Structured Document Management in Education

Dr Anna Dynan - CITPhilip O'Reilly - CIT

In today’s digital information age, colleges are grappling with an enormous overload of data. Often this data are stored in documents and the lifecycle of these documents depends hugely on the need for collaboration. This data can be categorised on a simple spectrum; data which requires control and data which does not. Along this spectrum are varying degrees of control.

The issue for the education sector is that vendors are trying to pitch the high control, high management solutions such as SharePoint or Documentum as a “one size fits all”, when it fact it is not that simple. At the opposite end of the spectrum are solutions like Dropbox and OneDrive which have proliferated in the education sector. Neither are these a “one size fits all”. Thus, education needs to find a balance between documents that require control (and the associated management overhead that goes with it) and documents that do not require control. Every staff member in education invariably works with both types of documents but doesn’t want to have to deal with two separate systems.

CIT has recognised this challenge and has embarked on a project to address the issue. We have started at the high control end of the spectrum and clearly defined what is suitable for this stage of the project (e.g. formal governance groups like governing body and its sub-committees). Once we have addressed the high end of the spectrum, only then will we look to the journey to the left.

When a structured document passes through a number of different users and changes are made, it is difficult to track who has changed what and where the most up to date version of the document is stored. Document Management (DM) systems allow businesses to control the production, storage, revision and distribution of electronic documents, creating greater efficiencies in document flow control and information re-use. As an immediate deliverable, the Finance Sub-Committee of Governing Body was used as the pilot governance group.
As a result of this project, an external online collaboration space is in place enabling external and internal staff to access structured college documentation in a secure online environment. Functionality in this environment includes the ability to control access, facilitate project discussions, add comments, and maintain versions. Automatic notifications are available, alerting staff when content is waiting review or approval.

This presentation will look at the transition from the traditional system to the new structured document management system. The issues surrounding this transition will be highlighted as well as addressing the location and ownership of this data, with a focus on terms such as functional ownership, governance and information architecture.
Key to the success of this project has been the managerial support of this project. The lessons learned from this project are informative about the experiences of other colleges dealing with similar challenges.