Like any police force, the Italian Railway Police (Polizia Ferroviaria, or Polfer) needs to create and store a tremendous number of documents subject to government regulations, and retrieve them at need under strict security. In the past, this was done using paper documents and manual filing systems.
To complicate matters, Polfer has approval processes for archiving documents, for recording charges filed, and for recording verdicts. These processes are not completely standardized, and not only vary from department to department, but change periodically.
Since filing was manual, searching for relevant information was often a problem for inspectors. This problem was exacerbated by the Polfer’s distributed geography: railway police departments are located in 15 cities throughout Italy. After all, Polfer has more than 5,000 officers, and is responsible for protecting 2,500 stations and patrolling 16,000 kilometers of track and 8,000 trains every day. The railway police help to ensure that trains operate safely and on time, in a country where 500 million passengers use the rail network every year.
That very mobility was a problem: a paper record stored in Naples could easily be relevant to a theft that happened on a train near Palermo. Polfer desperately needed electronic records that could be searched and accessed by railway police throughout Italy; of course, it also needed those records to be secure, to be available only to authorized personnel, and to have an auditable approval workflow.
Polfer had already invested in a very successful automated CCTV monitoring system based on Microsoft® technologies. Polfer evaluated several possible solutions for an electronic document system, but the solution that offered the most flexibility and ability to customize the approval and archiving process was one based on SharePoint® Portal Server 2003 and Windows® Workflow Foundation (WF), with workflow and Web site state persistence supplied by Microsoft SQL Server™ 2000.
There was a perceived technical risk because WF was still in beta-test, but that was outweighed by the advantages offered by WF: persistent states, flexible workflows, and easy-to-use graphical tools for defining workflows. Polfer engaged Microsoft Consulting Services to develop its document management system.
SharePoint provides the Web presentation and document storage layers of this solution. WF controls the approval flow, creates Web pages on demand to secure human approval for an action, and controls SharePoint actions through a Web service.
MCS developed the Web service that controls SharePoint. The Web service completely isolates the document management system from SharePoint 2003-specific interfaces, so that the system can easily be upgraded in the future to Office SharePoint Server 2007. MCS also developed a custom host for WF, a custom workflow designer, and custom activities that can be used by Polfer analysts to define new approval workflows and bind them to document processes on the SharePoint portal.
The SharePoint archive uses a complex structure of labels, folders and archived documents, which faithfully mimics the preexisting manual system. In addition, the electronic system adds useful features like cross-field and full-text searches.
The document management system was deployed in May, 2006 and is now in production. Additional features are planned for later in the summer. In addition, MCS will be extending the system from the Railway Police to other Italian Police Corps within the Department of Public Security, and porting it to Office SharePoint Server 2007.
In the new document management system, Polfer has obtained an electronic archive that makes its approval processes much more efficient and enables its inspectors to find documents much more quickly and easily. Polfer can now control and customize the approval process for every action performed in the document archive, every action has an audit trail, security is enforced automatically, and documents are much less likely to become lost or corrupted. Ultimately, all of this will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Railway Police, and make the railways safer for staff and passengers alike.
- Improved approval efficiency. Instead of passing physical documents around the station and possibly the country for approval, the Polfer document management system now generates Web pages with the proper security and authorization credentials for each approval, and notifies each approver.
- Faster and easier document searching. Documents are stored electronically and indexed within SharePoint. Inspectors can not only search by names, dates, and locations, they can search across multiple fields, and search in the full text of stored documents.
- Custom approval processes. Polfer analysts can use custom activities in a custom workflow designer (developed by MCS) to create workflows that control document processes on the SharePoint portal. The analysts do not need to write any code; all the necessary code has already been written for each custom activity.
- Automatic security and audit trail. Every user of the document management system must authenticate to SharePoint, which then applies role-based security to every action taken. Each action taken by the system and each approval granted is logged for future auditing.
- More efficient police work. As a result of the document management system, the Italian railway police will be able to spend more of their time on police work, and less of their time on paper work.
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