User demands are key challenge for Commonwealth document project

Smart projects: Commonwealth Secretariat system aims to meet 100% of user requests.

Smart projects: Commonwealth Secretariat system aims to meet 100% of user requests.

The main inter-government agency of the Commonwealth is introducing an electronic document management system to automate the processing of requests it receives from member states.

The Commonwealth Secretariat organises meetings and gives policy advice to facilitate consultation and co-operation among member states. Explaining the need for the document management system, head of IT Henry Nyambu said, "What used to happen is that some of these requests fell into the cracks."

Nyambu was given the task of reducing to zero the number of requests that were ignored because they had been misplaced.

Between summer 2005 and summer 2006 the secretariat implemented a Documentum application from EMC with help from systems integrator Plan-Net. This system has been operating successfully, but the organisation also needed to create a bespoke application that could sit on top of Documentum to manage the electronic filing of requests from member states.

However, when the IT department drafted business processes for electronic filing, the end-users warned that the proposed processes failed to meet their business needs and could not be implemented.

Nyambu's task was complicated because each of the secretariat's 11 divisions had competing ideas about how electronic filing should be done. The economic affairs division had different business needs from the social transformation programme, for example.

Nyambu said, "When we presented our processes to the divisions, the problems started. On 21 June, we had the meeting to pause the project and get somebody in to do the document strategy."

The document management specialist that Nyambu brought in is due to report before Christmas and his recommendations will be used by software developer Sword to build a bespoke filing application.

Nyambu said, "Bringing in the expert has slowed us down by three months, but it is a necessity. Otherwise we might have produced something that people resisted using."

The secretariat may put back its December 2007 deadline for going live with the system because of the delay, he added.

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