streamWrite's Document Portal ensures consistent document formatting, enforces critical document language and streamlines internal workflow for our employees.
At ATI / streamWrite, we had a need to improve the process of producing certain documents. In the case of our statement of work documents, which I will use as the example for this article, we have the need to produce many different statement of work templates based on varying types. Different products and projects have widely variable requirements necessitating production of a number templates that document the uniqueness of each, while still maintaining a consistent document format and containing critical boiler plate legalese that is a must for every file.
We ended up with a bunch of divergent statement of work templates in Microsoft Word format that all had to be updated and maintained. Of course, if a product specific change was needed, only the one document required updates. But, if the legalese changed, or any other broad changes were required like document formatting or branding, every template had to be updated. Not only was this a laborious process, it was fraught with human error and inconsistencies.
We solved this problem by taking advantage of the Open XML Format that has been in use by Microsoft to produce Word, Excel and Power Point documents since about 2007.
What we do is start with a base Word document, or I should say multiple base documents that are basically blank documents with some initial formatting and branding pre-built into the document. We have a specific pair of SOW base documents, one for ATI and one for streamWrite. While both base documents specify the brand, formatting such as styles and fonts, and a tiny amount of language, none of the content, specifications or legalese are specified.
We built out some .NET class objects for putting the content into the base document. The process includes:
- Loading the base document from the document type and brand selections made in the Portal
- Adding product or project specific document language based on a drop down selection made in the Document Portal
- Adding server requirements and other technical details that are consistent across several project types but only as needed
- And of course, populating boiler plate legalese that is maintained in one place and is inserted into all SOW documents
In addition, staff enter information into the Document Portal such as the customer account name, project name and make additional selections as options to be included or not included in the document.
Basically the portal inspects the document type and options requested, grabs the components it needs, builds out the document and automatically returns it for download to the browser.
Today we only have to maintain document language in a single place no matter how many templates require it. Not only is this a huge time saver but required changes are implemented much more quickly than in the past.
All templates now have a consistent format. Gone are the days when system requirements and other items were spelled out differently from project to project. Much needed consistency is always applied.
The staff no longer have to worry about having or finding the correct current document template. This is huge for us. So many old versions of documents had been floating around our company. Now the staff simply point their web browser to the Document Portal, make a couple of selections, input a customer name and a project name and click a button. They always end up with the latest language in the proper format.
Management objectives are achieved and the staff are happy too. We call that a touchdown this time of year at ATI / streamWrite!
Going forward we continue to update document language when needed but we are also adding new functionality regularly. Furthermore, management has a vision that the Document Portal will be expanded to support commonly used Excel workbooks and Power Point presentations.
And, we expect ATI / streamWrite customers to have even greater needs for the Document Portal in their operations.