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by Technews
Issue Date: August 2001

Effective document management means effective operations

August 2001

The advent of the Internet and computer-based office communications has opened a new realm of possibilities for companies seeking to implement document management systems. Internet-based technology now allows organisations to coordinate project teams over vast geographical areas, and has also allowed forward thinking companies to start imposing a comprehensive structure on the way they manage their information flow.

"Document management software, such as Bentley's ProjectWise, enables companies to co-ordinate design and production teams around one centralised information source. The benefits inherent in this method of operation are both obvious and dramatic," says Tex van Deventer, Managing Director of Bentley South Africa. "More than 90% of the drawing offices in South Africa still produce paper prints that get filed and hung up in big cabinets. Modern business requirements make this old methodology cumbersome and difficult. When you are working with a computer-based document management system there is a single source for all data, and therefore project teams will always be accessing the most up-to-date version of the document. Obviously this provides team members with far greater control over the process than was previously possible.
"There is a perception that document management systems are costly to implement, but this is not entirely accurate - companies working over large distances, for instance, will be likely to save costs over a short period of use," says van Deventer.
"Nowadays, more and more parties outside of the central company are involved in the information process, and often a design office is located in Johannesburg, while the client is in Zambia, or South America. In these situations paper-based information either becomes an impossibility, or incredibly expensive. Bentley has a client in the UK that deals with many different contractors, and this client discovered that its saving on courier costs alone paid for their entire document management system. So implementing a document management system can actually be an extremely cost-effective exercise.
"The primary feature of document management systems is that project team members simply need access to the Internet in order to be a full part of the team, with the ability to download the latest versions of documents relating to their project. This feature is negated somewhat in Africa, where telecommunications infrastructure cannot be taken for granted, and often does not exist at all. While lack of infrastructure does provide a major obstacle, it is not one that necessarily proves prohibitive," says van Deventer.
"Obviously the state of telecommunications infrastructure in Africa is cause for concern. For companies working on projects with budgets that run into the millions, mistakes can be extremely costly, and larger companies will generally choose to use a microwave link for the duration of the project, through which they can facilitate document interchange. Alternatively, once the design is completed other companies simply cut a CD and courier it to the location. Then the project team has all the data they need for the project," he continues.
The major business benefits garnered from document management systems come in the form of high degrees of project intelligence. Locating CAD drawings, for example, can often be a frustratingly long process using traditional hard copy filing systems, with an exact drawing number or description a prerequisite for locating the right document. Equally, traditional filing methods do not contain a comprehensive history of each document.
"With document management software, users can search for documentation using a variety of categories or key words. When you register a document in ProjectWise you have a myriad of attributes that populate the description, including additional comment fields - you can then search the system and bring back files with those elements in them," van Deventer continues. "Also, the process has a history file, whereby you can see exactly who has done what at what stage. This ties in with Bentley's overall approach to software and design, where we focus on components. If you are talking about what happened to a certain pump and not what happened to a certain drawing you have the kind of control that makes the process far more efficient.
"Once the legal niceties of digital signatures have been settled in the courts, document management systems will reach their full potential. It is a legal matter as to when digital signatures will carry the weight of handwritten signatures. Once this has been sorted out industry will take document management systems to their logical conclusion, where paper-based administration and information exchange is replaced by far more effective, computerised methods," van Deventer concludes.
Bentley Systems Africa
(011) 462 3546
About Bentley
Founded in 1984, Bentley Systems Incorporated is a premier technology supplier dedicated to improving the process of designing, building and operating permanent assets such as buildings, roadways, manufacturing facilities and utility and telecommunications networks. The professionals who use Bentley technology include architects, engineers, constructors and owner/operators. Bentley's MicroStation, ProjectBank and Viecon technology and services make Bentley the leader in the engineering, construction and operations market.
Bentley's annual revenues exceed $190 million, and its reach spans the globe, serving more than 300 000 professionals and over 20 000 companies and organisations. Bentley is the second-largest privately held PC software company in the United States. More than 200 000 Bentley users participate in the Bentley Select technology and service subscription programme.

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