Case Study – In Brief
Citizens Advice Bureau

Citizens Advice

Company: Citizens Advice Bureau
Sector: Charity
Location: Stevenage
Products/Services: Enterprise Content Management (ECM)


Stevenage Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) is one of the 338 individual charities that make up the Citizens Advice Service across England and Wales. They provide free, independent, confidential and impartial advice to help people in the local community. Workers include both paid staff and volunteers and funding is provided from a variety of sources.

The Challenge

Stevenage CAB are seeing more people through the doors and are under huge pressure to demonstrate achievements – to secure annually provided funding – despite less funding available due to government spending cuts.

The Bureau approached Collate Business Systems in Ringwood with a problem. After years of practice, without the necessary processes or management in place, the offices were stacked with paperwork and in simple terms, they were running out of space to store it.

Documents included Microsoft Office documents, PDFs, emails, letters etc, and were stored in an array of office systems and locations including filing cabinets, office desks, local PCs and shared networks. The Bureau needed to digitise their paper content – making each document fully searchable and freely accessible to the large numbers of volunteers and temporary workers – consequently ensuring they are working at their optimum levels.

The Solution

After initial discussions with Stevenage CAB, it became clear to Collate Business Systems that the scale of the challenge they faced was more complex than originally anticipated.  Greg Littlechild, ECM Consultant at Collate Business Systems said:

“A solution was needed to not only create a central repository for all documents, but a paperless file management system, complete with business process automation capability was also required.”

Collate provided an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) System, which provides The Bureau  full lifecycle management for any type of electronic document and a single, authoritative repository for storing, organising and retrieving electronic business documents.

Workflows were set up, to automate the creation, naming and indexing of folders. This eliminates data errors and once complete, workers can scan and OCR any document, making all content searchable. This streamlines processes and eliminates manual searching for information, as all data is stored in the same place – no matter what search term you have, the relevant info will be found within the system.

Greg Littlechild continued: “For any business, the benefits of going paperless are easy to see. There’s no more getting up, walking to a file cabinet, looking for a file and bringing it back to the desk when a client calls. With an ECM system in place, you can find all your information instantaneously.”

Time is money, and volunteer workers require training on procedures and compliance issues to enable them to carry out their roles. ECM enables more efficient use of time, cutting time required for training plus associated costs. As time searching for documents is reduced, workers are freed up to be more proactive and dedicate more time for customer facing activities.

A CAB spokesperson commented: “We have a high turnover of volunteers here, so it is vital that any solution we chose would be easy to understand for new starters. Collate have ensured this is possible.”

Collate have also incorporated different permission levels into the ECM system. This limits the type of access granted to individuals and groups based on corporate policies.

ECM also adds to the existing disaster recovery strategy – which now includes fire alongside blackouts, natural disasters, server failure and theft.

The Future

ECM provides full automation of business processes and this can either be planned as part of the initial solution or as an extra, such as this implementation. The Bureau is benefiting from a basic installation which will grow organically over time.

The spokesperson continued: “Paperless file management will lead to a revolutionary improvement in how we run our office here, and the entire system from Collate has been implemented with minimal business down time.”

The Bureau are more confident in securing funding for years to come – their new system demonstrates to local authorities how they are working more efficiently and cutting costs. Collate hope to use this installation as a future blueprint for many other offices across the country.

Collate are proud to have supported  Citizens Advice and hope charity funding will be secured as part of this project, so they can continue to provide the services to the community that they currently do.

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