While setting up proofs-of-concept for other divisions within the European Investment Bank to begin using the PDF converter for SharePoint, we caught up with Chris Alman, Technical Project Manager at EIB. It’s always fascinating to find out the specific details regarding projects our clients are involved with as we don’t necessarily discuss them in detail while they are busy evaluating our products and we’re assuring them the best product support we can offer. We knew the EIB was going “paperless” but didn’t know they were physically changing their entire office-scape! (A brief video of this case study is available here).
Muhimbi: Tell us about European Investment Bank (EIB):
Chris: The European Investment Bank is the European Union's long-term lending institution established in 1958 under the Treaty of Rome. A policy-driven bank, the EIB supports the EU’s priority objectives, especially boosting sustainable growth and job creation. It aims to provide long-term lending in order to mobilise funding from the private and public sectors. These projects usually involve building infrastructure such as bridges or roads. One notable project is the Channel Tunnel (aka, “The Chunnel”) connecting England to France. We borrow money from the capital markets and then lend it out for projects within the EU, but we have also lent money for projects outside it. Because our credit rating is Triple-A, we can borrow money at a much lesser rate than through other institutions.
We say that the EIB is “the biggest bank in the world that you’ve never heard of.” While the World Bank will lend about 30 Billion dollars annually, we’ll lend 60 Billion eurosi. It’s not a proper financial way of comparing banks but you get the idea of our size. Another part of the bank is the European Investment Fund that will do venture capital. For instance the funding for Skype came from the EIF as did the funding for Rovio, if you’re familiar with “Angry Birds”
Muhimbi: How did Muhimbi’s PDF Converter for SharePoint make its way into EIB?
Chris: About two years ago the EIB decided it wanted to under-go a massive cultural shift, that ended up also including great physical changes to the EIB headquarters such as a new atrium for socializing, the removal of phone consoles from desktops, hot desking, a multi-million dollar teleconference room, etc. In a nut-shell the aim of the shift was to greatly increase the ability for employees to work remotely and be more “green.”
Previous to this, the physical lay-out of the EIB offices was similar to those of many corporations; everyone had their own cubicle and the environment felt very insular. The EIB wanted to create an environment and culture more similar to what you see at Google or Microsoft.
One of the first steps in this process was to go as paperless as possible, exchanging manual processes for electronic processes (thus making for a more “green” way of working and easier for remote solutions, per EIB’s objectives). From this realization, a 9 month exploration and analysis phase lead to adopting SharePoint wherein Nintex Workflows would also be utilized. The adoption of Muhimbi’s PDF Converter for SharePoint came not long after in realizing we wanted to convert different document types to PDF.
Muhimbi: What sorts of processes were you attempting to make electronic?
Chris: “Signature work-flow.” Naturally in our industry documents need to be signed all the time for different reasons. The producer of these documents is generally not the person that needs to sign them so these documents would be created usually in Word or Excel documents, printed, taken to the person for approval (signature), signed, and then needed to be scanned and archived. It was quite a long process.
Furthermore, in the bank’s archiving system, there’s a lot of meta-data to fill in: the name of the document, the date, etc. When this process was manual, one had to fill out an entirely separate form than the document with this meta-data. In addition to documents, one had to print these meta-data forms, and send to scanning team to be scanned along with documents as well. The manual process was very manual. It was very laborious to go through each step.
Muhimbi: What made you choose Muhimbi's PDF Converter for SharePoint?
Chris: We heard through the Nintex community online that Muhimbi’s PDF Converter for SharePoint integrates very well with Nintex Workflows so it seemed automatic to start using it. Furthermore, our experiences with Muhimbi’s support were very good so it was an easy choice.
Muhimbi: How do you use the tool?
Chris: After installing SharePoint, we replaced the manual processes with Nintex Workflow. Documents could be created then electronically transmitted for approval, and upon signature, approved for PDF conversion. On the topic of meta-data we can now simply type the meta-data, send through Nintex Workflow and onto Muhimbi, where it all transfers when being archived. It’s all much more convenient and efficient this way.
This method has been tested with a small team of 16 people and since December of 2011 the team has produced 150 documents. These documents are roughly 5-10 pages each and may combine different document types such as Word, Excel, other PDF’s, emails, etc. as well as be written in different languages. The languages in play on documents around here aren’t limited to just the most popular of the EU (English, French, German). It’s common to have annexes in any of the 27 languages of the EU.
We then use the merge feature within Muhimbi’s PDF Converter for SharePoint to decide on the order we’d like, and then convert ultimately to a PDF. The ability to set the order in which you want the different contributing documents to appear in the PDF is extremely valuable to us as is creating a single PDF from all these documents.
Muhimbi: What sort of results have you seen?
Chris: Because the PDF Converter has worked so well and Muhimbi’s support has been wonderful, this test has been labelled a big success and the other departments such as, the archiving system and the EAI team (Enterprise Architecture Integration) will also begin using the PDF Converter for SharePoint. We are working on the proofs of concepts for those departments as we speak.
Muhimbi: Have you noticed any cultural or workflow changes since installing Muhimbi’s tool?
Chris: In addition to quite a few hours of administration saved monthly, there is much more visibility to the status of different documents. One can just log in and view a dashboard, so there is significant value in that. In addition, having a converted PDF is much better than a scanned document, as was previously the practice.
Muhimbi: When did you start using Muhimbi tools?
Chris: We started using Muhimbi’s PDF Converter for SharePoint in March or April of 2011. We started looking for a tool, found Muhimbi’s as mentioned, and it was a very easy software package to install and use. It did everything that we needed it to do.
We actually had to use the trial version for a good 5 months because our purchase process is pretty complicated, so it was great that it doesn’t expire- we got to continue working with the tool and learning it better during that period of time we were waiting to have the purchase approved.
Muhimbi: What is it about your business that makes Muhimbi’s PDF Converter for SharePoint important for you?
Chris: There have been moments in this process where if we weren’t going to be able to convert a document to PDF or if the PDF Converter for SharePoint’s functionality wouldn’t work with EIB’s requirement, the whole project wouldn’t work so we’ve relied on it pretty heavily. The product, with occasional clarification from Muhimbi’s support has delivered and made this project a reality.
Muhimbi: Would you recommend PDF Converter for SharePoint to other SharePoint users?
Chris: Yes, and I’d recommend anyone using Nintex use Muhimbi’s PDF Converter for SharePoint. The product is excellent as is the support service. Also, Muhimbi’s blog with its scenarios/use cases is extremely useful. I’ve sat in meetings and been able to say “hey, we can do that!” having seen the examples in the blog.