Henley Properties Group solves document control woes

Property developer taps OnBase instead of SharePoint to improve cash flow and control of millions of files related to 2000 residential construction jobs across Queensland, South Australia and Victoria
Henley Properties Group CIO Jeremy Bree

Henley Properties Group CIO Jeremy Bree

When Jeremy Bree arrived at Henley Properties Group as CIO in 2010, one of his first tasks was to bring some order and control to clunky methods of managing millions of documents.

Henley – a large Australian residential property developer – is a document intensive business. It manages 2000 construction jobs across the country each year, which generate several millions documents or around 600GB of files that need to be managed.

For each home that is built, the group needs to create project plans, lists of materials, build schedules, client contracts, subcontractor agreements and general paperwork for an organisation operating across Queensland, South Australia and Victoria.

In 2010, the company experienced data growth of between 20GB and 50GB in each state, meaning an existing file system method of document control was no longer suitable. The job-style file directory was inefficient, folder structures were different depending on who set up a particular job and folders were often lost after being accidently moved to another location.

“We needed more than a place to simply store documents,” said Bree. “People had to be able to get documents from a number of different sources. There was a need for many different people to quickly and easily search and find documents and [they] had to be able to assign a document to someone and trace its progress through a workflow.”

Over the past two years, data volumes have grown significantly as the company produces higher quality and larger CAD drawings (which are imported from a file system as PDFs), files from multi-function devices, and captures more photos than ever before.

To overcome its issues, the organisation deployed Hyland Software’s OnBase document management system. It also engaged experts from business process management firm CAYLX to help develop workflows for the system.

“We also looked at Microsoft SharePoint but [OnBase’s] workflow capabilities were better than [SharePoint’s] out of the box,” said Bree.

Henley Properties Group is also capturing email and using an indexing function to capture job-related emails that were missed previously, and feeding purchase order information from its ERP system. Bree said the company expected to import up to 2TB of files by early 2013.

Suppliers paid faster

Henley Properties Group processes around 2000 invoices each week in Victoria alone and previously spent up to three weeks – using a manual process – sending invoices to managers and returning them to accounts payable for processing.

Henley and CAYLX created a new approval process that has enabled Henley’s operations in Victoria and Queensland to pay the majority of operational and project-related invoices within one week, which is vital in the high-demand building industry.

“If there are three or four companies vying for a supplier’s time and we can guarantee payment within a week, the supplier is more likely to come to us,” Bree said.

Under the new process, invoices are scanned and automatically routed to the correct supervisor for sign off before being returned to accounts payable for payment. This means invoices are less likely to be lost and invoice accuracy will be improved.

The shorter invoice cycle has also improved cash flow. Data is captured as soon as an invoice arrives, allowing finance staff and business managers to determine which payments are on the horizon and anticipate cash flow demands.

Henley plans to deploy contract scanning capabilities at property display sites.

Finally, Henley also intends to improve processes around occupational health and safety (OHS), which is a big issue in the construction industry.

Around 30 different books of forms used by OHS staff will be created as electronic forms, enabling supervisors and managers to capture and electronically lodge information such as incident sheets, while they are on site.

“Depending on which boxes they tick, the form will be automatically directed to where it needs to go,” said Bree.

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