EnergySolutions is recognized as a leader in nuclear waste processing. In the short time of two years, we made nine acquisitions. Like many companies that have gone through acquisitions, we faced the challenge of managing information from all of the acquired companies. Without the right tools, the cost and effort involved in organizing and extracting business value from this huge volume of information would have been prohibitive.
We set out to identify an enterprise search solution that could cull data from the various document management systems (DMSes) we inherited through our acquisitions. We needed a solution that was able to index and understand the information without having to move it from its native systems. Our mission was to find the best solution for our users to increase their ability to share and collaborate on information. At the same time, the solution needed to provide an information infrastructure for the enterprise that would allow us to adhere to our regulatory compliance mandates.
Like many enterprises, we have critical information stored in hundreds of legacy systems, company e-mails, and documents exchanged between international departments across global entities. To compound the challenge, with nuclear materials there is a need for cradle-to-grave responsibility of all project information. This includes continuous monitoring, methods of disposal and location of burial, encompassing many lifetimes of information that must be managed.
Our DMSes housed some of the company’s most crucial intellectual property, including nuclear project materials and correspondence, engineering papers, drawings and safety documents. To effectively manage this information, we needed a solution that could scale rapidly without limit, maintain the native formatting, leverage existing indexing systems and offer protection from unauthorized access.
Due to the high volume, age and disparate file formats and data types, consolidating everything into a single DMS was not an option, as we needed an audit trail and the original metadata for compliance. The company has to support a myriad of global regulatory compliance initiatives that apply to management of nuclear waste, including specific compliance mandates as defined by the Department of Energy. Since our initial public offering (IPO) in November 2007, we now also have to comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Traditional wasn’t the right option
When we began to look at various options to address our information management and compliance challenges, we quickly realized that traditional solutions-such as adding more storage or consolidating documents into another Records Management or Enterprise Content Management system-was not the right answer. With the increasing cost of media management, power and cooling, and datacenter space, simply procuring more storage media would be far too costly. Additionally, we could not quantify investing time and money moving data from one document system to another. There is intrinsic value in maintaining the original indexes and metatags. Having the ability to connect to multiple content repositories was a key selection criterion for us.
With employees located around the world, we recognized that it would be impossible to expect that everyone would categorize data the same. For example, the company’s users in the U.K. (Queen’s English) and the United States (Colonial English) might label or search for the same document with entirely different keywords. With so much data, we couldn’t rely on individuals to decipher these nuances. We needed a tool that was smart enough to understand what the person meant by “concept” and apply it to a broader base to bring back accurate results, and that includes finding both information and experts across the company-whether for legal, compliance or knowledge-sharing purposes.
Our Employees Knowledge is our Industry’s Lifeblood
Our Employees’ Knowledge is our Industry’s Lifeblood
Our industry has some unique information retention requirements in that data about disposal projects must be maintained indefinitely. While we keep thorough records, the baby boomers have over 40 years of nuclear science knowledge, and they have created specialized indexes in existing systems that we don’t want to lose. We needed a solution that worked on employee desktops to allow our newer recruits located around the globe to essentially harvest the knowledge in people’s heads. Plus, we needed to make sure we didn’t lose critical intelligence as employees retire.
There are a range of solutions that have attempted to deliver on the promise of enterprise-wide search. We looked at the major vendors and selected a solution from Autonomy for the unique way it could find the meaning within, and the inter-relationships between and among, disparate pieces of content, regardless of the data type or location within the enterprise.
With our new solution, in only 30 days, we were able to put into place a pan-enterprise search infrastructure that could access all systems to uncover specific information, including older documents and file types. With the new system and in reaction to a regulatory inquiry, we can now quickly search all enterprise information across all offices and systems to find information pertinent to a specific project.
For example, if the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission is looking into a shipment, we can produce the required information by searching for project information saved in an e-mail, on a desktop, or in an accounting, transportation, records management or processing system.
By selecting the right partner for information management and compliance, we have enabled legal, regulators, engineers and anyone else in the company to access enterprise information in a meaningful way-without needing to learn proprietary systems or taxonomies. The solution we chose also ensures that the right people have access to the right information because it honors the security infrastructure we have in place. For example, if legal can’t find something, it’s either a rights issue or the data does not exist.
Sophisticated pan-enterprise search is a smart approach for effective information management and compliance, especially in industries that are highly regulated with little room for error. Intelligent search speeds knowledge transfer of culture and people to newer employees, creating a brain trust of talent for competitive advantage. Moreover, we can now match engineers with one another so they can leverage best practices and expertise for the betterment of the projects on which they work.
Carol Fineagan is Senior VP and CIO of EnergySolutions, Inc. Carol served eight years as CIO for Duratek in Maryland, prior to the acquisition of Duratek by EnergySolutions in June 2006. In July 2006, Carol moved to Salt Lake City to lead the integration of four major companies into EnergySolutions over twelve months. Under her leadership, Carol has assembled a team of IT professionals who have built a world-class IT infrastructure for EnergySolutions.
Carol has an Associate of Arts from Villa Julie College in Maryland. She has a Bachelor and Master of Arts from the University of Baltimore. She has attended Innovation and Leadership Executive Training at The Wharton School of Business. Carol is a member of the Women Tech Council and the Society of Information Managers. She can be reached at [email protected].