Australian Central Credit Union adopts Dv TDM
Australian Central Credit Union is a Credit Union based in Adelaide serving all of South Australia and Northern Territory. Like many financial institutions it has numerous statutory reporting obligations as well as many internal needs for continually reporting and monitoring its operations, and obligations to hold all data for several years. Many of the reports are quite voluminous and have to be generated a very frequent intervals, often daily. Hence a very large volume of documents accumulates in current use, and even more in archival storage.
Storing a large volume of paper documents has become a major expense. Most of the non-current material has to be stored at some off-site archiving facility because of the limited and costly office space at a city headquarters location. Maintaining an effective indexing system to all this volume of paper documents stored in various locations is a major task in itself, but essential since reference to particular documents is always likely to be needed at a moment's notice.
The obvious answer to the indexing need is some form of electronic system that allows fast searches by any criteria. It can then show exactly where the paper documents are stored. But if the data itself can be stored electronically, the system can deliver instant access to it. Document data in electronic form can be stored very much more compactly and eliminate or at least greatly reduce the need for off-site storage. Hence, even when the data involved is not so current as to be held in an instant retrieval database system, Access to electronic archival data can be gained extremely quickly.
The Australian Central Credit Union has a computer network with about 100 users at the Adelaide Head Office. This runs on a mixture of Windows 2000 and Windows NT4 computers. Much of the records for Credit Union members, such as statements, are stored in a database system on the network.
The Australian Central Credit Union management decided that it was time to implement an electronic document management system to index the paper document storage, and to then move towards wholly electronic storage of all data. As a first phase they proposed to implement a system to handle the reporting documents.
They worked out a set of key requirements and invited offers from software vendors. Three offers were accepted for detailed evaluation. To provide a realistic evaluation environment, a dummy database was set up by copying some of the data from the present system. The evaluation team installed each product with the assistance of its vendor, and had some staff trained in its use. They spent about a month setting up and operating each test system. The three systems were evaluated for ease of implementation and configuration to the business's needs, time needed to train set-up and operational staff, effectiveness and scope of its search and retrieval facilities, and the ease with which system changes could be made after the system was in use without upsetting the data and without needing costly expert consultants. The cost and benefits were also assessed, particularly regarding long term on-going costs of maintenance and system refinement, and the likely ‘pay back' period – the time when the savings in operational costs would cover the initial implementation costs. Another factor considered was whether the new system could make use of the same database system that was already in use, and also migrate to the proposed server-based data system later on without problems.
The result of the evaluation of the three systems was clearly in favour of Dv TDM produced by Practical Programs Pty Ltd, and that system was adopted. It was supplied by the Adelaide company, Scan Services, who provided plenty of set-up assistance and initial staff training. There is always a rather laborious initial set-up period when adopting any new data system because of having to enter all the backlog of historical data. Dv TDM provides various tools to minimize that task and with assistance from Scan Services, it was accomplished with ‘a minimum of fuss', as they say.
The backup and archival storage of documents is done by saving the scans to DVD-R disks. Scans of black-&-white text documents, which are the vast majority, produce quite small data files with the usual compressed data formats, and DVD-R disks hold data so compactly that there is little need for any off-site storage except for security backups. Those are held off-site to guard against fire and similar disasters. The long-term archival storage of data on DVD or CD does not need elaborate environmental precautions, as the disks only need to be kept away from major heat and sunlight. Magnetic and most radiation fields are not a problem.
The features of the Dv TDM system that particularly appealed to the Central Credit Union are:
- Easy system implementation and set-up,
- Strong security controls,
- Minimal user training needed,
- Easy configuration to suit local needs, without requiring expert contractors,
- Ability to alter data configurations, screen forms and add facilities after the system is established without upsetting existing data and without needing expert help,
- Ability to function using their existing database system (Access) and to change to using their proposed system (SQL/Server) at a later time without any need for re-entering data or redefining the set-up data,
- Unrestricted scalability to provide for future growth without needing any disruptive change to a different system,
- Ability to operate across a distributed wide-area-network if the Credit Union should move to such a system,
- Ability to provide user access with full security from workstations without any special software installed or from remote dial-in locations, using only a web browser,
- Ability to manage a mix of paper and electronic storage.
The system was evaluated after a year's operation, and received a very favourable report. As a result, the Credit Union has embarked upon Phase 2 – which includes using the same system for handling on-line access to membership and loan applications within the internal network.
The Credit Union's adoption of the Dv TDM system has achieved all its aims and has done so with very little difficulty during the potentially challenging early stages. The established system is proving its usefulness and living up to all its claims of ease of operation and maintenance, and of cost savings. Its value lies both in providing reliable, secure data access and in the cost reductions that result from quick access and reducing
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