'Ole Miss' Turns to New Document Management Solution

By Linda L. Briggs

Even with its many sophisticated computer systems, the University of Mississippi, like most campuses, still deals with lots of paper. The graduate school admissions process, for example, requires that applying students submit large amounts of supporting materials. Previously, those paper documents had to be copied and distributed through the campus mail system. That required lots of copying and tracking. Occasionally, materials were misplaced.

To address the issue, the university, affectionately known as “Ole Miss,” recently selected a content management solution from Mobius Management Systems, Inc. that allows them to scan in the paper documents submitted by prospective graduate students and distribute them electronically.

The Mobius system allows faculty members and staff to electronically review who has applied, along with all related supporting documents. The system has also been set up so that the graduate admissions committee can make its recommendations online.

According to Kathy Gates, assistant vice chancellor for information technology, the university has applied the Mobius document management system in two additional areas initially: institutional research and financial aid. “Those three were the motivating factors,” Gates says. “Since then, we’ve started other projects.”

The simplest of the three initial uses of Mobius was scanning and digitizing the school’s huge amount of paper-based institutional research. The reports, some from many years ago, are needed as reference documents on enrollment from time to time. But with a recent move, the department simply didn’t have space for all the paper. “It was a good time to try to digitize,” Gates says, not only to reduce storage space, but to give staff easier access to information.

In the financial aid department, Mobius is being used to scan and store documents that students submit to support their application. “If it’s on paper,” Gates says, “it’s really hard to manage, and [to] keep the process on target.”

The university went live with an SAP system in spring 2003, and considered digitizing some of its paper documentation systems at that time. “We wanted to [introduce] digital imaging at that time” in some areas, Gates says, but it seemed too large an undertaking on top of the SAP rollout. Instead, the school decided to wait.

The university runs Java almost exclusively and relies heavily on its SAP system. That made the document management system a good choice, since Mobius is an SAP partner. “That’s one reason we chose Mobius,” Gates says. “We have the opportunity to link Mobius to business objects in SAP.”

Gates says the school largely installed the system itself, with some help from Mobius. Security settings in the system took some time, as did connecting Mobius with the university’s Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) system, an Internet protocol. “The link with SAP took a little work,” Gates says.

One of bigger challenges in getting used to the new system, she says, was learning to properly index documents. That’s an important step, so that stored documents can be accurately retrieved once they’re in the system.

Linda L. Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif.

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