The Choctaw Nation Easily Converts Paper-flow into Electron-flow


The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is an American Indian Tribe organized pursuant to a federal act and recognized by the United States government through the Secretary of the Interior. The Choctaw Nation consists of ten and one-half counties in southeast Oklahoma. It has 101,555 members and 4,805 employees.

The tribe’s IT department provides technical services for every entity managed by the Choctaw Nation. That involves much more than you might imagine. In addition to providing regulatory, administrative, health, education and social services for members, the tribe runs casinos and off-track wagering, along with subsidiaries that sell healthcare, IT, and manufacturing services to outside organizations.

The Burdens of a Mountain of Paperwork

Like every government, the Choctaw Nation must manage a myriad of documents. Birth certificates, marriage licenses, death certificates, historical archives, land titles, along with administrative forms, such as purchase orders, are but a few. Add to that all of the financial, legal and administrative forms and reports required by the tribe’s businesses and you begin to get a sense of the scope of the challenge it faced.

Managing a mountain of paper is enormously expensive. The cost of the necessary buildings and file cabinets can be horrendous. For example, two warehouses were required to store the Choctaw Nation’s paper documents.

As high as they may be, warehouse expenses are often only the tip of the iceberg. Labor costs may be greater still. Paper has to be manually filed and retrieved. What’s more, some hardcopy documents will inevitably be misplaced. Searching for them can consume many fruitless hours. Under the worst case scenario, documents have to be recreated if they are permanently lost, which may not even be possible if the source data is no longer available.

The Choctaw Nation thought it found a solution to this problem a few years ago when it implemented new financial software. The vendor promised that the application included document imaging capabilities. However, when the software was installed, it was found that those imaging capabilities did not fully meet the tribe’s needs. Furthermore, the software was not sufficiently customizable to allow the tribe to make the necessary modifications.

A separate imaging system was installed, but it didn’t integrate with the financial application. Consequently, after data was keyed into the financial system, the documents were sent to an imaging department that spent all of its time scanning documents. Occasionally, documents were lost along the way.

And, because the imaging system was not integrated with the financial application, users often found it difficult to locate documents referenced by data in the financial application.

The various stand-alone imaging systems that the tribe installed presented another costly problem: they each had to be managed and administered separately, which consumed considerable time and expense.

Naturally, the Choctaw Nation wants to invest its resources in ways that provide the greatest possible value for its members. That doesn’t include feeding the paper monster. The tribe was determined to find an effective solution to its document management problem. It did: Webdocs from Fortra.

A Valuable Recommendation

Webdocs allows organizations to store document images and other files, such as PC files, emails and computer-generated reports, on iSeries or PC servers. The documents can then be accessed using up to 10 keys. Those keys can be entered manually or Webdocs can automatically extract them from barcodes or textual data appearing within the images. Once loaded into the system, authorized personnel can use a standard Web browser to access the images over the Internet from anywhere in the world.

When the Choctaw Nation sought to replace its financial application and its standalone imaging systems, Cass Miller, the manager of systems and networks, spoke to a counterpart at another tribe. His colleague highly recommended JD Edwards for financials and Webdocs for document management. He endorsed Webdocs both because of its superior features and because it integrates very well with JD Edwards.

Miller also liked the licensing policies. Unlike other vendors that required a separate licensing fee for every scanning station, the Choctaw Nation bought a license that allowed it to use Webdocs with an unlimited number of scanners. That permitted the tribe to distribute scanners cost-effectively throughout its departments and subsidiaries. Now, documents can be scanned as soon as the data is keyed into the system, rather than sending the paper off to a separate department for scanning. This eliminates the cost of managing complex paper flows. It also reduces the chance that an image will be lost or indexed incorrectly and, therefore, difficult, if not impossible to find when needed.

The Choctaw Nation runs the JD Edwards software on an iSeries model 520 system. It installed Webdocs for iSeries to tie into that. Now, when a user works with a screen in the JD Edwards application, he or she can simply position the cursor on a key field, such as purchase order number, press a button, and Webdocs will display that purchase order and any related documents in a new window.

At time of writing, the Choctaw Nation had not yet fully implemented Webdocs across the board, but it already had more than 30 scanners operational and tied into the software. The tribe currently stores about two terabytes worth of document images, although some of those images have not yet been transferred from the previous imaging system to Webdocs. That conversion has been proceeding smoothly. “We convert documents from the old system into Webdocs folders without skipping a beat,” reported Miller.

In addition to its iSeries applications, the tribe also runs a number of Windows systems. Consequently, it recently bought Webdocs for Windows to bring the benefits of Webdocs to those environments as well.

The document management capabilities provided by Webdocs are definitely an important part of the Choctaw Nation’s future. In fact, Miller expects the volume of document images to at least double in the next two years.

Webdocs Cost-Effectively Conquers the Document Mountain

According to Miller, one of the greatest values that Webdocs has delivered is that it has given the tribe the ability to centrally administer its document imaging solutions. In contrast with the past, when each installation had to be managed separately, this has greatly reduced the associated management effort and time.

The streamlining of work processes has been another tremendous benefit of Webdocs. The tribe no longer needs a separate document imaging department. Furthermore, it has been able to eliminate the cumbersome and error-prone paper-flow processes that were required to transfer documents to that department. Instead, the tribe has been able to distribute the imaging function to the locations where the documents are first processed, thereby eliminating the costly handling that used to be necessary.

Document access times have also been dramatically reduced. In the past, users had to either manually hunt for paper in filing cabinets or search through an isolated system to try to find the electronic image of a document. Now, a simple click of a button from within the applications that users employ every day is all that’s required to display relevant documents on the users’ screens.

Miller also likes the fact that Webdocs’ Web-based interface allows authorized users to call up images from anywhere in the world. This is important because, in addition to having offices and facilities across the ten and one-half counties encompassing the Choctaw Nation, the tribe also has to support its business subsidiaries’ offices across the United States.

When you get right down to it, the primary benefit that the tribe has received is derived from the fact that Webdocs does what every system should do. It meets the tribe’s unique needs. “Webdocs is very customizable, said Miller. “It allows us to fulfill our document imaging requirements in the way that’s right for us. We’re very happy with the results.”

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