Taking a Vertical Leap with Content Management

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"When you come down to it, all content management installations are vertical," according to Shore Communications' president John Blossom. "There's no such thing as a general corporate implementation." That may be so, but the three content management scenarios we look at in this month's vertical content management case studies—legal, pharmaceutical, and utility—all have unique needs partly because of the volume of documents they produce, and partly because each has its own industry-specific requirements. Companies that want to sell in these spaces have to have some understanding of these special needs or risk losing the sale. We explore some of these requirements in the following cases.


Case Study: Berlex Takes Note of Content Management
Company: Berlex
Vertical: Pharmaceutical
Problem: Get paper notebooks into electronic format
Solution Vendor: Documentum

As a global drug company, Berlex has to keep track of vast amounts of information for the drugs it develops, produces, and sells. In fact, for drug companies, content management is not just a luxury, it's a necessity.

"Pharmaceutical companies have been doing systematic document management for a long time because they're driven to do it by the FDA (and similar governing bodies throughout the world)," says Mary Corcoran, lead analyst at Outsell.

Yet drug companies don't just answer to governmental regulatory bodies, they also have to track research and development information to protect patents and intellectual property. Up until fairly recently, this information was stored in scientists' paper lab notebooks.

Andy Grygiel, director of life sciences industries at content management vendor Documentum, has more than 20 years of experience working with pharmaceutical and life science firms. He says, "I've gone into many companies with boxes piled high with research notebooks." This not only makes it difficult to locate information, it leads to other issues when they finally find the proper notebook, such as whether or not the handwriting is legible or all of the pages are there.

Charles Sordano, manager of information services at Berlex, says that Berlex was already using Documentum to manage their worldwide drug submission repository system back in 1998 when they began looking for a solution to bring these paper research notebooks online.

"The choice of who was going to handle the electronic document management was really a no-brainer because we had already invested in Documentum. It was strictly a question of what were we going to use for an authoring front-end for the scientists," Sordano says.

Sordano says that he contacted Documentum, and it was decided to use Microsoft Office (specifically Word and Excel) as the front end because there were hooks to Office already built into the Documentum APIs, but it wasn't until the completion of a long three-year testing period at Berlex's research facility in California that they decided to present the system to scientists worldwide.

They added a menu to the Office applications, which allowed scientists to write and track experiments online in a fully electronic lab notebook system with links to Documentum. Since the system was implemented worldwide, they have saved more than 40,000 experiments in the repository. It has done more than just bring organization to the system; it also allows scientists to search the existing body of research before undertaking an experiment. "People use the system to make sure they aren't reinventing the wheel," according to Sordano.

Since patent law still requires a paper version of the documents to prove ownership in a court case, they can't completely rely on digital versions of the notebooks, so Berlex prints a hard copy of each notebook, which is then bound and stored in a warehouse. The Documentum system helps them track the location of each one. "In the future if we need to retrieve a particular paper, we query Documentum," Sordano says.

Sordano says the system now generates 50,000 "notebook" pages per month and has come a long way since it began in 1998 when it started as a client-server before moving to a Web front-end. Sordano says proudly that what allowed the system to grow was a dedicated group willing to work through the initial difficulties to get to a system that works across the company on worldwide basis.

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