Successfully completing a project that involves document sharing can be difficult when all participants work under the same roof and nearly impossible if the individuals involved are in multiple, geographically disparate locations. This is precisely what spurred InVision Learning to seek out and implement a document collaboration tool.
A certified, woman-owned developer of custom online learning (e-learning) applications and courseware, InVision's roster of solutions includes customer courses, course development templates, learning engines, and strategic consulting. In 2006, one of InVision's clients — a major aviation equipment manufacturer — engaged it to develop several hundred e-learning modules. The latter had been commissioned to deliver the courseware to its own government client as part of a larger deal.
"At the time, we were organizing and tracking most documents manually, but we knew that it wouldn't work for a project of this magnitude," recalls Lori Biele, founder and CEO of InVision. "The scope of the project was going to be enormous — some 500 individual courses, with multiple files for each course — from storyboards to text and graphics. Three different organizations — InVision, the aviation company, and the government client — were going to be involved in various aspects of the courseware development, review, and approval process. There was no question that we would need comprehensive document management technology to stay on top of it all."
WANTED: INTERNET-BASED SOLUTION
To ensure the right fit, Biele and her colleagues drew up a list of requirements for the application they would ultimately select. "It was critical the solution allow us to route project documents and files for review and approval by designated individuals at each stage of the project," she states. "The solution also had to be Internet based, for easy accessibility by team members all over the country. It had to record a visible audit trail for each project task and provide different users with varying degrees of access to documentation — something that's always important, but especially so when you're dealing with government clients. It also had to be flexible, to accommodate any possible midstream changes in the review and approval process."
She adds that the solution needed to be so flexible and easily configurable that InVision could meet the client's mandate to complete deployment within a matter of weeks. The company evaluated several different products, eventually selecting the EMC Documentum eRoom solution from EMC Software and tapping Daybreak Intellectual Capital Solutions, a third party integrator, to configure it for the project. Implementation occurred in August 2006.
"eRoom was the only product that would give us the flexibility and configurability we needed, without requiring a months-long configuration process," Biele says. "With Daybreak doing our configuration work, we had the solution up and running within two weeks of making our initial selection."
The system resides on a server at InVision's hosting facility in Westborough, MA. Upon logging in to the Web-based, password-protected collaboration site from any computer, users see a dashboard containing their tasks list and links to whichever documents or files they are permitted to access. Users' roles, responsibilities, and access rights are assigned and modified by an InVision administrator and vary in accordance with such factors as level within the company or the client firm and involvement in individual facets of the project.
An ActiveX feature lets users upload content in "drag-and-drop" fashion, without clicking an upload button. A wide range of documents may be uploaded and shared, among them Word documents; Excel spreadsheets; 3D models; and .jpg, .png, and PDF files, as well as compressed .pif files that include finished Flash-based training modules. "The collaborative space contains a separate area for each course, to keep things organized," Biele says.
Depending on their assigned roles and responsibilities, team members review, revise, and put their stamp of approval on files within the collaborative Web site. "The workflow structure is set up so that people can view and add to projects-within-projects," Biele notes. For example, graphics for one course can be evaluated and worked on at the same time other elements of the course are going through the quality assurance process. Just as significantly, provisions for new approval steps can — and have — been added to the solution in line with the client's requests. "The configuration is such that we've often been able to integrate new steps ourselves. Daybreak has helped with others," Biele states.
KEEPING UP WITH THE SCHEDULE
Biele says the eRoom solution was instrumental in keeping the project on track for completion within the specified deadline. "Not only did it streamline the course creation process by allowing for easier collaboration, it allowed us to keep strict tabs on who was looking at files and entering changes, whether revisions were happening when they were supposed to, how long things were taking, and more, so we could be proactive throughout the endeavor," she asserts. "You can't put a price on that."
InVision currently does not use eRoom with any other clients, but may do so in the future, Biele says. Meanwhile, the aviation company has approached the firm about enlisting the solution in collaborating on courseware creation for some portions of its internal training department.