West Chester University’s Facilities Division was storing construction and maintenance-related project documentation on a shared server, which made it difficult to find and access the right information, especially from outside of the department. Collective
Intelligence, a Microsoft partner in collaboration with WCU’s Information Services’ Web team developed a Business-Critical SharePoint solution for the University by connecting SharePoint to line-of-business (LOB) applications. Now people within and outside
the division are able to access AutoCAD drawings via SharePoint, which improves search across several systems, visibility into project status, and cross-departmental productivity.
|West Chester University
West Chester University, located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, United States is recognized for its academic excellence and superior educational environment. The University takes pride in the quality of its Technology Services as well as campus facilities
and both of their contributions to the overall student learning experience. The West Chester University Facilities Division has responsibility for all construction and maintenance of the University’s buildings and physical infrastructure.
Documents Stored in Multiple Locations
The Facilities Division was lacking the ability to access important construction and maintenance information in a timely manner due to the volume of information stored in multiple locations. According to West Chester University Director of Content and Web
Services, Kimberly Slattery, the Facilities Division was initially using a shared server to store all of the division’s files and project documentation. This documentation tracked all projects on campus, from small work orders to new building construction.
Having over 140GB of data on this server made it very difficult to find the right data when someone needed to search for something specific. Some documents were being duplicated and stored in multiple locations on the server and there was little control on
the creation and location of folders. A fair number of documents wound up in a folder called “Other” rather than in the appropriate folder when a user wasn’t sure where to store the document. When anybody outside of this department needed access to facility-related
information, they had to rely on Facilities Division personnel to pull the information.
The University realized that it needed a better way to store and manage the massive amount of information generated by the Facilities Division and called on Collective Intelligence, a Microsoft partner, for assistance. The first task was to work with the
Facilities Division to develop a formal business process for projects from conception to completion. This was no easy feat as consultants spent hours engaging with each member of the department outlining all details and how members were currently handling
their documents. After thoroughly evaluating the findings, Collective Intelligence recommended a Business-Critical SharePoint solution where Microsoft SharePoint is connected with LOB applications, including AutoCAD®.
AutoCAD is used extensively by the Facilities Division and managing its output files is very important. A client side software plugin was implemented to facilitate AutoCAD working with SharePoint. The plugin enabled AutoCAD drawings to be integrated into
a SharePoint document library including the following functions: open, save, check- in and out, and version control. This provided the Facilities project team members with easy access to AutoCAD drawings and related files via the user-friendly SharePoint interface.
Streamlined Project Process
Collective Intelligence designed a SharePoint site to streamline the project process with the use of Document Set libraries. As a starting point, the folder structure on the old Facilities server was used to create the SharePoint site. A document set is
similar to a folder but with better organizational capabilities. Every document that corresponds to a project is now stored in the project document set and can be viewed when the document set is opened. This is much easier and more efficient than opening folders
to view documents.
Dashboards on Real-Time Project Status
Scripts were also developed to automate the process of migrating information from the legacy folder system to the new SharePoint system which helped to accelerate the implementation process. Additionally, web parts were implemented to select and filter information,
as well as, provide a mechanism to attach comments to individual projects. Workflows were developed to evaluate document fields and create consistent metadata tags. Dashboards were created to allow managers to easily access and view the status of open projects
reducing the need to call or email others about the status.
Because documents were spread across multiple file shares with inconsistent naming conventions, finding critical documents related to a project was sometimes difficult and quite time consuming. This issue was addressed with SharePoint’s powerful document
search capability. In addition to adding metadata tags to all documents including AutoCAD files, a “Search Center” was constructed with selectable search scopes.
The Facilities Division has realized numerous benefits from the Business-Critical SharePoint implementation including better project tracking and control, as well as, enhanced project collaboration. Both of which have contributed significantly to improved
project delivery. With the new project collaboration capabilities, project managers can access the site from anywhere on or off campus and from any computer.
Fast and Refined Search Results
The new Search Center facilitated finding related project documents, as well as, refining and ranking the search results. The significantly reduced access time to documents, drawing, and collateral material delivered by the enhanced search capability proved
to be a major benefit to the Facilities Division.
Accelerating and Automating Processes
Collective Intelligence is currently developing workflows for the University to make some approval procedures more efficient, thus eliminating paper copies and the need to walk documents from one office to another for signatures.
Additionally, with the construction project portion of the site completed, individual departmental sites are being created; Design and Construction, Facilities Management, and Financial & Support Services. These sites will contain libraries and workflows
unique to the departments. West Chester University employees outside of the division who have access permission can work within the sites from anywhere on or off campus and from any computer. It is anticipated that this enhanced ability to collaborate will
increase productivity by eliminating the need for individuals outside of the Facilities Division to rely on Facilities Division employees for information. Overall, the Facilities Division has been very pleased with their SharePoint implementation and the improved
efficiency and productivity gains it has delivered.
Business-Critical SharePoint (BCSP) is a Microsoft partner program that includes top solution and service providers who focus on advanced SharePoint scenarios, including Line-of-Business connectivity
and Enterprise Search.
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