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The Digital Advantage

A district saves money and improves security with its new document management system. 

Of all the issues schools face these days, from new standards to allowing students to use their own technology in class to worrying about what food is served in the cafeteria, paperwork would seem to rank low on anyone's list. But if you could save money and improve the security of your information, as Portland Public Schools has been doing in Oregon, you might be tempted to take a second look at how you handle some of the millions of documents that enter your district each year.

Portland first addressed this problem when puzzling over how to deal with documents related to its nearly 7,000 students with disabilities. Not only is the paperwork generated for each case voluminous, but privacy is also a major concern. The district solved both problems by switching to a system that allows psychologists, specialists, and teachers to prepare, share, archive, and retrieve important student documents online.

In the past, student documents were stored in folders at the central office, then copied and sent to various schools when requested, explains Ramzi Adas, the district's manager for imaging services. The department experimented by sending documents to a vendor that scanned and indexed them on a DVD. The district's IT department then copied the contents of the disc to its network drive. But the documents could not be revised or secured. Ultimately, the district turned to Fortis, a document management solution.

"Instead of having a person scan and index documents, we have a middle product that can read and interpret those documents, automatically indexing them into the system," Adas explains. "The end user doesn't need to know where that document is going or how it's going into the system. It limits access and ensures accuracy."

About 400 employees currently access the system, and Adas says plans are under way to expand its use in other departments.

Portland's Digital Doc Gains

  • Boosted workers' productivity by 85 percent
  • Slashed turnaround time on documents from several hours to mere minutes
  • Realized savings of $100,000, mostly on storage space
  • Eliminated the need to transport documents between the central office and schools
  • Guaranteed compliance with No Child Left Behind, the Oregon TAG mandate, and other state and federal statutes regarding document retention
Before You Start
  • Consider your ultimate solution, then work backwards to create the system you need
  • Structure a design that involves granting permissions and privileges based on role and functions
  • Design documents that can be built into the system with limited access
  • Consider what training is needed; Portland started with a 30-minute session
  • Create alerts to notify you of unauthorized access

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