Step 1: Admit There’s a Problem

I have a dirty little secret. Actually, it’s about three 13-gallon plastic tubs worth of secret. I’m ashamed of it, I pretend it doesn’t exist and that it will go away one day. Unfortunately, it will not.

My secret is that I do not have all my personal documents stored electronically. In fact, I have less than 10% stored digitally. Some that I do have stored on my computer (and maybe, if I’m lucky, backed up to a Cloud and on an external hard drive) are stored in a somewhat organized fashion; there are many in a file just labeled “Healthcare” though, with the name of whatever my scanner gave them when they were stored. “I’ll sort it all out one day!” I tell myself, “I can create a folder structure! And a naming convention! Once I digitize everything with my auto-feed scanner, I can throw away the paper, have my backups and never fear for an IRS Audit!” And yet, for over five years, my boxes of paper (not to mention attachments in email) have multiplied.

You may have a very similar secret – or maybe the same one, but for your entire organization.  The variety of ways an individual might categorize and sort information – and the lack of discipline we may have in actually keeping up with it – can lead to disorganized shared drives, duplication (or loss) of information, and constant searching of our email inboxes.

Step 2: Identify the (Basic) Solution

Enter an Enterprise Information Platform or EIP (formerly Enterprise Document Management and Enterprise Content Management). This may sound like an incredibly complex kind of software, but in reality, it’s just a way to organize your content so it is easy to find, easy to maintain, and has controls on who should (and shouldn’t) be allowed to see or do certain things. It also allows processes to be automated, controlled, or simplified via a system of rules and tasks. And for all those pieces of content that relate to something in another system, integration between your EIP and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution, for example, is invaluable.

One such EIP, OnBase by Hyland, can be utilized for a variety of different business processes. The solutions and opportunities with the OnBase software are endless. Clarity has implemented an entire permitting application, making it paperless and electronic – from the permit submission through the approval and issuance. We’ve also created an inspection process, which creates and assigns inspections, creates the appropriate supporting documentation, and allows for approvals and rejections by supervisors. These solutions were designed using OnBase modules such as Workflow, WorkView, Document Composition, and the OnBase API. OnBase modules and configuration tools are regularly described as “Legos” – building blocks used to create customized solutions with little or no custom coding. Due to the lack of custom coding and the intuitive administration and end-user UI (user interface), an organization can easily support and maintain their own system with the help of a few certified OnBase Administrators and a Database Administrator to support the database (SQL or Oracle are both supported by OnBase).

Step 3: Envision the Long Term

Think of EIP implementation like building a house. Your functioning system will be your home; you may start small, with the basics – a bedroom, bath, and kitchen. This is great for the beginning – before EIP, you didn’t have any of that! – but as you and your family (or organization) grow, you can add on. Need a second bedroom? Just add it on the original house. Want to create a case management system for your HR applications and employee onboarding? Just add it on to your original OnBase implementation. No need to stand up individual houses for all your family needs, just connect them so they can use the same infrastructure. In the same way, your individual departments don’t need their own software systems. They can utilize the infrastructure and when there are overlaps (perhaps the HR director should have access to AP documents), the user can seamlessly find the information since it’s all housed (no pun intended) under the same roof.

Step 4: Create Your Solution

Now, since we’ve moved to the home metaphor, let’s discuss plans. Your contractor wouldn’t just buy a bunch of lumber and nails and say, “Let’s do this thing!”  No, they would sit with you and discuss needs – first, what’s your budget? Now, making sure to identify what is a “want” versus a “need”, how many bedrooms are in this plan? How many bathrooms? What size kitchen? Do you really want the hardwood floors, or is a scratch-resistant option better since you have pets? Also, what’s you’re long-term plan – more bedrooms? More baths? Then, they would draw up the blueprint, matching your “needs” and “wants” with your budget. They’d show you the blueprint with the requirements you gave them, walking you through it (perhaps even a 3D tour!) to explain how everything would work. Once you approve, it’s off to the lumberyard to get the materials and the crew comes in to start building with the blueprint.

Minor changes and finishing touches are made as you see the house progress, and then BAM, moving day is here. Of course you make some more tweaks and they do some touch-ups on paint, and then you live in your cozy home. Until your brand-new baby comes along and a nursery has to be built – and you go through a similar process to add that room onto your home, in way that works best for your family.

How does this relate to software? Your implementation team should do something similar. They will sit down with you and discuss your budget and business needs, asking questions like:

  • What data and documents are being captured, and how would you find that information most easily?
  • Do you need a workflow for approvals or denials? How many steps are in that process?
  • What interactions will users need, and how should they be limited based on their job roles?

The implementation team will then take those requirements (and nice-to-haves) and match them to your budget, in order to create as robust and long-term solution as possible. They may provide wireframes and process flows, so you can envision the end result. As they build, they may do prototype reviews so you can see how the user interfaces (screens) and processes will work upon go-live. Near the end, they may need more details for the finishing touches. Then the team trains you on the solution, you enter User Acceptance Testing (UAT) where you discover what needs to be tweaked, and then BAM, it’s go-live day!

Lastly, you work with the implementation team on final touch-ups and enjoy your new cozy Enterprise Information Platform. Until your AP department is struggling to keep up with the influx of paper invoices and an electronic AP Invoicing Process needs to be implemented – and you go through a similar “blueprint/building” process to add that solution onto your platform, in a way that works best for your organization.

Carlene Subrameyer is a Principal Consultant at Clarity Partners, specializing in OnBase Enterprise solutions.  This article discusses the importance of electronically storing documents and how to get started.