS Department has its own ideas for how to utilize the system. “We’re actually hoping to use Laserfiche to manage our service agreements, so we’ll be able to run queries and see what’s going to expire in the next year.”
“The system keeps evolving as we bring on more documents and processes,” add Wicks, pointing out that Workflow will play a more leading role in future deployment. “I’d say we’re at the grassroots of pushing information between sites and departments. Right now, I’m looking at any situation where we have an opportunity to push documents and how we can utilize Laserfiche to automate additional functions between our practices and our central business office,” he continues, noting a recent meeting with a business unit to discuss improving billing and coding through automation. “Workflow has really worked out for us because we can take the visual process of scanning documents and apply that to designing workflows—it’s very intuitive.”
This versatility, says Wicks, is why Laserfiche use continues to evolve. That, and Wicks makes sure CapitalCare’s 50 named users know just what’s possible using the system that solved their initial storage problems.
Says Wicks, “We need to do more education within the company to say ‘This is a lot more than just a scanning solution’ and hold a ‘Did you know?’ session.”]]>
Level Four also operates as an Office of Supervisory Jurisdiction (OSJ) for Lincoln Financial Securities. From its corporate offices in Plano, Texas, Level Four works with branded offices in Irvine, CA; Austin, TX; and Lubbock, TX, as well as numerous self-branded offices throughout the United States.
With the growing footprint of the company came a growing amount of records, documents and files to be managed. So much so, that by 2004, Level Four’s corporate offices had a conspicuous presence: eight lateral file cabinets worth of client files, corporate invoices, compliance papers and financial records. “It seemed like the file cabinets had more office space than some of our senior advisors,” jokes Joe Globensky, Level Four’s chief financial officer (CFO).
The paperless vision—and the compliance concerns
Level Four began to look into the possibilities of going paperless using an enterprise content management (ECM) solution—but not without some concerns. “Our foremost requirement was that the solution needed to meet industry compliance standards so regulators and our broker-dealer at the time would accept the solution and see it as something that would allow our business to increase scale,” Globensky says. “’Would we be able to produce the records in a timely fashion, and could we show that documents, once stored, could not be altered? How would we back up files?’ These were the kinds of questions they had, and frankly, we had them to an extent as well. In an industry geared toward paper, we had to consider how our operations were going to be affected, positively or negatively.”
Fueled by a mix of practicality and pragmatism, Level Four didn’t have to look very far to find what they were looking for. “Several similar firms in the neighboring Dallas-Ft. Worth area were already using Laserfiche,” Globensky recalls. “We spoke with them and they had had the same concerns we did and none had any problems with Laserfiche. Especially the security—the fact that Laserfiche was used by the government and could meet Department of Defense security specifications was the main reason we chose it.
“When we factored in the amount of time and space we’d be saving, it made even more sense in terms of cost-efficiency,” he adds.
Initial implementation began in 2004 with a two-month backlog conversion of Level Four’s existing files. “Once we had everything in Laserfiche, it was our only source of document storage for our staff of five—we were essentially paperless,” Globensky says.
The effect on operations was swift and positive. “The system was pretty easy to use after only some introductory training. We noted improvements in day-to-day operations almost immediately in terms of the ease and speed of looking up files and documents,” Globensky remembers. “But what really stood out to us was how multiple users could be using the system at the same time, pulling up information, something that used to take 15-20 minutes—if the file wasn’t already on someone’s desk or misfiled—literally while they were on the phone with someone. ”
Growing the business, growing the solution, easing the audits
In 2007, Level Four moved its broker-dealer affiliation to Lincoln Financial Securities. Lincoln had concerns similar to what Level Four had back in 2004. The difference, Globensky says, is that Level Four had such a solid track record using Laserfiche, that Lincoln’s concerns were more a formality than a doubt. “They wanted to see our procedures on storing documents, backing up records, document access and again how this would allow for growth.”
The answer, it turns out, was “very much so.” By 2008, Level Four had opened its first branded office outside of Texas, and Laserfiche went right along with it. “As we’ve grown throughout the country, and experienced audits from a number of different organizations, remote deployment made a lot of sense,” Globensky says. “As the OSJ, we’re required to have copies of the files in our remote offices. Because our remote offices are a part of our Laserfiche system, they don’t need to keep paper files, which helps us keep track of everything from a single, secure hub, but also frees up their office space as well.”
Another benefit, Globensky adds, is more hassle-free audit preparation. “The ability to offer Laserfiche remotely has helped our offices be more prepared for compliance audits, either by the OSJ, broker/dealer or industry regulators,” he says.
Now, it’s the auditors themselves who have been remarking on the effectiveness of using Laserfiche. “We’ve received numerous comments from auditors about how easy Laserfiche makes the auditing process, how quickly we’re able to produce documents and how organized the office seems to be because of Laserfiche,” Globensky says.
Level, headed forward
As efficient as auditors think Laserfiche is, Globensky thinks it’s even more so.
“We haven’t necessarily put a hard number to what our ROI is, we just know the amount of time it saves us anytime we need to pull information from a file,” he says. “We provide a wide range of support services aimed at keeping our advisors in front of their clients, instead of being buried in non-revenue generating activities, and Laserfiche is a big part of that.”
And, he adds, Laserfiche is continuing to be a big part of Level Four’s pattern of sustained growth as well.
“In the beginning, our main reason for purchasing Laserfiche was to get rid of paper. But after a while, it’s not just about ‘getting rid’ of paper—it’s about how much more you do with your information, like being able to access it remotely, prepare for audits and still save on office space,” Globensky says.
“Going forward, we plan to work with our technology partners to ensure we’re getting the most out of our Laserfiche system, including streamlining our operations, using the system to its complete functionality and relying less on manual functions,” he concludes.]]>
“We were about to cross the $25,000,000 AUM threshold for SEC registration. With that milestone also came the millstone of an SEC audit sometime during that first year of registration,” says Margaret Hubbard, CPA.
The firm identified a link between compliance and operational efficiency, and outlined their requirements accordingly:
The answer came later that year at a TD Ameritrade Institutional Conference Hubbard attended.
“Speakers there were talking about an industry-wide need for electronic document management and it rang true with us, both in terms of operational efficiency as well as simplifying compliance,” Hubbard recalls. Researching what other firms were using led Hubbard to Laserfiche. “We wanted a large, reputable solution provider with a lot of experience and excellent references,” she explains. “The biggest draw was that the U.S. government was using Laserfiche.”
Implementation took place over two days in late 2005. With five years of confirmations, monthly brokerage reports, forms and correspondence to input, as well as current paper-based processes to streamline, EMM looked to Laserfiche Quick Fields, especially its zone optical character recognition (Zone OCR) tools, to automate the capture process. Laserfiche installation was completed in a day, while fine-tuning the Quick Fields capture process took another day. “The operational improvement was immediate,” says Hubbard.
“Quick Fields became our file clerk”
“We had been manually filing every confirmation as it arrived by mail. After installing Laserfiche, we had the brokerage houses switch us to electronic delivery. Quick Fields became our file clerk,” says Hubbard.
EMM now receives a monthly download of client statements from its brokerage houses, which Quick Fields reads, processes and imports into each client’s Laserfiche file. “We used to get a heavy package by mail much later in the month than the current downloads are available. That took time and resources to sort through and file. If we ever needed to access a record, we had to locate the big fat file book by month, manually cross-index between alpha name and account number and then manually find the report by account number,” she explains.
“Now we get the information earlier, file it faster, find it instantly when needed, have a nice clear electronic copy if we need to print it out—which is rarely—and we don’t have to hurt ourselves moving all those bankers’ boxes.”
With Laserfiche now doing the heavy lifting, so to speak, the firm was able to use part-time help to complete backlog scanning and conversion of the five years’ worth of existing files over the course of the following year. That first year also marked another milestone/millstone: the first SEC audit of the newly-registered firm. Before Laserfiche, the process would have involved compiling paper files manually, taking staff time and resources that, to a small firm, significantly impact or distract from revenue-generating day-to-day operations.
With Laserfiche, Hubbard says, preparation was as simple as using the system’s comprehensive search functionality to respond to the auditor. “Our original need was really to successfully complete the SEC audit process, and that was more than met within a year of implementation when we had a very clean audit,” she says. “The auditor only stayed onsite half a day because we were able to almost instantly hand her everything she requested. We were able to clearly demonstrate our compliance with all regulations. Laserfiche was essential to that demonstration.”
Hubbard says the firm is encouraged with the improvements to both its day-to-day operations as well as the relative ease with which it proves compliance. EMM is now planning to implement a new CRM system (likely Junxure, according to Hubbard) in the second quarter of this year. A major selection consideration is the ease with which the chosen CRM system integrates with Laserfiche. “We’ve been consulting with Laserfiche and our reseller [Bits and Bytes Document Solutions of Dacula, GA] to help with our selection to make sure it integrates with our existing applications including our portfolio management software, Schwab Performance Technologies® PortfolioCenter®, and Microsoft® Outlook®.”
Proving the wisdom of implementing proven technology
Hubbard admits that the firm’s steps toward more automated business processes have belied a conservative approach to technology. But, she says, that’s all the part of the long-term vision: to be innovative—just with proven innovations.
“We seek to be second-generation adopters in terms of determining the best technology we need for our next level of growth,” she says. “We want solutions others have tested through trial and error so we don’t have to. None of us in our firm are techies, so we’ve learned we get more out of technology by working with proven solutions.”
The way Hubbard sees it, Laserfiche provides a modest-sized firm like EMM with the best of both worlds: industry-recognized success with the scalability to do more as the need arises and uses evolve. “Laserfiche has provided more power than we have been able to harness, and that’s exactly where we want to be. We discover more uses for the system monthly, and we’re confident that Laserfiche can more than keep up with our needs as we keep growing.”]]>
“Rodney recognized that although SharePoint could do many great things for our organization, DoD 5015.2-certified records management wasn’t one of them,” says Ellis, who today is a senior web analyst for the Port Authority.
“SharePoint,” she explains, “with all of its many features is so much more robust than a network drive. In particular, the Port Authority uses document workspaces heavily, because they make it easy to collaborate on works in progress such as contracts. However, once you go beyond about 10,000 documents, you’ve got a real mess on your hands.”
According to Ellis, the Port Authority didn’t want to lose the collaboration features inherent in SharePoint, nor did it want to take a familiar interface away from the staff, so it needed to make sure that the ECM solution it selected had a seamless SharePoint integration. “I was the lead on the team that built our RFP,” Ellis says. “In the end, we had more than 400 requirements and 24 vendors vying for our business. The SharePoint integration was our top concern.”
Other important selection criteria included:
“Before we implemented Laserfiche, our records management plan was very inefficient,” Ellis explains. “We’d print out documents, process them by hand and then file them in cabinets. We had a whole warehouse dedicated to file storage, containing all kinds of old documents in Bankers Boxes stacked nearly to the ceiling that we didn’t have time to properly manage.”
Laserfiche + SharePoint = Transparency
By integrating Laserfiche with SharePoint, the Port Authority now has the ability to collaborate on documents, retain them electronically, and efficiently manage and dispose of digital records—all while giving users access to content through the SharePoint interface.
“Laserfiche has dramatically reduced the flow of paper throughout the organization,” says Ellis. “It’s opened up space for new offices and enabled us to tear down an entire warehouse for profitable use!”
But the cost and space savings aren’t the most significant benefits the Port Authority has realized as a result of its Laserfiche implementation. By acting as integrative middleware, Laserfiche allows users at the organization to access information in the environment with which they’re already familiar: SharePoint.
“The Port Authority’s had SharePoint for close to ten years, so people are pretty familiar with it,” says Ellis. “Most of our users won’t even know they’re using Laserfiche. With the integration, our content is searchable on an enterprise level, and the results are returned to users transparently through SharePoint. It enables us to access all our information from one central location without having to train our users on a new system.”
Laserfiche + SharePoint = Operational Efficiency
With Laserfiche in place, the Port Authority has started using it to streamline business processes. First on the list? The RFP and vendor selection process.
The Port Authority was established in 1952 as a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia for the purpose of stimulating commerce in the ports of the Commonwealth, promoting the shipment of goods and cargoes through the ports, improving the navigable tidal waters within the Commonwealth, and in general to perform any act or function which may be useful in developing, improving or increasing the commerce of the ports of the Commonwealth. As such, it contracts with dozens of vendors each year.
In the past, the RFP and vendor selection process was manual and paper-based:
With the help of Unity ECM, the Port Authority’s Laserfiche reseller, the organization has transformed the entire process as follows:
“Even employees who aren’t technologically inclined appreciate the efficiency of our new process,” says Ellis. “In general, having real-time information available in a central location has been one of the most important process improvements our organization has received as a benefit of this project.”
Overcoming Implementation Hurdles
One implementation hurdle that Ellis hopes to help other people avoid when integrating Laserfiche with SharePoint has to do with Kerberos, a network authentication protocol that, according to Ellis, is “widely used but poorly documented.”
The Laserfiche/SharePoint integration tools are optimally designed for a single-server deployment, but according to Ellis, the Port Authority “has Laserfiche and SharePoint set up on a multi-server farm that consists of five different servers: the Laserfiche Application Server, Laserfiche SQL Server, SharePoint (MOSS) Server, SharePoint SQL Server and a server for Laserfiche Web Access. Prior to implementing Laserfiche, we didn’t realize that—because we have multiple servers—the integration wouldn’t work without a great deal of manual configuration and without using Kerberos. We had a few frustrating days before we figured that out.
“In the end,” she adds, “we had to enlist a senior network administrator to assist us by adding the SPNs on the domain controllers, since adding them to the Laserfiche or SharePoint servers doesn’t solve the issue.
“My two big pieces of advice for other organizations that want to deploy the Laserfiche/SharePoint integration are to get to know your Active Directory and SharePoint experts really well (if you’re not either one) and use the Laserfiche Support Site. Read those Knowledge Base articles!”
Even the hassle surrounding the Kerberos issue, however, didn’t dampen Ellis’ enthusiasm for Laserfiche. “If I had to do it all over again the same way, I’d do it all over again, hands-down,” she says. “Both our users and our executives are impressed with the efficiency and effectiveness the Laserfiche/SharePoint integration affords the organization. Putting a secure, centralized and powerful Laserfiche repository behind SharePoint has given everybody much better access to the information they need to do their jobs well.”]]>
She ticks off a few of the benefits that give Laserfiche a leg up on the competition: “First, Laserfiche is easy to use, because it looks and functions like Windows and Google. Second, it’s stable and easy for the IT Department to maintain. Third, it has an open API that makes it easy to integrate with our other applications.”
These benefits, Duckett notes, are vital to Shakopee, which has a two-person IT Department supporting approximately 125 city staff in nine different departments. In fact, if Laserfiche wasn’t easy to use, maintain and integrate, the city wouldn’t have considered shaking up its approach to enterprise content management (ECM) by upgrading from four concurrent users to a 50-user Laserfiche Avante system.
Leading Up to the Upgrade
“We first implemented Laserfiche in 2005, using it to manage building permits through an integration with our PIMS building permit software,” Duckett explains, outlining how the process works:
- “We print barcoded permits that our records clerk scans into Laserfiche Quick Fields, which is an automated data capture solution.
- “Within Quick Fields we have an ODBC connection that connects to the PIMS database.
- “Quick Fields pattern matches the permit address, permit type and permit ID and automatically archives the document in the Laserfiche repository.”
She also notes that the city has long used Laserfiche to manage council agenda packets and other miscellaneous items, some of which are made available to the public through Laserfiche WebLink, a Web browser-based thin client that provides read-only access to public information.
The desire to upgrade the system came last year, when the Police Department hopped on the Laserfiche bandwagon. “In October 2010,” Duckett says, “the Police Department started using Laserfiche for evidence photos, and we integrated Laserfiche with New World, the PD’s case management system, to enable officers to automatically open photos that pertain to specific cases.”
The integration works as follows:
- Officers access an incident report in New World.
- By right-clicking on the New World screen, a box with a “Search Laserfiche” button pops up.
- Clicking the button launches Laserfiche and automatically takes the user directly to the right case folder, where he can view the evidence photos.
Jennifer Boudreau, Shakopee’s Police Records Technician, explains that one way the PD leverages the integration is to track graffiti, making it easier for officers to identify all instances of a tagger’s work so the city can recoup clean-up costs.
She also notes that Laserfiche allows officers to access photos in the field from their squad cars, which is something they couldn’t do in the past. “It’s an officer safety issue,” she says. “For example, if the officers come across a tagger with a known gang affiliation, they can treat that individual with more caution.”
Boudreau notes that in the past, search options were limited. With Laserfiche, officers can search photos by case number, but they can also search based on the metadata associated with each photo. This makes it easier to discern patterns that might not have otherwise been apparent.
Now that Shakopee has upgraded to Laserfiche Avante, the Police Department is looking forward to scanning all case files into the system. “Right now, case documents are contained in a paper file, which eliminates collaboration and the ability to work on the case at the same time as someone else,” says Boudreau. “As a result, we end up doing a lot of photocopying, which wastes paper. It can also get confusing to have so many copies of the same document floating around, because you never know which is the most current, complete version.”
Further, she explains that Laserfiche will be able to store more than copies of paper documents; where applicable, electronic case files will also contain audio files, squad car video and so on.
Since the Upgrade
Less than a month after implementing its 50-user Laserfiche Avante system, Shakopee has already brought the Finance Department onboard. It now uses Laserfiche Quick Fields to scan barcoded accounts payable documents into the repository, where they’re instantly searchable from the desktop.
“With the upgrade to Laserfiche Avante, which for us included the ‘Barcode and Validation’ and ‘Real Time Lookup and Validation’ packages, we can now use the pattern matching feature in Quick Fields, which automatically creates the folder structure in Laserfiche,” explains Duckett. “This creates a more efficient and seamless process for the users who scan documents into the system.”
She adds that once the Police Department starts using Laserfiche for its case files, it will use Quick Fields for its scanning, as well.
The next department to start using Laserfiche will likely be HR, which wants to use the system to digitize employee records and automate the hiring process using Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool that automatically performs specified actions (such as document routing) based on organizations’ unique business rules.
According to Duckett, this is just the beginning. “We hope to have every department using Laserfiche by this time next year.”
With the New World integration well underway, and the integration with the city’s PIMS building permit software already in place, Shakopee has big plans for linking Laserfiche to additional city applications. “Next, we plan to integrate Laserfiche with GeoLink, our GIS/mapping application,” says Duckett. “When you click on a land parcel, you’ll be able to launch Laserfiche and pull up all the documents associated with that particular piece of land.”
This functionality will be useful for multiple departments, including:
She goes on to explain that the city is also looking to integrate Laserfiche with JDE, Shakopee’s finance, payroll and HR software. “By integrating these two systems—and taking advantage of Laserfiche Workflow—we’ll be able to simplify the payment cycle with electronic invoices and purchase orders that can be automatically routed through the approval process. Once we digitize our HR records, we’ll be able to automate the hiring process as well.”
From Duckett’s perspective as an IT professional, the best thing about the planned integrations is how easy they’ll be to set up. “Because Laserfiche is used across so many cities and government entities, there are a lot of proven, pre-built integrations available to us at no additional cost.”
Laserfiche Avante = Affordability
In terms of cost-effectiveness, Duckett also appreciates how affordable it was to upgrade to Laserfiche Avante. “If we’d stayed with a concurrent user system and simply purchased the additional functionality and users we needed, it would have cost us $40,000 more than the upgrade to Laserfiche Avante,” she explains. “Plus, our named users now have 24/7 access to information, which is important from a productivity standpoint.”
She concludes, “Although it’s early in the implementation process, we’re starting to see financial and efficiency savings in the Finance, Building and Police Departments. Once we extend Laserfiche to all city departments and start creating workflows, we expect to save a lot more on paper and printing costs, and we also expect to greatly enhance employee efficiency.
“It’s our goal to have Laserfiche installed on every desktop in the city. We envision that it’ll be used as often as our e-mail client, providing instant access to records, streamlining business processes and allowing us to move data across multiple platforms.”]]>
“Technical innovation and efficiency are important to our citizens,” says Steve Barden, Systems Development Supervisor for Durham County, “and they’re a top priority for the IT Department as well.”
Over the past year and a half, one of the major strategic projects for Durham County’s IT Department has been upgrading and standardizing its enterprise content management (ECM) infrastructure. “In the past, ECM was viewed as a departmental application,” explains Barden. “We came to realize, however, that this is an inefficient and resource-intensive approach, so I stepped in as project manager to coordinate the various installations and get everyone on the same page.”
With Laserfiche already in place in four county departments, the choice of systems upon which to standardize was simple.
“We have 32 different departments across the county,” says Barden. “DSS, HR, Public Health and Legal were already using Laserfiche, so it made sense to stick with the system they were already familiar with. It was more a question of getting them all onto the same version of Laserfiche before rolling it out to additional departments like IT and Purchasing.”
Laserfiche Rio, with its unlimited servers and ability to give IT central control over the system while still allowing each department to customize it to their own unique needs, made the most sense from an enterprise standpoint. Today, Durham County has a 605-user Rio system, along with Quick Fields and Laserfiche Records Management Edition.
In the Beginning
Durham County’s first purchase of Laserfiche occurred back in 2006, when DSS decided that case management would be easier if files could be saved in an electronic, rather than a paper, format. To date, DSS has scanned and stored the following records in Laserfiche:
In addition, it’s currently about halfway through the conversion of its Medicaid records. “DSS will be moving into the county’s new Human Services Building at the end of 2012, and our goal is to be completely paperless by then,” explains Sharon Hirsch, Assistant Director of Customer Accountability for Durham County’s DSS Department. “It’ll make the move a lot easier,” she adds, “and there’s also no room in the new building for document storage, so that’s extra incentive to make sure all our records are accessible on the desktop.”
In fact, accessibility is Hirsch’s favorite thing about Laserfiche. “In the past, staff members had to request paper records from the Records Management team, and it sometimes took them a few days to deliver the requested documentation. Today, our staff has immediate, point-and-click access to the records they need. It’s a huge time saver.”
Hirsch also notes that it’s easier for supervisors to review active case files thanks to Laserfiche. “Active files used to be locked up in file cabinets by individual case workers. Laserfiche gives the supervisors greater visibility into work as it’s being done, so they’re able to correct any errors or oversights earlier in the process.”
Seeing the success DSS was having with Laserfiche, the HR, Public Health and Legal Departments soon implemented the system for themselves.
According to Nina Bullock, Administrative Assistant to the County Attorney, the Legal Department was tired of making multiple copies of documents like medical records and transcripts, which could number thousands of pages. “It was a constant strain on both material and staff resources,” she says.
The Laserfiche implementation has been particularly useful for the Legal Department in regard to document duplication and distribution. “Instead of copying and couriering documents to interested parties, we’re now able to e-mail them or send the documents on a CD.”
Additionally, the county’s lawyers no longer have to drag boxes of paper into court. Instead, they simply bring their laptops and access documents through Laserfiche. “Because staff no longer has to transport heavy files to court or move heavy boxes to retrieve closed files, the risk for injuries, particularly back injuries, has been greatly reduced,” says Bullock. “Back injuries are the most expensive costs for the Risk Management Division’s Workers’ Compensation claims. Changing the way the county works in this manner is setting a precedent that will potentially mitigate Workers’ Compensation claims by millions in the next few years.”
Other cost savings, she explains, have been substantial as well. “From fiscal 2007-2008, our expenditures on paper, toner cartridges, printer replacements and other related costs have decreased by 59% as a result of implementing Laserfiche. As our process becomes more streamlined and court systems become more technologically equipped to receive case filings electronically, we anticipate that these costs will decrease even more.
“So far,” she adds, “these savings have allowed us to avoid cutting staff for two years in a row!”
In addition, Bullock notes that use of Laserfiche has saved the Legal Department’s support staff approximately 10-15 hours per week, totaling roughly 3,500 hours a year. In particular, she appreciates that staff no longer has to spend days painstakingly stamping Bates Numbering onto each page of an evidentiary document; instead, Quick Fields does it automatically.
She explains, “With Laserfiche, our work product is better and our volume is higher, because the time we save on repetitive, manual tasks has been redirected to more substantive aspects of our jobs.”
Bullock believes that the benefits of Laserfiche—including lower costs, higher staff efficiency and increased confidentiality of client information—will continue to improve the department’s performance for years to come.
…into Public Health
For the Public Health Department, eliminating the need for document storage has driven the adoption of Laserfiche. “In February 2011, the department is moving into the county’s new Human Services Building, where there’s no space to store medical records,” explains Marcia Robinson, Local Public Health Administrator for Durham County.
“Prior to Laserfiche,” she adds, “we were storing current records in a 10’4” x 16’9” room, and we were archiving old records offsite with Iron Mountain. The process of finding, copying and filing records was both expensive and time intensive.”
Although the department has saved a significant amount of money on charts, labels, paper, document storage and toner, the real benefit has been the boost in customer service. According to Robinson, “Our medical records clerk no longer has to spend hours making copies to respond to requests from clinicians, practitioners, lawyers and other providers. She now has the option to e-mail the information directly from Laserfiche, eliminating backlogs and providing much more up-to-date files than she could when we were using paper records.”
She continues, “With Laserfiche, staff saves roughly 15 minutes per client during the registration process, reducing wait time and increasing our clinicians’ ability to serve more clients. Laserfiche also prevents many lost staff hours spent on chart preparation, along with the frustrations of searching for misfiled, misplaced and misnumbered charts.”
Overall, Robinson believes that Laserfiche is crucial to the department’s ability to respond efficiently and effectively to the needs of its clients. “In this time of budget constraints,” she says, “our investment in Laserfiche has paid great dividends.”
Overcoming the Limits of a Departmental Approach
Although these departments were all realizing great benefits from their use of Laserfiche, the lack of an enterprise approach to ECM was a problem.
Barden explains that there were two different resellers managing four separate Laserfiche deployments within Durham County. “Each department had a lot of flexibility to use the system as they saw fit,” he says, “but the IT Department didn’t have a lot of control over what was going on.”
For example, there was one repository on a drive that was never backed up, and a number of indexes that weren’t being backed up, either. In addition, Barden discovered that DSS had been scanning documents without using OCR, which made it difficult to find information contained in the repository. “When the IT Department doesn’t have central control over an organization’s ECM system, you run the risk of losing important information and other similar problems.”
Barden notes that the implementation hasn’t been without its flaws, but credits One Source Document Solutions, Durham County’s Laserfiche reseller, with being available to assist with any issues that arise.
“Although people aren’t always thrilled to let go of their paper,” he says, “in the long term we know that standardizing on Laserfiche is going to help the entire organization be more sustainable, more efficient and more available to our citizens. I had no idea what I was getting into when this project started, but it’s been gratifying to play a role in transforming the way the county does business.”]]>
Mergers and acquisitions account for much of SEPT’s growth, but innovation, says Dominic Malvern, Head of Information Systems Development, accounts for much of its ongoing success. “It’s never been a stereotypical government ‘Mental Health Organization,” Malvern says.
In fact, when SEPT transitioned from a purely state-funded trust to a more privatized “Foundation Trust,” one of its primary initiatives was to partner with Adobe to develop an EMR system using its LiveCycle products supported by a Laserfiche ECM system from Laserfiche reseller ScanDoc/Fortus. Malvern saw the chance to hit the ground running with a pilot project in the trust’s Forensic Services Department, which was moving to a new building as part of a modernization program.
“It was the ideal opportunity for us to modernize how our live patient records were accessed, as it was apparent that continuing with a manual process was not in keeping with the state of the art service we provide to our patients,” he says. That process, he adds, had remained manual by default because the legacy imaging system in Forensics didn’t meet the Trust requirement for working with live patient records.
“A single patient record could run for several years, sometimes through a person’s entire adult life, so it would extend into several volumes,” he explains. “Constant patient monitoring meant frequent updates to records for many reasons such as observation or treatment plans, sometimes every 15 minutes.”
A Pilot That Needed To Fly 24-7
When choosing a department to establish proof-of-concept before deploying a full-scale EMR system, SEPT couldn’t have chosen a more challenging one than Forensics Services—or one in which the impact of a successful ECM implementation would be so pronounced.
Malvern worked with ScanDoc’s Steve Livermore to implement a Laserfiche pilot system for active patient records management system using:
SEPT implemented a clinical pilot project in 2009 and, over the course of a year, the new system kept up with the staff’s round-the-clock demands, amassing over 500,000 documents in the Laserfiche repository in the process.
Malvern says the real breakthrough operationally was having a system aligned with the increasing need for information sharing between regional service offices. “Increasingly we have to work on a multi-disciplinary and multi-agency basis, so having shared but secure access to patient records and notes is vital,” he says.
From an IT perspective, Web Access gave the organization one more tool to centrally control system administration while capitalizing on Laserfiche’s flexibility to configure various access levels remotely.
“Being able to deploy the system through our server or using Web browser options allowed us to control the type of access we wanted to make available,” says Malvern. “Web-based deployment is key because of the ease of maintenance when working with such a large group of users. Updates and upgrades would be unwieldy to deploy with a large number of single desktop clients.”
Going from EMR to ECM Saves $1.5M
The vision to extend Laserfiche from its supporting role in SEPT’s EMR project to a full-scale ECM deployment came with the support of ScanDoc/Fortus’ Livermore, who helped Malvern make the case to SEPT’s directors to implement Laserfiche for the trust’s non-clinical side.
“Once I heard the directors were looking at other solutions, and knowing what Laserfiche was capable of, it seemed a waste to restrict its application to purely clinical processes,” says Malvern. “Of course, it seemed an even bigger waste to spend further public money on more software that would be superfluous when we had a perfectly good system that would likely be better than anything else on the market.”
Now moving ahead with full-scale deployment of its Rio system to what will eventually be 3,000+ users, SEPT is effectively standardizing its information management on Laserfiche, eliminating the need for multiple departmental systems—and their corresponding service agreements and upgrades.
“Initially Laserfiche was envisaged solely as a clinical and medical records solution, but we have now realized that it can be a complete multi-functional document management system for the whole organization,” he says.
“We’ve begun implementation in non-clinical areas such Human Resources and Finance, as well as Vehicle Service Management, where we’re using Quick Fields and Workflow to automate our lease applications.” Additionally, another major project is underway to use Laserfiche to meet Information Governance Corporate Records retention regulations.
“From a roll-out prospective, it makes life much easier to have one multi-tasking system that all employees are trained on no matter what their function. It makes live support a far more streamlined and efficient activity,” he explains.
Malvern says the efficiency—and cost-savings—are starting to add up. “Within 18 months to two years we’ll be able to replace all our legacy imaging systems with Laserfiche. Implementing Laserfiche and its enterprise licensing enables SEPT to discontinue several annual contracts and service agreements. It also delivers savings on labor and print costs for information requests, as well as paper document archive and retrieval services. Realistically, this will save us US$1.5 million over the next three fiscal years,” he says.
SEPT’s Run Smarter Philosophy
Malvern’s advice for successful implementation and adoption from his experience with SEPT’s jump from departmental EMR to organization-wide ECM is simple. “Be open-minded in your approach. Don’t just try to replicate what you already have; Laserfiche can do so much more! Even a year down the road we’re still discovering new things it can do for us. It has great functionality combined with enormous flexibility that’s capable of revolutionizing your whole approach to records and document management—both live and archival,” he says. “We wish we’d discovered it sooner!”
Key to this transition, Burns believed, was leveraging business technology to minimize both the operational and risk management costs of working directly with advisors. “As a growing company, technology was the way to get more done with a smaller headcount,” he says.
Burns consulted Joel Bruckenstein, founder of Technology Tools for Today (T3), the multimedia practice management resource for the financial services industry. “Joel really had the vision. He said, ‘You guys could be a virtual firm,’ and that really resonated with us. Joel’s thinking was that we couldn’t afford to work with paper,” Burns remembers.
“We wanted to keep our fees low enough that we’d be extremely competitive—we’re less expensive than 90% of bond funds. To achieve that, manual processes just weren’t going to work.”
Part of the Solution
Bruckenstein suggested Laserfiche agile ECM. “For what they wanted to do, Laserfiche was the missing piece: they’d be paperless, and they’d have a solid workflow engine to share and secure information with their Portfolio Management System (PMS) and Client Relationship Management (CRM) system. Plus, they’d have that compliance piece,” he says.
“Laserfiche made sense because it could integrate with Microsoft Dynamics, which Tamarac was already integrated with, and do it quickly and easily enough that there wouldn’t be a lot of cost and lead-time,” Bruckenstein adds.
For his part, Burns saw the value of having “that compliance piece” when Asset Dedication purchased a Laserfiche Avante system in September of 2010. “By integrating Laserfiche with our Web-based technologies, we have a document management system that can talk to the cloud, and where the information we need to keep secure for compliance and auditing stays on our own server,” he says. “Regulators come in and, once they see that we have Laserfiche set up the way we told them, they have confidence in it the same way we do. We’ve been able to make the commitment to be paperless, but in a way that makes it easy for auditors to see that we’re following the guidelines.”
.NET Gain: A World-Class System without a World-Class Price Tag
Burns sees long-term value in building a system agile enough to maximize the firm’s infrastructural investment as the firm grows. “BondDesk has this world-class bond inventory and trade order management system, so we needed to marry that to a world-class equity portfolio management system like Tamarac. On top of that, they’ve bundled it with Microsoft Dynamics CRM through Tamarac’s Advisor 9, so we’ve got all these systems that all talk to each other and for the most part it’s a single log-in,” he explains. “Now, on the back-end, we can access every document we need because SharePoint talks to Dynamics and Laserfiche talks to SharePoint. Everything’s still on a Microsoft .NET framework, so we can add and subtract layers without it turning into a huge project with a hefty price tag.”
This agility has already translated into substantial savings. “We have been able to drive development costs way down—we can post a few Web services and we can integrate for $2,000 rather than $200,000,” says Burns. “Our risk is so low, we can just pop something out to replace it. When we upgrade to SharePoint 2010, the transition process will be minimal.”
Burns notes this interoperability translates to a more seamless user experience, no matter who’s using the system: a client, an advisor services representative or another staff member. “Once someone signs onto the system, they can do everything they need to without leaving the program they’re using. I don’t want people having to learn 20 systems—I want that single sign-on; I want it to be that fast,” he says.
“The way we look at technology is that it’s going to work if it can adapt it to the way we work, not the other way around.”
New Account Formation Made Advisor-, Client- and Business-Friendly
Burns points to Asset Dedication’s automated account formation process using its AdvisorSpace portal. “As we developed our AdvisorSpace portal, having everything on the .NET platform has really allowed us to fill in the gaps and make the experience seamless, and a lot of the back-end processes automatic,” he explains. “We were able to control the experience and avoid making more work for ourselves.”
An example of this is the new account formation process, including the client meeting that takes place leading up to it and the contract management that follows it. An advisor meeting with a client logs into the AdvisorSpace portal using an iPad. From there, he can access marketing documents through SharePoint. He can submit a request to run a proposal, which the SharePoint workflow engine routes back to the advisor. Then, he can initiate a client agreement using DocuSign. The contract is then automatically e-mailed to the advisor and Asset Dedication managers—until they sign off, when it’s automatically stored in Laserfiche.
“We step in a little bit, but essentially the whole back end operates seamlessly,” Burns says.
Technology Attracts Talent
As the firm grows, Burns sees the value of having a tightly integrated technology platform to attract new talent. “When advisors do their due diligence and ask, ‘What are you using?’ and we say, ‘Tamarac, MS Dynamics and Laserfiche,’ that’s just one more thing they can check off their list. We’re using proven technology in an innovative way.”
The value of that innovation, he says, in addition to reducing development costs, ensuring compliance and offering more convenient, comprehensive client services, is saving time. “For every one of us, time is money. So the more time you’re spending on basic operations, the less time you’re working with clients and the less revenue you’re generating,” Burns says.
“Our business model is based on using incredibly complex technology to drive very sophisticated processes in a way that is very intuitive to understand. For us, Laserfiche is an obvious natural partner.”]]>