A Cloud-First Approach for One of America’s Largest Sewer Districts

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When the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District (MSD) started exploring a solution for their document management system, they knew they wanted to take a cloud-first approach.  MSD is the fourth largest sewer system in the United States, providing wastewater and stormwater management service for over 1.3 million people in St. Louis City and County. With a constituency this large, MSD needed a system they wouldn’t outgrow; one that could adapt and change with the needs of both their customers and their over 900 employees. They needed a way for people inside and outside the organization to access documents without sacrificing the integrity of official record retention schedules. Traditional file storage systems like their existing shared drives and Microsoft SharePoint accounts just wouldn’t cut it anymore.

A Growing Organization Needs an Adaptable Solution

Before Laserfiche Cloud, MSD had been using a small on-premises Laserfiche system to manage some departments’ records, but with many staff members still using shared drives, their system wasn’t able to reach its full potential.  Their siloed, mismatched approach to storing their vital documents made it nearly impossible for employees to access many of the documents needed to complete projects, especially if they had been created by another department.  Without a fully unified Laserfiche system tailored to what MSD employees needed, there was no way to instantaneously grant and revoke file access to employees as their needs changed. This led to distrust in the integrity of their system, which caused employees to hold on to records that they did not own even after their specified need was completed since they couldn’t trust their information would be accessible again nor secure.

Beyond documents not being accessible on the right level to all staff members, MSD was unable to follow required records retention guidelines; in fact, it was concerns over security and compliance risks that pushed MSD to find a more complete solution for their records management needs.  All of MSD’s documents have a specific lifecycle, but with traditional shared drives, keeping track of the required steps on how and when documents complete their lifecycle was a fully manual process and nearly impossible to keep track of.

John Daly, CIP – Information Governance Manager at MSD

MSD didn’t only have issues with employee’s ability to reliably access records, but they also didn’t have a reliable way to share information with parties outside the organization like vendors and customers.  If someone needed to send documents, they would often need to send the necessary files via email attachment.  Not only did this lead to issues with sending and receiving huge email files, but it also caused a host of issues with document version control as well as keeping track of what documents are sent to whom.

In addition to records management, MSD also needed a solution for their outdated paper-based workflow processes.  Before Laserfiche Cloud, these paper workflows needed physical signatures and needed to be manually routed through their necessary processes and lifecycle.

How Laserfiche Helped MSD Overcome Their Hurdles

The Laserfiche You Love, Now in the Cloud

When MSD began working with Accelerated Information Systems, their current Laserfiche Solution Provider (SP), they knew they wanted to move from the small on-premises Laserfiche system they were using to a more customized cloud solution.  With their move, records across all departments are managed within one centralized repository that is segmented down by department so that while staff members organization-wide can read and access documents they may need from outside their department, only the right people can make edits to documents.  This level of granular security access coupled with the oversight capabilities of Audit Trail, means there is always a way to keep an eye on information security at every level.  Employees no longer worry about holding onto documents over fears of inaccessibility, everything is right in the repository with a full history of who’s used it, what edits have been made, and any other important metadata necessary for the job.

“You don’t need to be an Information Governance specialist to understand how to use Laserfiche.”

MSD can easily manage electronic records according to the district’s retention schedule.

With their Laserfiche Cloud System, record retention schedules can be designed and implemented through customizable metadata templates that can be assigned to any document.  John Daly, Information Governance Manager at MSD, was able to design specific record series templates allowing staff to simply select the right template, and the necessary compliance metadata and lifecycle rules are applied to the documents. Staff no longer need to manually move records through the stages of their lifecycle, which ensures information is properly accessible, but only for the compliant amount of time. It’s also extremely simple, so those inside and outside of the information governance department understand and can execute good information governance practices.

Laserfiche Cloud lets staff easily share links to documents within their repository so that versions are always consistent, documents cannot be changed without security rights, and they can easily keep track of who has access to which records.  For an extra level of security, MSD can use Direct Share to email access to specific documents with outside parties working on projects within the sewer district.  Direct Share lets them give controlled access to users outside their repository with added security features like password protection and time limits on how long links will be live.

Constituents have self-service access to MSD’s public records.

In some cases where outside collaborators need access to MSD’s repository, Laserfiche Cloud’s flexible licensing model rises to the challenge. Participant User licenses allow external parties to submit content into the relevant project’s folder through a forms process, as well as providing read-only access to other project files.  This allows users both inside and outside of MSD anytime access to the files they need while maintaining all the security, retention, and metadata features already set up within the folder.   

To help better serve constituents, MSD implemented a public portal for easy access to the records and documents they need without going through the manual process of requesting and then waiting for records.  Users simply need to visit the Metropolitan Sewer District’s website and navigate to their Public Documents page. From there, anyone can search for publicly accessible documents in MDS’s repository via text search or through categorized links where files can then be downloaded as needed.

“The DocuSign integration will drastically improve the speed-of-business.”

Automated workflows make it easy to sort and organize thousands of documents into folders allowing staff to quickly locate and use the documents they need.  In addition to the time saved from automating so many repeatable, standardized workflows, they are interested in incorporating a digital signature option like DocuSign, which is available for direct integration with Laserfiche.  Now instead of waiting and needing to follow up on pending signatures, automated workflow reminders will make sure pending processes are being completed by the right team, plus the digital signature process is now streamlined with the whole workflow process.

A New Outlook for Outlook

Beyond the more traditional uses for Laserfiche, MSD has worked with their SP, Accelerated, to design and build a custom solution for saving Outlook emails and their attachments to their repository.  Staff can simply drag and drop emails from their Outlook inbox into the repository folder of their choice, and their emails and their attachments appear in Laserfiche exactly as they do in Outlook.  In addition to the ease of viewing emails in a recognizable format, record retention and all relevant folder rules are immediately applied.

Employees can drag and drop emails with attachments and they will appear in Laserfiche similar to how they would in Outlook. This functionality was not previously available but MSD created a use case allowing Accelerated to develop the custom solution.

“The speed of business would have come to a halt without Laserfiche.”

Any File, Accessible Anywhere

The COVID-19 Pandemic has drastically changed how so many organizations do business. For some, that meant closing in-person operations in order to protect their teams with little time to prepare a remote work plan.  Companies may have had the resources to give their remote workers the hardware and basic software tools they needed, but employees also needed access to the documents they use every day.  If these documents were stored on a shared drive, that could help, but this more simplified, siloed approach can cause issues with staff access and security rights for documents from other departments, accurate versioning of documents, and proper retention scheduling. MSD didn’t have any of these barriers – they had Laserfiche.

The Laserfiche app allows work to get done in any location at any time.

When MSD needed to move their staff to remote work, their staff not only already had access to everything they needed from home, but also were familiar with how to use it – they already use it every day.  MSD’s Laserfiche repository can be accessed from any internet-connected device without a VPN connection.  No one needed to worry about if they left an important document back at the office; it’s all in Laserfiche!

MSD has been using the Laserfiche app prior to COVID, but having access to their repository on their phone or tablet has helped remote workers and those who still need to be working out in the field connected.  Team members who are working on a job site can not only access their important documents on their mobile devices, but they can also upload new documents and photos into the repository that can be accessed by other team members immediately.  There’s no need to send multimedia files via email to team members that need access immediately, which could create issues with proper record retention. Instead, it can be immediately placed into the correct folder, and all the necessary records retention rules, security access, and metadata are immediately applied.     

MSD is an example of how powerful Laserfiche can be both in the pre- and post-COVID world, especially when implemented by a team dedicated to its success. “John Daly has been a true champion for Laserfiche and Metropolitan Sewer District’s overall digital transformation,” said Zaheer Master, President of Accelerated Information Systems.  “John and his team were able to scale a small on-premises Laserfiche installation in one department to an ever-expanding rollout organization-wide. As the premier Laserfiche Cloud Solution Provider, Accelerated is proud to work with a team that maximizes Laserfiche Cloud’s potential, and we are excited to continue working with MSD on their future projects.” 

The move to Laserfiche Cloud has helped the MSD team move beyond the bounds of paper and manual work, making a truly intuitive and expandable platform.  Whether the future means more staff members working remotely or an eventual return to a physical office, MSD’s staff can keep moving; no one needs to choose between employee health and safety and providing services for their customers – they have Laserfiche!

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About Accelerated Information Systems

Accelerated Information Systems (AIS) is an award-winning professional services firm focused on solving business challenges with software solutions. AIS provides expert guidance, utilizing industry expertise and a strong technical skill set to design, implement, and support enterprise solutions.

AIS provides a full suite of professional services including consulting, solution design, implementation, technical support, data conversion, system integration, training, and project management.

Clients of AIS include State and Local Government, Colleges and Universities, Financial Services (Wealth Management, Investment Advisors, Broker-Dealers), Manufacturers, Not-for-Profit Organizations, TV and Media, and Multi-National Non-Governmental Organizations.

Founded in 2005, AIS is headquartered in New York and is also certified in multiple other states as a Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) and a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE). In addition to their status as a Platinum Certified Laserfiche Solution Provider and the 2019 Laserfiche Cloud Solution Provider of the Year, AIS is a Microsoft Cloud Silver Certified Partner.