Université de Grenoble Alpes et Savoie Customer Story
The Université de Grenoble Alpes extends the use of Alfresco to the dematerialization of administrative services and e-learning platforms.
Established in 1339, the Université de Grenoble Alpes et Savoie is now a major player in higher education and research in France and has 70,000 students.
The Université de Grenoble Alpes et Savoie is made up of four main establishments:
- The UGA (Université Grenoble Alpes) which combines 23 faculties, schools and institutes and 80 research laboratories;
- Grenoble INP (Institut National Polytechnique) comprising 6 Engineering Schools and 36 research laboratories;
- The Université de Savoie/Mont Blanc and its 7 training and research facilities, institutes and schools and 19 research laboratories;
- The IEP (Institut d'Etudes Politique) with its one training facility.
The SIMSU (Shared Computer Service of the University Site) is an Inter-Institutional Service (serving the four establishments mentioned above). One of the SIMSU’s missions is to ensure the availability of applications approved within the scope of the policy of the Grenoble/Savoy site, by managing in particular the operation of the establishment’s shared Information System servers (AMUE software, local developments, software packages, etc.).
In 2010, the SIMSU replaced the University of Grenoble’s document management solution—which was based on SharePoint and was stopped for budgetary reasons—with Alfresco collaboration sites relying on a single authority for all of the establishments in Grenoble and the Savoy region. Due to a lack of resources, the project was launched without any real consideration of how to classify the stored data.
The synchronization of Alfresco with the LDAP has allowed 130,000 users to create sites and invite participants without having to call upon the IT department. Alfresco's user-friendliness, flexibility, and functional richness have won over its users (40,000 unique visitors per year) who can access online courses, collaborate on projects, submit assignments and store administrative documents. But the lack of data storage became an issue when the number of sites reached 7,000.
A working group was established in 2014 to find a solution to this problem. Obsolete servers were replaced by tailored machines to permanently eliminate all performance problems. The working group then studied the various market solutions available. This study not only reconfirmed Alfresco as the right choice but also revealed that the solution was only being operated at a fraction of its capacity.
The working group wanted to take full advantage of Alfresco and decided to implement a genuine Electronic Document Management system to dematerialize all of UGA’s content and processes. In fact, the central administrative services, which had already suffered staff cuts, were swamped by administrative tasks that were preventing them from doing their jobs effectively.
The challenge for the SIMSU was uniting the four establishments around a common vision where each enjoys significant decision-making autonomy.
The working group was quick to identify the need to define a storage plan, rules, document types and models, metadata and types of metadata in order to effectively manage document storage and improve research.
The SIMSU began by explaining to users and decision-makers the benefits offered by the ECM to get them on board with this joint project. To do this, the SIMSU developed small pilot studies to demonstrate examples of correct usage.
The SIMSU has also begun the process of migrating the 10 million documents stored in collaboration sites to the new Alfresco ECM. The project is being rolled out department by department, so that any problems can be addressed as and when they arise. For this purpose, the working group is trying to understand which documents are handled within the department, what processes are involved, and how to manage the life cycle of documents in digital format.
At the same time, the SIMSU is providing training to users so they can benefit from the many features that exist natively in Alfresco, such as automatic PDF creation. The training aims to explain working best practices such as the use of rules and data lists.
The next step is to integrate Alfresco with the many business applications that make up the IT system, to centralize document storage and ensure data uniqueness:
- Specific developments using ADF (Alfresco Application Development Framework) technologies to create online forms (for example, online student registration using a form that creates a new student file and files the document resulting from the questionnaire, supporting documents and associated processes in it. Alfresco is continuing to manage student files by filing degrees or other documents and processes).
- Connection by CMIS of intranet CMS (Content Management System) with the new Alfresco EDM.
- Development of a connector for the two LMS (learning management system) applications to enable students to access online courses stored on Alfresco via a special interface.
Alfresco's transversal ECM enables the UGA to homogenize and improve work methods, avoid losing data, ensure processes are not interrupted, centralize documents, reduce the number of servers needed, reduce the need for IT skills, and finally provide a better service for its users. Thierry Champier, the IT Engineer responsible for Application Design at the SIMSU, says, “Alfresco can do more with less. Even if we cannot necessarily quantify the financial value in the case of a public institution, the advantages of dematerialization are huge”.
At the user level, the ECM ensures that the correct version of a document is always available which saves time as there is no need for users to call colleagues to verify the information. By reducing repeated tasks that have minimal added value, Alfresco restores the technical nature of roles. Thierry Champier explains: “In the beginning, users were scared of losing their jobs but now they understand that dematerialization makes their work more interesting. As a result, they are asking to extend the use of Alfresco to new projects."
Ultimately, the dematerialization of the document chain will be end-to-end, from the conversion of paper documents into electronic format to validation processes, electronic signatures, and digital archiving.
The SIMSU appreciates the features offered by the Alfresco platform. According to Champier, "the Alfresco tool is of high quality, with high-performance document typing and extensive customization capabilities. Being able to connect to business applications or create online forms is crucial for us. While the great flexibility in terms of integration with the IS is one of Alfresco's strengths, the fact that Alfresco Consulting has always been able to provide us with a solution to our problems is also a major plus. It is reassuring to know that behind this tool there is a team ready to help us."