Automation of Document Flow in a Large Design Company

Summary

A large European energy company faced the problem of automated document flow involving several levels of access rights. The work cycle on a typical project is three to five years. These projects generate vast amounts of work product and complementary documentation. There are many different document versions and different access rights further compounding each project’s complexity. In addition, the Client needed a convenient solution for teamwork on documents, including offline collaboration.

We implemented a solution based on the SharePoint Online platform which offered a complete solution to the Client’s tasks. As a result, the Client received an appropriate and flexible solution. One that provided fast and accurate searches of huge collections of documents, facilitated the work of specialists, and enabled employees to work with projects offline without violating safety regulations.

Client

A large European energy company with an average project duration of three to five years. The number of employees is approximately 1,000 people.

Problems:

Prior to the introduction of automation, the Client used the Dropbox file storage system, which was used as a “folder in the cloud” to store documents and work with them. This made it impossible or inconvenient to work concurrently, to search, or to create new documents based on templates in Dropbox. As a result, documents were lost, conflicts arose over current and earlier document versions, and experts wasted considerable time solving these problems.

Project Goals

To suggest a solution which enabled the Client to store huge collections of documents complete with integration of a quick search function.
The following functions were envisaged:

  • Viewing of documents and their versions for each project.
  • Checking the availability of equivalent documents in the system when downloading newones.
  • Finding documents using the related information search and metadata.
  • Generating templates (creating documents based on specific templates).
  • Teamwork on documents.
  • Differentiation of access rights to documents, in accordance with security requirements.

In addition, it was necessary to develop and implement applications that would enable employees to work with the system offline (for example, those on business trips or working remotely).

What Did We Do?

We implemented an appropriate cloud-based solution using the SharePoint Online platform. The result was a completely managed, controlled and configurable system, unlike the Dropbox file storage system, which is a simple folder in the cloud.
Project results



The SharePoint Online implementation automated document flow and made the work with project documents easier for company employees.


We configured the SharePoint Online platform to eliminate any loss of documents. We also ensured that any version of a document could be accessed promptly. Searches based on a description or metadata could now be performed instantly.


Company employees began to understand the essence of the document work process using:

  1. A search.
  2. Document tags (addition of metadata).
  3. Document templates.

Other functions ensured the possibility for document collaboration offline. Previously, when working concurrently on the same document, employees could not be sure which version had been saved. The previous system simply saved the latest version of a document with the same name, replacing the original file completely. After automation, the system either merged the changes into a single document or notified the user about the conflict, leaving the final decision to their discretion.

Task 1 – Development and Implementation of the Sales Portal

The Sales Portal enabled the Client to:

  • Automate the preparation and issue of commercial offers.
  • Apply a price quote system for automatic correction and price verification, depending on the customer location.
  • Automate the receipt of current purchase prices from vendors.

Result:
The development and implementation of an automated process of price verification and substitution in commercial offers supplied the solution. The time required for the preparation and issue of a commercial offer was reduced from several days to 5–10 days minimum.

Task 2 – Development and Implementation of an E-Signature Portal

The E-Signature Portal enabled the Client to:

  • Automate contract preparation when a customer has accepted a commercial offer and wants to make a purchase.
  • Eliminate the need for manual data transfer from a commercial offer to a contract.
  • Connect a billing system that was developed for the Client’s needs.

Result:

The development and implementation of an automated process of price verification and substitution in commercial offers supplied the solution. The time required for the preparation and issue of a commercial offer was reduced from several days to 5–10 days minimum.

Task 3 – Development and implementation of a Purchase Portal

The Purchase Portal enabled the Client to:

  •  Standardize the purchase procedure.
  • Automate the approval of purchase orders at a fixed price.
  • Exclude the possibility of purchases at a higher price without approval.
  • Systematize information on all purchases, using the “what, from whom, when, at what price” template.

Result:

The Client is a reseller of hardware and software purchased from other vendors. It was therefore important:

  • To create a purchase procedure for goods up to a certain price, including automation and simplification.
  • To introduce additional regulation for purchases above a certain price.

To achieve this an algorithm that displays roles and statuses when approving and completing purchases was implemented.

Task 4 – Development and Implementation of an Installation Portal

The Installation Portal enabled the Client to:

  • Systematize the work of engineers and project managers.
  • Synchronize equipment connection requests with the conclusion of an agreement for its purchase.
  • Synchronize technical support with subscription fees.
  • Link payments to service engineers to provide evidence of work performed under contracts.
  • End the transfer of project documentation hard copies.

Result:

Requests for the connection and set-up of equipment (for example, IP telephony) are now sent to the engineers immediately after a customer signs a contract. This ended any loss of information or undue transfer of information between the sales and service engineering departments. The regulation of time in both commissioning activities and technical support significantly reduced the amount of time between lead receipt and payment.

Project Results

Powerful automation of the company’s core business processes from sales, to the installation of equipment, and payment of invoices increased the total work efficiency of the company with respect to its customers. In addition, the transition to this new management system and its four mutually integrated portals:

  • Accelerated the implementation of projects.
  • Led to faster payment of invoices.
  • Increased the customer loyalty with these improvements in service.

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