Bristol extends open source adoption to document management

Bristol City Council is using an open source electronic document management system to overhaul its record keeping and improve staff access to documents online.

The move to electronic documents and online team collaboration is a key enabling component of the council’s plan to shave £70 million off its annual operating budget. Bristol's move towards council-wide open source adoption to save money started in 2010, and won central government support at the end of last year.

The new, open source Alfresco software will allow staff to access electronic documents online from any location, reducing dependence on paper, and it will give project teams the ability to share information virtually through a collaboration platform.

Gavin Beckett, chief enterprise architect at Bristol City Council, said: “Alfresco offers a rich set of features in a user-friendly package with the additional bonus of being an open source platform, which means we can use it right across the board without having to spend large sums on licences.

“The other advantage of open source and open standards is that barriers are removed for SMEs and local ICT suppliers to collaborate with the council."

Using Alfresco for document and digital asset management and Drupal for the front-end of its website, the council’s new platform will enable efficiency improvements to a variety of council services. In one project under development, landlords applying for licences for houses in multiple occupation will be able to submit their applications online, with Alfresco managing the workflow for that documentation.

In another project, staff performing equipment servicing and maintenance repairs on council properties can upload images such as photographs and gas certificates captured on PDAs.

The council has also piloted the use of Alfresco on other mobile devices. Staff and councillors can access Alfresco via the cloud using Android or Apple devices or standard laptop computers, enabling paperless meetings and access to documents on the move.

Bristol City Council developed its online open source Drupal operating system with outsourcer Capgemini earlier this year to help streamline and improve its web services.

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