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Consultant's Corner: I SO I SO, a DMS'ing We Will go!

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By Gregg Hinchman

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Posted: 20 Jun 2006
 

"It's going to be a bright, bright sunshiny day." Every once in a while as a consultant, I have the opportunity to break away from my usual projects (designing, redesigning, clustering or upgrading GroupWise) to do something that is just plain fun. On just such an occasion I found myself in Tucson, Arizona, a place I had never been before, doing a GroupWise Document Management System (DMS) project. I love document management projects. They are so full of promise for a better way to access data in this Directory| Subdirectory| Filename world. On average I get to do only one or two GroupWise document management projects a year. So when one does come along, I thrill at the opportunity to help an organization shift their paradigm.

In the case of this project, the company (let's call it "Oasis Company") was very focused on achieving ISO certification, which would strengthen their business. To reach this certification each department within the business was required to write everything down - each process they perform, each form they create, every manual generated, and all work instructions needed to run their business was documented. Imagine the amount of work this must create on the front end, but then imagine the amount of time it saves on the back end.

Example: For their IT department, Oasis had to write a process for creating a new user account for every single system in their organization. These were step-by-step with full detail. This means when a new IT employee comes on board, they simply have to read one document to know how to create a new user in GroupWise. This saves much ramp-up time for a new user, not to mention keeping quality control at the highest levels through the use of standardized instructions.

ISO is definitely something I can get on board with, and in a way I have a couple of faux ISO documents myself. My book "Success with Cluster GroupWise 7" (found at www.TayKratzer.com) has the process I follow to cluster GroupWise 7 successfully every time. Anyway, Oasis Company called me up one day to help them implement GroupWise 7 Document Management specifically for their ISO documents. Oasis needed a way to control the documents with rights, they needed versioning so they could comply with ISO standards, and they needed a way for their users to access any or all documents easily. They also needed a system that was inexpensive. (Most DMS systems run $50,000 to well over $250,000 just for the application.) And since they were pushing for ISO certification, they needed a delivery system that would assist them to pass the ISO certification audit. DMS, please - come on down!

As a business new to GroupWise 7 (yes, that's right - they implemented a new GroupWise 7 system, on Linux no less!), they knew that GroupWise had document management. But they did not have the first idea how do design document management for GroupWise 7 to meet their needs. Basically, they, like many out there, did not understand how GroupWise document management works. At first they thought Shared Folders would help them solve the problem but quickly found the weakness in that solution.

Enter - the consultant. I have been working with GroupWise document management since my days at Novell Consulting some 7 years ago. Document management is such an exciting concept, and GroupWise's flavor makes it easy. Contrary to what you might hear, organizations do use GroupWise document management. ISO is the perfect forum for document management. So what I thought I would do in this article is show you how we customized GroupWise document management to fit the ISO needs for the Oasis Company.

Step 1: Planning

As with any technology, the first step is to plan what you want to implement. This project was no different with one exception - they already had most of the work done because of their ISO certification desires.

Usually when I step on site, organizations only know they want to implement document management, and they kind of have a department they want to pilot DMS, but not much else. I spend the next days teaching these organizations about DMS and discussing how/what/where/when and why the pilot department works with documents. Once the customer and I have an understanding, we start white-boarding a design. In this process we try to present a design that will answer many of the issues the department is facing.

In the case of Oasis, they knew they needed to capture key parts of a document in order to make it easily accessible. These key parts, or rather key bits, of information are called "meta-data." Meta-data is simply information about a document, such as:

  • Document Type
  • Author
  • Date Created
  • Version
  • Subject, etc.

Oasis already had ideas of the kind of meta-data they needed since their ISO implementation had forced them down this path. All we did was white-board the meta-data properties they wanted to capture so that it we could design the Document Properties Page. The Document Properties Page is where all the meta-data property fields are displayed.

Figure 1: Oasis' Customized Document Property Page

Oasis wanted to capture the following meta-data for their ISO documents:

  • Department
  • Chapter
  • Document Title
  • Last Audit
  • Document Type

These 5 pieces of information about an ISO document would allow anyone in the company (assuming proper rights assignment) to search for and find any document within 5 seconds.

Step 2: Build the Plan

Once we had the plan and design finished, we had to start building. I have always been of the mind that if you want to implement DMS for your organization, it is far better to create a DMS post office and house all libraries within it. This provides a division of email and documents and allows you to work on the DMS post office without affecting email - and vice versa.

We built a DMSPO on the Linux server and configured the QuickFinder Index to run continuously so that all documents will be instantly indexed when placed in the library. We also set up a few standard Scheduled Events to keep the library free of database issues. Mainly, we set a Structure/Index and Fix for the databases and setup library maintenance routines to run.

With the post office built, it was time to turn our attention to the library we created within the post office. First, we made sure the library storage area was under the post office - on Linux it cannot be remote, and Oasis is planning to cluster in the future. Again, in a cluster the library cannot be remote to its storage area. Second, we launched the ConsoleOne| Tools| GroupWise Utilities| Document Properties Maintenance utility (DPMU). This is the utility used to customize the Document Properties page. Inside the DPMU are where the custom look-up tables are created and where you add the custom fields. We created the following look-up tables:

  • Department
  • Chapter
  • Document Title

A look-up table is a pick list or dropdown list. This allows those using DMS to pick from a list rather than manually typing in information. I recommend that a pick list be more static (few to zero changes) rather than being dynamic (often changing). This is because the maintenance of the DMS system increases as an administrator has to manage the look-up tables, adding or subtracting content.

Next up were the custom property fields:

  • Department
  • Chapter
  • Document Title
  • Last Audit

Custom property fields are the meta-data titles; inside the property fields are the meta-data. We connected to the library in the DPMU and added each custom field. As we created the custom property fields, we tied the correct property field to the respective look-up table.

Example: The custom property field "Department" was created in the library. Then we tied it directly to the look-up table we created. The end result is a custom property field with a pick list for users to choose meta-data.

Step 3: Pilot the Build

Now that the system was built and tested, it was time to turn loose the pilot users and let them work the DMS solution. In a pilot, it's important to train the users in the following topics:

  • Searching for documents
  • Importing documents
  • Creating new documents
  • Versioning and document rights

As part of the project, my part was to train the administrator on the aforementioned topics. Then I bowed out and went home, my job being done. Oasis is now building out the ISO library while pilot users test it to make sure it meets the needs for the ISO documents.

Figure 2: Searching for an ISO document

Figure 3: Search Results

Figure 4: Document Management Document Rights Page

Figure 5: Example of Versioning in GroupWise DMS

Step 4: Evaluate the Pilot

Once the pilot users have had time to work over the DMS system, it's time to evaluate. Oasis created success criteria that must be met, so they will hold meetings with the pilot users to verify the success/failure of the GroupWise ISO document management system. All the information collected from the pilot users will be reviewed, and a final determination to proceed or close it down will be made. Honestly, I suspect it will be a success because we met 95% of the needs for an ISO library.

Step 5: Implement the Solution

This step is about expanding the initial pilot group to full production. This involves training all users and using the solution. The final test will be when the ISO auditor shows up and blesses the ISO library, which is just one small part of achieving ISO certification.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat

OK, I know this seems a bit much. But while I was onsite with Oasis, discussions had already started on a second library for the entire organization for non-ISO documents. We even started white-boarding the Document Property Page. To implement a second library they will go through the same process to guarantee the library meets the needs for the organization. As with any process, once it's been refined and proven to be a repeatable success, you use it over and over again.

Figure 6: IT ISO Search Folder for dynamic document updates

Summary

In the course of this article I provided you with a mini-implementation plan for doing your own ISO document management library. There is much that I have left out for brevity. My co-authored book on GroupWise document management provides much of the detail, as do my past Brainshare sessions on the topic. One thing is for certain - document management is exciting and truly does answer the demand for document control. More and more organizations are implementing document management, and not just GroupWise document management.

I hope I was able to give you something to consider for your organization. I know "I can see clearly now" ... GroupWise DMS is a slam-dunk for organizations seeking a cheap, yet robust solution for their ISO documents.

As always, I can be reached at: Gregg@HinchmanConsulting.com , if you have any comments, article ideas or just want to help a quirky consultant support his GroupWise habit.


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