Taking the Physical Out of Information-Sharing
The USC Contracts and Grants department was struggling to maintain efficiencies in the face of a paper flow situation that threatened to engulf them. Exacerbating the problem was that to facilitate agreements and arrive at resolutions, a great deal of interaction and information-sharing with other campus entities was required.
“We deal with hundreds of different types of documents across campus,” says scanning operator Noah Congelliere. “Much of the information that flows in and out of our department is related to the preparation of proposals and the maintenance of active awards for federal and private funding sources. This includes information ranging from interdepartmental and sponsor correspondence to budgetary information, contract negotiations, and proposal preparation.”
A paper-based system with physical files made collaborating with others difficult—after all, a physical file can only be in one place at a time. Consequently, information-sharing was hampered, documentation was lost, and the department’s overall workflow was slowed. Adding to the frustration, Congelliere says other departments would often request digital documentation.
“We’d have to find the physical file housing the document, scan it, attach it to an email and return the document to its physical file,” he recalls. “The more requests that came in for digital files, the more it became obvious that our system was inefficient.”
The department looked for solutions, finding one in Laserfiche. Guiding their decision was the fact that the PROVOST/IT Department was already using the tool and was familiar with the software and its capabilities. But there were other appealing qualities, Congelliere adds.
“Laserfiche offered us a way to categorically break down documents into a structure,” he says. “It didn’t just house files, it categorized them via metadata fields, and this allowed us to search through documents and digital folders instead of flaps in a physical file. It was faster and more efficient.”
After trying Laserfiche out with some “testing groups” to assess the integration of their workflow into Laserfiche, the Contracts and Grants Department officially took it live in June 2011.
The results have been drastic. Laserfiche replaced the department’s paper filing system, organized their entire file structure, and provided simple solutions on file management and streamlining business processes, making them less vulnerable to human error. Access to data is faster and more robust. Sending information is also faster now—requiring just two mouse clicks to send a document from inside Laserfiche speeding on its way, freeing up time to focus on other tasks.
“We can also run reports now about the amount of certain documents that get regularly imported into our repository much quicker, which has been very beneficial to us,” Congelliere says.
Perhaps most importantly, collaboration and information-sharing have become a breeze. “Multiple parties can access the same information across campus and even at home through our Laserfiche web portal,” Congelliere explains. “We never have to wait for physical files to become available; we simply log into Laserfiche and find exactly what we’re looking for.”