Uniting document management and business process efficiency

Integrating an ECM repository with an ERP system has helped the government of a village in Illinois to modernize and streamline its business processes.

Paper remains part of the process, but with a business applications integration that allows for better electronic workflow, the days of an invoice languishing on someone's desk or in a storeroom somewhere are coming to a close for Mount Prospect.

Before the Village of Mount Prospect, Illinois integrated its enterprise content management (ECM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, a paper invoice would go straight to the department that had to approve it. The government's departments include police, fire, public works, human services, community development and the village manager's office. Often, the invoice just gathered dust on someone's desk rather than making its way back to finance for payment.

"Our biggest concern is the business process itself," said Joan Middleton, Mount Prospect's IT director.

Some companies use ECM software for workflow automation and social collaboration, while others want a place to store documents without drowning in paper. Somewhere in between, organizations like Mount Prospect use ECM to help centralize and streamline old-fashioned processes. Mount Prospect has used Laserfiche's ECM system mainly as a content repository since 1999 -- but the ECM gained new usefulness when integration between Laserfiche and an ERP system from New World Systems improved the government's business process efficiency.

Mount Prospect's government, an organization of about 300 people, started using New World Systems' Logos software in 2010 to process documents like invoices, bills, licenses and building permits. According to Middleton, the village soon discovered that integrating New World with Laserfiche would boost efficiency, particularly when it came to the clunky invoice approval process.

A few years ago, Middleton's organization was one of the first to request and test out the integration between Laserfiche and New World's Logos system. In June, the companies announced an official partnership.

"ECM and ERP are kind of natural complements to one another," New World VP Greg Wandrei said. "With Mount Prospect leading that charge, we did the work initially for them, and then we realized this is something we should offer as a standard product."

Centralization becomes key to efficiency

Scanning a document into Laserfiche makes it easily accessible in the New World Logos ERP system. The integration spurred Mount Prospect to centralize invoicing and remove paper from the equation as early as possible.

Now, all invoices --often paper copies -- go straight to the finance department, Middleton said. Finance scans the documents into Laserfiche and distributes them according to vendor names and numbers. Users in various departments can then see their invoices in Laserfiche and approve them using New World -- or they can complete the process via New World's interface if they're more comfortable in that system.

"I can process them in New World Systems and then I move them to a different folder in Laserfiche -- their final destination," Middleton said.

In this way, Mount Prospect has gained control over the lifecycle of documents like invoices. While the workflow isn't automated at this stage, Middleton pointed out that the centralization saves time and energy -- and makes records management neater. Rather than storing invoices in Laserfiche for retention purposes and having them floating around in the Logos database as well, it's now more intuitive for users to store a single copy of a document or record in its rightful place in Laserfiche.

Middleton also noted that the integration allows for easy content accessibility, with search enabled by metadata tagging that spans both systems. Finance currently applies metadata like the vendor ID and invoice number to documents as it scans them in.

"Even if I got a document in the wrong folder, I can still find it in a search. You can do a search within Laserfiche or you can do a search from within [New World's] Logos," Middleton said.

In Logos, accessing documents that are stored in Laserfiche involves clicking on a paperclip icon -- a nod to the world of paper, which is still a reality for local governments like Mount Prospect.

"There's always more to be scanned," Middleton said with a laugh. "This year our public works department scanned their entire file room."

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