Colligo Networks, an independent software vendor, helps customers solve information management challenges. To that end, the company builds tools to facilitate the process of migrating information into Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010. One Fortune 500 customer, Charter Communications, chose SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo Contributor Pro software as the foundation of an enterprisewide content management system that makes it easier for its employees to manage information and records. As a result, Charter improved its ability to retain institutional knowledge, eased compliance, and reduced information management costs. As a solution provider for SharePoint Server 2010, Colligo is capitalizing on an infrastructure that makes it possible to forge entry into large accounts, and has already seen a 60 percent increase in enterprisewide deployments.Situation
Colligo Networks is an independent software vendor (ISV) and Microsoft Partner Network member with Gold competency in ISV/Software. In 2004, the Vancouver, British Columbia–based company recognized the growing popularity of Microsoft SharePoint Server and felt that it could capitalize on the extensibility and flexibility of the SharePoint platform. “We conducted a thorough evaluation of collaboration and document management software and saw that Microsoft technologies held the most promise,” says Bill England, Director of Business Development at Colligo. “SharePoint Server offered a consolidated environment that solved multiple collaboration challenges. We jumped at the opportunity to take a leadership position as a SharePoint Server solution provider.”
Over the next five years, Colligo developed a line of tools that complement SharePoint Server, for instance by offering offline synchronization technology and two-way access between SharePoint Server and the Microsoft Outlook messaging and collaboration client. With the release of Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, Colligo determined that “SharePoint Server now offered enterprise-level content management capabilities,” says England, and the company made further enhancements to its products to complement and extend the inherent document and records management features of SharePoint Server 2010. “We wanted to help customers quickly take advantage of the newer version’s capabilities, including records management, to help improve their compliance processes.”
[SharePoint Server 2010] enables interoperability with third-party software like Contributor Pro, and because of this, we can help organizations consolidate records and information management on a single system.
Director of Business Development, Colligo
One such customer is Charter Communications, a Fortune 500 company and the fourth-largest cable operator in the United States. Charter employees stored information in disparate locations that included network file shares, Microsoft Exchange Server Personal Storage Table (PST) files, local hard disk drives, and departmental document management systems, as well as on Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 sites. Charter provides thorough training to its employees to ensure that messages and documents are stored according to corporate policies, but with so many disparate systems in use, the compliance process was complicated.
“None of our document management systems automated our retention activities,” explains Dan Vasey, Director of Records and Information Management at Charter Communications. For instance, to designate an email message as an official record, a user had to save the email in the MSG file format to a file share. “It was incumbent upon each user to later identify documents that had met their retention criteria and were eligible for destruction.” The save-as-MSG process also altered each message’s descriptive metadata, such as time and date stamp or sender name. “The loss of metadata made it challenging for employees to search for and quickly find what they were looking for later,” says Vasey.
Furthermore, Charter requires that employees store company files on shared network drives, and not on the hard disk drives of their personal computers or mobile devices. “This can be frustrating for our remote workers,” says Vasey. “The process to check documents in and out was tedious, so some employees resorted to using email as a repository.” The reliance on email for storing and sending documents, and the proliferation of network shares, resulted in a high number of duplicate files on the Charter corporate network—approximately 21 terabytes of data, total. “We consumed a lot of storage, and it can be difficult to find information in this large and unstructured environment.”
Charter wanted to simplify compliance processes and make it easier for users to work with and share documents outside of the corporate network, but, like many companies, it also wanted to reduce the impact of introducing a new technology or business process to its employees. Explains Randy Halischuk, Director of Marketing Communications at Colligo, “Charter wanted to minimize the learning curve, to ensure 100 percent user acceptance. That required implementing the capabilities they needed within the same, familiar environment to which their users were accustomed.”Solution
In early 2010, Charter evaluated a range of enterprise content management systems, including solutions from EMC Documentum, FileNet, IBM, and Microsoft—specifically, SharePoint Server 2010. It also considered applying an external layer of records and information management capabilities to the document management systems in use. “But the amount of development work required was cost-prohibitive,” says Vasey. “We wanted to take advantage of our existing investment in SharePoint Server, and we determined that SharePoint Server 2010 was a viable solution to meet our enterprise content management needs,” says Vasey.
Charter was attracted by SharePoint Server 2010 in-place records management features and flexible retention schedules. Charter also evaluated software from Colligo, which complemented SharePoint Server 2010 because it allowed users to move email messages and documents into SharePoint sites seamlessly. “We felt that the familiar, easy-to-use tools that SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo provided would be readily accepted by users,” says Vasey.
From September 2010 to January 2011, Charter conducted a proof-of-concept implementation using SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo Contributor Pro, the software that allows users to easily migrate email messages and documents into SharePoint Server 2010. Contributor Pro works in three ways: as an add-in for Outlook; as an extension to Windows Explorer; and as a stand-alone client for managing metadata and providing online and offline access to remote employees. Approximately 30 Charter users experimented with the solution, using it to designate email messages as official records and store them in SharePoint Server 2010, and to manage documents in SharePoint Server 2010 document libraries from Outlook or their desktop folders. “We had very positive feedback,” says Vasey.
Following the proof of concept, Charter began to upgrade its corporate intranet to SharePoint Server 2010. The new environment is called COIN, which stands for Charter Online Information Network. Developers used the Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 development system and Microsoft SharePoint Designer 2010 to apply custom branding, including the COIN logo and color themes, to the intranet pages. Colligo helped Charter apply the same branding to the Contributor Pro software, which is easy to deploy, does not require server installation, is available as a 10 megabyte download, and interacts with SharePoint Server 2010 using standard web service calls.
Charter is taking a phased approach to its deployment. In 2011, it will begin to move its enterprise content from network files shares, its dispersed document management systems, and its older SharePoint sites to SharePoint 2010. By early 2012, nearly 7,000 employees will use the new system. Managing Email Messages and Documents
In the new environment, Charter employees use Colligo drag-and-drop functionality to move email messages or attachments (such as Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, or PDFs) into a SharePoint Server 2010 repository, directly from Outlook. Using the Colligo software, employees also migrate files from network file shares to SharePoint Server 2010. Users feel as though they are simply moving files among folders in Windows Explorer, though they are actually moving files from network file shares to SharePoint sites. “The Windows Explorer extension for Contributor Pro exposes SharePoint Server 2010 in a desktop window. From a user perspective, this requires little training or adjustment,” explains England.
As a user moves an item to a SharePoint site, the Contributor Pro software automatically extracts descriptive metadata and transfers it along with the item. The software also enables users to easily add additional metadata to the file or email message. Charter takes advantage of SharePoint Server 2010 content types and managed metadata to automatically apply the proper retention policies to an item. For instance, if a user applies the content type “contract” to a document, the document is classified and stored as an official record, with retention policies that determine how long the document will be held. “SharePoint Server 2010 content types and the Colligo metadata capabilities make records management compliance transparent to users,” says Vasey.
||We wanted to help customers quickly take advantage of the newer version’s capabilities, including records management, to help improve their compliance processes.
Director of Business Development at Colligo
SharePoint Server 2010 managed metadata capabilities also help users find information. For instance, Charter can centrally define taxonomies in SharePoint Server 2010 for its enterprise content, and easily manage and apply tags to documents, to ensure consistent use of terminology and better search results. Charter employees can then search from within Outlook because Colligo integrates with SharePoint 2010 Search, enabling users to quickly locate email messages, documents, and information. Managing Paper-Based Records
SharePoint Server 2010 easily accommodates connection to third-party software such as Colligo. Charter will use another third-party tool to manage its paper documents, enabling users to create and virtually manage paper documents within the same SharePoint sites they use to manage electronic documents. The same metadata management capabilities described above are available for these files. “This allows us to bring paper documents into the structured environment of SharePoint Server 2010,” says Vasey. Users have the ability to transfer the documents to others or even to and from offsite storage or third-party vendors from within the SharePoint Server 2010 environment.
Accessing Information Offline
The Colligo solution supports local caching, which means that users can easily work with SharePoint Server 2010-based documents and information, regardless of their network connectivity. “Our users really value this feature, especially for those documents that don’t require a version-controlled environment,” says Vasey. With offline access to SharePoint sites, employees can open a document from within Outlook, edit the document, and synchronize it back to the SharePoint site once reconnected. Colligo caching capabilities also enable remote users to manage email messages from smartphones and other mobile devices.
By using Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo Contributor Pro software, Charter Communications built an enterprise content management environment that simplifies administration of and access to documents and records and eases compliance. The solution has been readily accepted by users and helps Charter reduce its information management costs. SharePoint Server 2010 also helps Colligo maximize its revenues, because it helps the company gain entry to enterprise-level accounts.
Simplifies Information Management, Eases Compliance
Customers use SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo software to more easily manage unstructured enterprise information, such as email messages, documents, spreadsheets, and PDFs. The Colligo solution provides a streamlined system for moving these messages and files into SharePoint Server 2010, and companies like Charter capitalize on this functionality to better preserve institutional knowledge and make records management easy and transparent to users. With information in a central, searchable location, users can find key data more quickly, and can thus draw on past knowledge more successfully.
“SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo help to speed the decision-making process. Users have better access to relevant information, because they can reach all of it through a single interface,” says Vasey. “They don’t have to search among file shares, document management systems, and local folders to find what they are looking for—it’s all right there in COIN.”
Where records management is concerned, Charter is confident that it has built a records and information management environment that automates the compliance process to the point that it is transparent to employees. “The SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo tool set has helped us achieve our goal of making records management so easy that employees will do it every day with minimal effort on their part,” says Vasey.
Minimizes Costs, Maximizes Return on Investment
||SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo help to speed the decision-making process. Users have better access to relevant information, because they can reach all of it through a single interface.
Director of Records and Information Management, Charter Communications
By consolidating systems into one SharePoint Server environment, Colligo customers save on licensing as well as maintenance, support, and development. “On average, our customers experience a 50 percent IT cost savings when they move to SharePoint Server 2010,” says England.
Charter experienced a significant cost-avoidance when it chose SharePoint Server 2010 and Colligo software. “Had we left all of our dispersed document management systems in place and applied records and information management technology to them, we would have experienced much higher costs for software, hardware, and IT administration,” says Vasey. The new environment greatly simplifies and streamlines Charter information management activities. For instance, Charter anticipates that it will reduce its 21 terabyte data stores by 50 percent by eliminating duplicate files on the network, which will simplify storage administration and make it easier for users to find information. The company also anticipates a reduction in information sharing through email if the system is used as designed, because users will share the URL of documents on SharePoint sites rather than the actual document, through email.
Customers not only experience cost savings but also a higher return on their investment in SharePoint Server. England continues, “SharePoint Server 2010 delivers advanced enterprise content management capabilities. The solution enables interoperability with third-party software like Contributor Pro, and because of this, we can help organizations consolidate records and information management on a single system. Many of our customers already have SharePoint Server implemented, and can extend it much further to solve other challenges and reap additional benefits.” Boosts Growth and Revenues
Colligo has taken advantage of SharePoint Server 2010 to gain customers in new industries and win enterprise-level accounts. “SharePoint Server 2010 is a mature solution that we see in more and more enterprisewide deployments rather than smaller, departmental deployments,” says Halischuk. “Because of this, our average order size increases from a few hundred seats in a department to several thousand seats deployed across the enterprise.”
By using Colligo as a complementary technology to SharePoint Server 2010, enterprise customers benefit from a low-cost, effective records and information management solution that people can access from the tools they use every day—such as Outlook and Windows Explorer. “SharePoint Server 2010 is truly an enterprise-grade application, and because of that, it has taken us into a number of new areas and accounts,” says England. “Enhancements to metadata management, the Records Center, and support for large list sizes means that this solution can go head-to-head with other enterprise solutions. The evolution and growing popularity of SharePoint Server has helped us grow our company. Every day, SharePoint Server 2010 helps us pull in more customers, increasing and expanding our accounts.”
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 is the business collaboration platform for the enterprise and the web.
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