Enterprise Content Management in Higher Education

Located in Montreal, Canada, Concordia University is an urban educational institution serving 31,000 undergraduate and graduate students from across Canada and around the world. By the mid-1990s, the Dean of Arts & Science noticed that the amount of paperwork that had to be filed, stored, and retrieved in a timely and cost-effective manner was beginning to overwhelm his administrative staff. In response, the faculty deployed an enterprise content management (ECM) solution for its 400 plus-member Faculty of Arts and Science and later expanded its use to the Library, and to the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science (130 members). Following the success of this deployment, Documentum was chosen as an ECM solution to facilitate and manage the university’s admissions process.

The Content Management Challenge

The dean’s office of Concordia University’s Faculty of Arts and Science stores a vast amount of information about its faculty members, including annual workload letters, contracts, performance reviews, and changes to curriculum vitae (CV). With more than one million pages in the dossiers of its 400 plus faculty members by the mid-1990s, the administrative staff was being overwhelmed by paper.

Retrieving dossiers and then searching within these files — each of which holds hundreds of pages — for the exact documents required to resolve inquiries about everything from tenure starting dates to required workloads took more than 1,500 employee hours per year and was also subject to human error. The time expended on simple information retrieval and filing was so great that staff members had little time to complete their other tasks.

Adding to the complexity of the content retrieval process was the fact that faculty personnel records were often scattered across multiple offices, including the dean’s office, the faculty personnel office, and the university human resources office. With no central repository for faculty documents, staff members did not know where to look first for the documents they needed or whether a document they had was the most current version. Content retrieval was further complicated by duplication of documents within each dossier. All of this had a severe impact on productivity.

The Goal

It was clear that the volume of dossiers and documents would continue to increase over time — as would the complexity of filing and retrieving the paperwork needed to handle inquiries. To streamline these processes while freeing staff members to perform their other assigned tasks, the university concluded that it needed a way to store documents centrally and electronically by specific attributes such as name and document type, including workload letter, contract, CV, tenure letter, or general correspondence.

"We wanted to specify the document type and automatically retrieve all of those documents for any department or any member of our faculty," says Aaron Brauer, the Arts & Science Faculty’s Acting Director of Academic Technology. "We wanted the ability to gain immediate access to the specific piece of information we needed to resolve an inquiry in seconds, rather than in the hours or days it took in a paper-based environment."

The Enterprise Content Management Solution

The faculty’s IT group knew it needed an enterprise content management (ECM) solution, but the technicians did not have the expertise to design and implement such a system themselves. Concordia turned for help to Xerox Global Services, a worldwide consulting organization, and Documentum, the leading provider of ECM and a division of EMC Corporation.

"Our new content management system not only reduces our content retrieval time, but also improves information access and content reliability. What used to take hours or days, now occurs in seconds, and we know the information is accurate".
— Aaron Brauer, Acting Director of Academic Technology, Concordia University

"Xerox Global Services brought to the project a vast array of experience in dealing with document management in general and with Documentum ECM in particular," says Aaron Brauer. "Xerox designed and implemented a system whereby we could convert paper to electronic form and then deposit this content into a Documentum repository that could be queried easily."

Adds Mel Thompson, vice president and general manager, Xerox Global Services Canada, "Xerox helped Concordia deploy a scalable document management solution based on Documentum that increased knowledge-sharing efficiencies and reduced tedious administrative functions."

Flexible Environment

With its ECM solution fully implemented, Concordia University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences no longer relies on paper records. "Even though we generate paper, once it is scanned, it is immediately archived offsite," Brauer says. "So anytime a document is required, it is accessed electronically. Even faculty members who want to review their own dossiers get their information from the repository, accessing it from desktop PCs in our offices."

Fast Access, Attribute-Based Queries

The key benefits of Concordia's ECM solution include fast access to content and the ability to query the repository on the basis of file attributes. Instead of taking hours to figure out where a file is stored, then hours more to find the dossier in file cabinets, and even more time to isolate the specific document, the entire process is now completed in seconds with a few mouse clicks.

"Our ECM system not only reduces our content retrieval time, but also improves information access and content reliability. What used to take hours or days, now occurs in seconds, and we know the information is accurate," said Brauer.

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