The cabinet

Belhasa’s IT manager was surprised to discover that the construction firm was still using filing cabinets to store crucial documents – and decided to replace it with a document management systems. ACN reports.

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By  Imthishan Giado Published  September 7, 2008

Belhasa’s IT manager was surprised to discover that the construction firm was still using filing cabinets to store crucial documents – and decided to replace it with a document management systems. ACN reports.

“When I joined my company in 2006, I saw one big file cabinet in the corner. I wondered why our people were still using cabinets and manually searching for documents. If the accounts or purchasing people wanted to find one single invoice, they would have to spend more than 15 minutes searching for it,” says Mostafa Raziq, IT manager at Belhasa.

This observation of obvious inefficiency eventually led Raziq to implement a document management system (DMS) from VisiDocs to solve the problem of managing his ever-growing collection of documents.

“As everybody knows, the contracting business is booming – and our document sizes are as well, we are talking about millions of pages here. I did some market research and met four or five vendors and eventually settled on the ViciDocs system because the service was very good and they provide very good technical support for us. The solution is also very stable, so there aren’t too many headaches in this software. The price was also a strong factor in the choice of this system,” states Raziq.

He explains that the complete project took four months to complete, from September 2007 to January 2008, at a cost of $16300 for ten users, with three individuals from VisiDocs supplementing Raziq’s own team to complete the installation. Quite simply, says Raziq, the key driver behind the new system was a desire to save the physical space wasted by cabinets.

“The biggest reason is that we could save space – there was no need to keep all these cabinets in our office. I want to make my people’s life easier – if they want to search for any document, they should be able to find it right away. I convinced our management to go for it,” he says.

But in actuality, as Raziq notes, convincing management would not prove to be that easy.

“It’s a hard concept to explain. It’s very hard to change the culture of the users – they’ve been using this system for 20 years! But our manager likes technology, supported us and gave a very big push for this. However, if you want to do a system like this, you have to start gradually, you cannot do it suddenly. We are currently trialling the workflow system between our general manager, his security staff, our network co-ordinator and I, and if it turns out fine, we will expand it to the 85 desks in our head office,” he says.

Before selecting the VisiDocs system, Raziq looked at quotations from a number of other document management vendors. Several quotations focused on the price tag of the system, which he explains was not what he was looking for at all.

“One such quotation was about $68000 for the same size of work. But the most important thing for me was service and technical support. We didn’t want to take a solution which might have a problem afterwards and with which nobody could support me afterwards. So before talking about price, I was looking for good service and support. If these people gave me good technical support and have a good history in these kinds of solutions, we will talk about it. If they don’t, I will not discuss anything further with them,” he explains.

While the implementation of any DMS can be challenging, Raziq say that his team’s inexperience with implementing these kinds of systems almost condemned them before they had even started.

“We faced two main issues: where will we start from, and how will we do it? We began from our general manager’s decision to not scan the whole archive but just one year old documents, since we have millions of documents dating back to 1981. But I’m an IT man, not a secretary, so I didn’t know how the filing was done, so we met with our administration office to show us how the documents were filed. We copied the manual system to the new digital version,” he says.

A single high speed scanner was used to digitise the myriad contracts, agreements and passport copies Belhasa had in paper form. Once downloaded into the system, the hard copies were shifted to the firm’s permanent store based in the Ramool district in Dubai, where they will always be available if needed.

With the completion of the document management installation, Raziq is now looking forward to upgrading its feature set with other available options.

“Next, we are planning to add workflow to the system. VisiDocs have a workflow system which is compatible with our infrastructure. I could bring another one from our system, but if VisiDocs already have a compatible one, it’s better to take from them. But we are really still only in the demo stage, to be very honest. It depends on our GM’s time because he’s a busy man – and I want him to be involved in this,” he says.

But one element remains at the head office – the old filing cabinet which was the impetus for installing the system in the first place.

“That cabinet is still there – but I’ll tell you why. Unfortunately, in UAE, you must keep the original copy of the document, because they will not consider the scanned copy as legally acceptable as an orginal copy, unlike the United States,” he states.

Even though he’s failed to banish the cabinet from the halls of Belhasa Engineering, Raziq says he’s still satisfied with what the firm has achieved: “When I look at the admin console for this system and I see a lot of people doing searches for agreements and so on, I feel very happy. We have 20 users in our head office who count on this system completely. They are not going to the file cabinet any more!”

Belhasa Engineering’s IT systems

Operating Systems:
Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition

Routers: 3Com, Cisco

Servers: IBM

Notebooks: HP, Toshiba

ERP: Horizon

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