Docs management - build or buy debate continues

Today an effective document management system (DMS) is more critical than ever, but users must first decide whether to buy or build to make sure they get the right fit.

To efficiently manage its tender and licence documents Victorian government agency Parks Victoria, which administers public parks and reserves that total an area of about 4.1 million hectares or 17 per cent of Victoria, decided to implement a packaged offering from Melbourne-based solutions provider SpeedLegal.

Malcolm Downes, Parks Victoria's contracts manager, said the decision between purchasing an off-the-shelf DMS and developing one in-house should be made according to the complexity of the documents.

This process begins by first working out what the documents are and the company's method of operating, according to Downes.

If there's a large amount of documents, you might need to work with a number of alliance, Downes said. "If you're in a single agreement type of environment it's better to get a single, turnkey solution."

Downes said the decision comes down to knowing the outcomes and tools you've got: "If it's complex, build it from the ground. If it's simple, go to a provider."

Parks Victoria has two main types of documents - offer documents for tenders and quotes, and "lots of" agreements for licences. The department "searched for years" for a DMS by going to XML conferences and asking people if there is anything like what SpeedLegal gives them now.

"SpeedLegal is a turnkey solution," Downes said.

Although Downes has experience with programming and databases, as contracts manager he is adamant that IT doesn't want to concern itself with document management.

"IT provides the servers, and SpeedLegal provided the people - rather than IT people who are at the nuts and bolts level," he said. "SpeedLegal is an XML-based solution so questions like 'when will a contract finish?' can be added to each document. We get a consistent document that suits the needs of projects and, due to insurance requirements, we must ensure people send the right documents out."

Having worked on the new DMS for the past year, the only remaining problem is with the live contract system.

"We are looking at doing a test run next month and going live at the start of next year," Downes said.

The interface is Web-based and both Word .doc and PDF documents are supported.

Parks Victoria is paying $50,000 per year in ongoing licence fees but Downes said that should drop back to $30,000 per year as it's "not costly like Oracle".

"The document management solution has a soft ROI as it reduces the amount of time it takes to do anything and gets people back into their real job," he said. "Quotes are now quicker with the right documents attached to it."

SpeedLegal's CTO Jason Harrop said creating custom document management systems looks easy but chews up a lot of time.

"The problem we are focused on is how people create documents," Harrop said. "We provide the software itself and then we help customers get their documents automated and also help with integration points."

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