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Don't Put Your Software in a Box

Many companies and organizations select software to combat a particular inefficiency or process in need of streamlining. Still, with a little innovative thinking, you can adapt some software to improve other areas of business as well. Enterprise content management (ECM), a sophisticated document management software, is inherently adaptable to new applications.

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“ECM software is extremely flexible and designed to integrate with your existing applications to streamline everyday processes, whether student records, finance documents, HR paperwork, email logs or even historical archives” said Lisa Beck, an ECM solution manager for education at Perceptive Software. “But the beauty of ECM’s versatility is that if you have a little imagination, you might find it can fill a need maybe even the vendor never thought of.”

At Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU), for example, ECM software was initially selected for managing paperwork and processes in human resources. But creative thinkers using the software saw lots of possibilities. It is now being used in 18 departments, often in ways no one would have expected, like tracking plagiarism.

“The flexibility of [ECM] allowed us to easily expand and design the solution to meet the various needs of each department,” says Joni Kilty, document imaging analyst and software administrator at IWU.

Here are three organizations from around the globe, including IWU, that have looked beyond the label of ECM and applied their solutions in unexpected ways,

Keeping an Eye on Plagiarism

After the initial deployment in human resources, IWU applied their ECM solutions – document imaging, document management and workflow – in departments with a high volume of paperwork: student services, enrollment, financial aid, the registrar and human resources.

Because IWU was able to successfully streamline existing processes in these departments, the IT staff continued looking for other areas of the institution that could benefit from the software. Their unique idea? To use ECM to keep track of plagiarized files between traditional student courses and adult student courses.

Many institutions use software or special programs to check student work for plagiarism. For an institution like IWU, separate locations, schools and different types of courses (traditional or non-traditional) can mean there are inconsistent records of plagiarism.

“We need to be able to keep track of plagiarism files across the entire campus, and the flexibility of [our software] allows us to set up permission groups for departments and lock down files so only certain people can view them,” Kilty says.

Although this was not a common way to apply ECM software, the university was able think outside the box to improve the process of tracking plagiarism using an existing resource.

No More Lost Deliveries

The Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in the U.K. provides healthcare for more than 550,000 nearby residents. The Trust uses its ECM solution to save time and money in typical document-heavy healthcare departments, including clinical areas, accounts payable, risk management and human resources.

One of the essential objectives of the Trust’s ECM project was to reduce the time it took to find documents – no matter the department. So they applied ECM to its commercial services department to manage the records for deliveries.

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At the Trust, delivery notes are scanned when a delivery is received and then automatically indexed and linked to the Trust’s requisition system. When departments call commercial services asking for proof of delivery for an item, rather than stopping to search through paper files, the commercial services staff can quickly look up the delivery note.

“The commercial services department has benefited from productivity gains using [ECM]. What used to take up to a half-hour can now be done in an instant,” says Jonathan Goss, senior IT project manager.

While managing notes for deliveries is not a typical use for ECM, the IT staff was resourceful in applying the features of their ECM solution to benefit their unique hospital processes.

From Cell Phones to Cars

Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) is the largest higher education organization in the Middle East, with 17 campuses serving more than 20,000 students across the United Arab Emirates (UAE). At HCT, ECM is used to increase productivity and streamline processes in human resources, student registration and records, financial services and facilities management.

With 17 campuses, the IT staff at HCT has to find innovative ways to manage many different processes, and they are constantly looking for ways to apply its ECM investment. Two new processes that will benefit from ECM are the tracking of employee cell phone bills and managing car hire bookings.

“We’re using [ECM] to manage any paper documents which are not covered by our existing systems. It’s easy to use, scalable and seamlessly integrates with any of our systems,” says Khalid Tariq, head of enterprise systems.

With ECM, HCT will receive employee bills electronically and route them into electronic workflow. Once employees have reviewed their calls and checked off which are business related and which are personal, they will simply route the document forward to their supervisor for review and then onto payroll for the appropriate deduction – no paper chase required.

HCT is also working to incorporate their ECM solution into its car booking system to help keep track of car hires.