Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) is an internationally renowned sports city located in Qatar. It hosted the 2006 Asian Games and several other international sporting events. AZF is the home of the Aspire Dome, the world’s largest indoor multi-purpose sports facility, and Aspire Academy, a leading sports institute for young athletes with thousands of student applications each year.
“AZF consists of three large member organisations: the ASPIRE Academy for Sports Excellence, ASPETAR (Qatar Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Hospital), and Aspire Logistics,” explains Niyas Abdulrahiman, Chief Technology Advisor at Aspire Zone Foundation.“IT is operated as a shared service with services provided to all business units with a focus on high performance and cost effectiveness. We were in need of a solution that could help us treat each member organisation as a separate line of business due to their unique business nature, but at the same time provide a platform for managing the business content at a foundational level. What we needed was a cost-effective enterprise content management (ECM) solution to be implemented as a shared service.”
Abdulrahiman notes that when AZF was selecting an ECM solution, it was clear that while digitising documents was important, change management and getting users to accept a new solution were also priorities. “We had a wide range of users we had to consider, coaches, teachers, medical professionals, engineers etc. Their awareness about enterprise content management and expectations from an IT solution varied. At the early stages of the project, we conducted brainstorming sessions to create the required user awareness as well as understand user expectations. We had to find a solution agile enough to fit everyone’s content management needs. Automating business processes was identified as the key success criteria,” Abdulrahiman says.
Apart from identifying standard and enhanced features, AZF introduced a user evaluation test for selected staff to test the contending systems to determine the most user-friendly one through a scenario based evaluation methodology. “We wanted to ensure that the users were a part of the selection process to identify the functional and usability perspectives. At the end of the evaluation, Laserfiche definitely stood out from the crowd, scoring the highest on the overall user evaluation. It was not only easy to use, but it also had the simple and flexible business process management tools we were looking for.”
Finding an ECM system with strong business process management tools was important to AZF because automation can ensure successful change management. Haitham M. N. Ahmed, Deputy Director General (Operations), understood that if the processes weren’t automated, users would be less likely accept the solution since their workload would remain unchanged.
AZF began its implementation in two phases to tackle the high volumes of data and automation. “We were able to customize Laserfiche to mimic the flow we had been using for years, so day-to-day business was not affected in the rollout phase. We had the control to design the process and the flexibility to re-engineer it when necessary.”
Standardising Correspondence Management
Before the implementation of Laserfiche at Aspire Zone Foundation, large amount of content was being generated every day. This content included paper documents such as invoices, memos and faxes; day-to-day collaborations between employees like emails, reports and pictures; or data that is only visible to those directly associated with it such as confidential documents, contracts and agreements. Due to the sheer volume, accessing the right content took considerable time and such content was also frequently lost or misplaced.
During the first phase of Aspire Zone’s ECM project, the organisation was keen on digitizing records and implementing automation in its correspondence management process. In the past:
- Physical documents such as faxes, packages and letters would arrive every day at the Document Controls Section at AZF from external agencies, partners, vendors and other outside entities.
- The Documents Controls Section staff would register each item then distribute it to the concerned departments.
- The relevant administrative staff would separate documents into folders before forwarding it to the appropriate manager.
- After the manager reviewed, signed and commented on a document, it would then be distributed back to the administrative staff for forwarding to other staff or send out to external parties.
Laserfiche has dramatically simplified this process. Laserfiche can easily extend, customise and integrate with other systems. AZF, with the help of Laserfiche Value Added Reseller ITQAN Technologies, created a customised correspondence platform called the Laserfiche Workspace, which has a similar interface to the email client that was already in use by the staff, and includes easy-to-use features such as inbox, outbox, pending folder and completed folder.
All correspondence is now managed and centralised within this automated workspace as follows:
- Incoming documents are scanned and forwarded to the administrative staff of each department to place into the electronic folders of the Laserfiche repository. A link is automatically generated for the document and forwarded to the recipient’s inbox.
- Users open up the documents directly to add comments, make annotations or changes and then forward them to other staff members, just as they would forward an email.
- Recipients receive a link to the document in the Laserfiche repository. Version control is enacted and only one document is stored which ensures that each user is always looking at the correct and most up-to-date file.
- As a result of this implementation, productivity is enhanced, security of documents is improved and document management guidelines and policies are now standardised.
“The Laserfiche Workspace has really added business value for us. We now have an efficient collaboration platform for correspondence and we are able to manage the flow of content within our organisation,” Abdulrahiman explains. “After taking the total number of documents in the Laserfiche repository and doing approximate calculations based on a previous trend of duplicated copies, we came to a rough count of half a million papers that would have been created, had we not digitised them.”
Strategic Social Platform for the Enterprise
To optimize business performance, AZF’s IT department launched an enterprise collaboration platform called SPRINT, with the goal of building a unified community for its employees, enhancing collaboration, communication, business capabilities and knowledge exchange. SPRINT is now being used by all three business units and 2000 employees of AZF across 70+ departments.
Aspire Connect is the enterprise social networking core of SPRINT. As part of Aspire Connect, Laserfiche is the ECM system working seamlessly behind the scenes, hand-in-hand with the Microsoft SharePoint portal, which the users are already familiar with. All of the documents shared through Aspire Connect are stored in and routed from the Laserfiche repository. A few of Aspire Connect’s other dynamic built-in features include discussion groups, polling, voting and instant messaging. “Aspire Connect takes services to employees to another level. It’s like having our own ‘Facebook’ for AZF,” says Abdulrahiman.
This seamless integration allows users to use one windows authentication to access all of the systems, without the need to memorize multiple usernames and passwords. “Laserfiche essentially takes care of all the work. Users aren’t aware of the different business processes that are in place. Things like windows authentication, version control, document routing, secure access to documents, and the movement of data between different groups and programs are all automated by Laserfiche Workflow,” explains Abdulrahiman.
One example of how Laserfiche has facilitated a smoother workflow is the IT department’s reporting on project status and progress. “Before this system,” says Abdulrahiman, “each project head would need to compile separate reports and send them to the manager to compile into one report. Now the main template is stored on the system to be downloaded. It’s transparent, always visible in one location for all concerned parties to access when they need to. It’s a huge benefit for the department in terms of man-hours needed to compile the report, particularly considering that the report is updated on weekly basis.”
The objectives set out by Aspire Zone Foundation prior to implementing an ECM solution were to simplify business processes, improve efficiency and productivity, reduce the cost of paper and storage, enhance disaster recovery and to promote the company’s Go Green initiative. Abdulrahiman notes that Laserfiche has allowed the organisation to achieve these goals. “With Laserfiche, we’ve met our business objectives and the expectations of our users. Calculating our ROI, we can see that we have saved US $630,000 per year in handling, labor and storage costs. Laserfiche continually provides value and clear results to our user community.”