IT in the Ad Biz

May 27 2008   2:14AM GMT

Paperless Workflow

JohnWilder John Wilder Profile: JohnWilder

In addition to our current acquisition-related projects, and our implementation of Microsoft Unified Communications, we’re also in the midst of another project which began late last year – implementing a paperless workflow system into the heart of our day-to-day operations. While paperless workflow isn’t really an IT project, it definitely touches upon several IT systems. It’s really not even fair to try to discuss the scope of this project in a blog entry, but I’ll try to summarize it.

At the heart of our paperless workflow system is Adobe Acrobat, accompanied by WebDAV servers at each of our office locations, allowing our users to collaborate electronically on a job from start to finish. Since we’re using the WebDAV servers for storage of the PDF files, we’re not cluttering up our user’s mailboxes with multiple versions of a job.

We’re using some Microsoft software – Exchange (e-mail) and SharePoint to traffic and schedule the job through the Agency. The two systems work very well together to provide notification of status changes on a project. SharePoint was perhaps the biggest surprise we encountered during the early stages of the project. I briefed our Studio Department on SharePoint one day late last year, expecting a lukewarm reception to a Microsoft product from some of our most hardcore Mac users. It turns out they had been looking for a way to schedule jobs electronically, and the next day I was shocked to find them tearing down their scheduling whiteboards. Just like that, SharePoint had become a mission critical application. They loved the way that status changes in the SharePoint schedule automatically kicked off e-mail alerts to the entire team.

Other aspects of the project got more into some IT hardware. Gigabit Ethernet capabilities finally made it possible for our Mac users to effectively work off a file server rather than constantly moving files from the network to their local hard drives. This provided a huge benefit to collaboration for our Creative teams. It did change things significantly from an IT perspective, as we begin to move away from large hard drives on our local machines and need more storage on the Creative servers.

We also added more LCD monitors to our inventory in order to facilitate working electronically. Not having a physical piece of paper to review and markup meant that more of this work was being done on screen. A small investment in monitors has added up to huge gains in productivity.

It’s certainly not an insignificant project from an IT perspective. I find myself spending quite a bit of time explaining the complexities involved in making all these systems work reliably, but it does seem to be working. We’ll probably be spending most of the rest of this year getting this implemented in all of our offices. In light of everything else we have going on; it’s just another part of a very busy year for IT.

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