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An Avanquest document management solution at Plymouth City Council has successfully been delivering business benefits for over 10 years. Captaris Alchemy was installed at the Councils’ Plymouth offices by Avanquest Solutions in 1997.

The Alchemy project has almost been forgotten as the system works so well and gives no problems. “It is taken for granted” said Damean Miller, Team Leader, and Systems Analysis at Plymouth City Council. “Those that worked on the initial installation of Alchemy have moved on and they left no problems for the IT department to deal with. The solution works seamlessly in the background and has never let us down.”

The Avanquest/Plymouth City Council relationship began at a trade show. Plymouth City Council had a business problem and was looking for solutions - their mainframe data (in COLD format) could not be stored for any longer than 120 days. The data had to be archived to microfiche and CD three times a year, so no legacy data was searchable electronically or ‘live’. Manual retrieval was the only way of locating documents. This takes a long time and there was the added inconvenience of mis-filing and documents being stored at the other end of the building etc.

Retrieving information this way caused a particular problem when the annual cheque reconciliation report had to be done. The cheque summary report was printed out as a Greenbar report and manually cross checked. The volume of paper print-outs formed a pile as high as a desk. It took four employees over a month to complete the task, equating to 80+ working days!

The Avanquest solution extracts the COLD data from the mainframe and reproduces it electronically page by page. This means later searches can be as specific as identifying a date or a name on the page. To enhance the presentation of data, the Council is able to design bespoke bitmap overlays so printed documents are recognised as a statement, invoice or bill by recipients.

There have been massive unforeseen benefits from having ‘live’ and accessible data.
“Alchemy has proved to be an extremely useful tool in many areas of the business which it was never planned to extend the service into” said Damean Miller, “It is used for everything from P45 data to legacy system archiving.”

Response time to queries has been reduced as staff are instantly able to retrieve documents for reference, improving customer service.

Efficiency gains, time savings, paper usage reductions and the reduced need for storage space for CDs are also highlighted by the Council as benefits. “Mainframe files exceed 2GB every 120 days which is why we had to originally print Greenbar reports” said Damean. “2GB x 3 times a year x 10 years = 600GB of Data = a whole basement of paper!” Additionally, “Alchemy helps us with the e-Government Agenda as we can demonstrate compliance.”

Further information about Avanquest Business Solutions can be found at


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Alison Hall
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