Making Related Content Connect

By Bob Violino  |  Posted 2006-01-14 Print this article Print

The electricity distributor restored service in September 2005 to its Mississippi customers within 12 days, instead of 28. A system to find critical documents offered an assist.

Setting up the content-management system, which involved

2 million documents, presented some challenges. Before loading content into Documentum, Southern had to match data from one legacy system with a second one. The former system was a database with text data related to drawings, but no images; the latter contained drawings without the related text. Drawings had to be matched with text. From there, the corresponding drawings and text were loaded into Documentum using a tool called DocLoader from McLaren Software. Over three months, three workers spent 75% of their time, and another worker 25% of his time, to get this match and load the information.

Volume testing and tweaking of hardware was required to maximize the throughput of the new system, Godfrey says. And Southern had to train thousands of employees; key personnel at each Southern location that used the system attended four-hour sessions. Southern also developed a half-hour video training program, and offered instruction in an auditorium-style group setting at remote locations.

Southern also retained Gimmal Group of Houston, a consultancy, to help plan its enterprise architecture design to support the content management system, including a server farm with Windows-based Web, file and content servers and a separate Oracle database.

Once the Documentum system was in place, Southern's geographically dispersed employees immediately gained faster and easier access to content, including vendor manuals, engineering drawings, maintenance data on plant assets, standard operating procedures and departmental documents.

Southern achieved its goal of consolidating data and retiring legacy applications, and today there's only one place from which employees can access generation drawings and other content. Three legacy systems were retired, resulting in savings of $40,000 per year through the elimination of administration and hardware and software maintenance costs.

Shandeon Logan, a senior technician in the document services department at Southern Co. Generation, a business unit that operates the company's fossil-fuel (non-nuclear) power plants, says the elimination of steps in searching for content has made the department more productive.

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When Southern was still relying on legacy systems, Logan says, engineers looking for drawings had to first search one system to find a drawing number and then key the number into a second system to access the drawing. The Documentum setup combines these functions, saving time and reducing the likelihood of errors.

After seeing the results the content management deployment was bringing, other business units at Southern, including information technology, supply chain management, marketing and transmission, moved content from their own local networks and storage systems to the new platform. There are now about 9,500 people using the system throughout the 26,000-employee organization.

Story Guide:
I.T., Not Just Elbow Grease, Help Utility's Recovery

  • Untangling an Unplanned Legacy
  • Making Related Content Connect
  • Applying Tradition of Reliability to I.T.
  • Southern Co. Base Case

    Next page: Applying Tradition of Reliability to I.T.

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