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Going With the Workflow

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2008-08-29 Print this article Print

Procter & Gamble rolls out an electronic document management system, including document management software and secure signature initiatives to accelerate R&D, meet regulatory compliance requirements and save money. The challenge for Proctor & Gamble was to create a document and records management system that could handle the volume of workflow and security issues that arise when you become a compliant organization using accepted digital signature standards.

Going With the Workflow

Assembling a workable solution required more than the ability to verify digital signatures, however. In 2008, P&G turned to IT integrator Cardinal Solutions to implement Adobe LiveCycle Reader Extensions and Adobe LiveCycle PDF Generator, which would function with P&G’s eLab Notebook program. The software handles the managing, reviewing, approving and signing of the huge volume of R&D information, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint files.

Instead of using paper notebooks to record experiment information—along with numbering each page, signing it and having a witness sign—researchers could use word processing programs, spreadsheets, presentation software (such as PowerPoint) and similar tools to generate project notes and other documentation.

After a researcher has collected all the data, LiveCycle PDF Generator creates a PDF document and prompts the person creating the file to add a digital signature. The system requires the use of a USB token for authentication. At that point, LiveCycle Reader Extensions embeds usage rights within the document. If a reviewer lacks a SAFE BioPharma digital signature certificate, the software prompts the person to obtain one.

The result is a system that saves time and money. Researchers no longer have to spend several hours a week archiving paper files from their experiments. In addition, P&G is able to quickly retrieve large volumes of data that may be needed for communication with government regulators, outside partners or buyers. An initial study of the eLab notebook showed that it produces a 5 percent to 10 percent productivity increase.

What’s more, P&G projects that it will achieve tens of millions of dollars in productivity gains using the system. The typical employee will save approximately 30 minutes of signing and archiving time per week, Bross says.

Although the software installation and systems integration phases have gone smoothly, P&G has had to face some of the challenges that pop up with any new IT initiative. The biggest hurdle has been getting employees—particularly those who are attached to paper—to accept the new workflow and learn how to use the eLab application.

“Not everyone initially trusts the system, and not everyone wants to change the way they work,” Bross says. “We have had to face some change-management issues and provide training.”

Nevertheless, P&G is marching forward with the paperless solution. And others in the organization are taking notice, including the marketing department for German operations. It has turned to digital signatures for authorizing instructions on how products should be displayed in stores.

Bross expects P&G to roll out further electronic document and signature initiatives in the months ahead. “This is a hugely efficient way to do business,” she concludes.

Samuel Greengard is a freelance writer for Baseline.
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