Document tracker
November 5, 2004 8:33 AM   Subscribe

I need a web application to help me with trafficking certain documents through my firm. Without speccing it in detail, it should involve contributors being able to upload documents along with metadata. Those documents and metadata should show up in a queue. Status emails should be sent at specific junctures that are triggered by date, time, or the actions of other users on the documents. Users would have varying permissions to view, change, delete, edit, etc. various docs.

First, is there anything open source or commercial that does this? If not, what would be the specific skill sets I should look for in finding someone to build it? What would be the expected hourly rate to accomplish it?
posted by luser to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing, based on your use of 'trafficking' that you're not having much luck finding information on this because you need better terms to describe it. I think what you're looking for is a 'document workflow' solution, and if you google on that, you'll find many alternatives, from template based web tools, to how to set it up using platforms like Lotus Notes or MS Exchange.

I work at IBM, so all the workflow stuff I'm familiar with is based on Lotus Notes, but only really from an end user perspective.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:04 AM on November 5, 2004

Yep, "workflow" or "document management" are the terms to search for.
posted by sad_otter at 9:09 AM on November 5, 2004

A big consideration from both a software and hardware standpoint is the degree of security, redundancy, and backups you need. I'm in negotiations for developing an intranet/extranet for a credit union and we have all sorts of fun discussions about disaster recovery and access rights.

The skill set for such an application is rather broad: a good head for software & hardware security and disaster scenarios, well-versed in workflow practices, spot-on with documentation & training, and able to not only create some solid programming, but design a user-friendly GUI.

In my web development company, no single person does all this - it's a team effort and we put a great amount of care into our discovery meetings, not to mention the actual development. But while we have several talented people at GUI design, programming, and IT management, only a few can really wrap their heads around workflow design - it's difficult to find people who excel at this, instead of making it up as they go.
posted by Sangre Azul at 9:26 AM on November 5, 2004

I would suggest you look at Plone, a Content Management System that does some of what you want out of the box and may have add-ons to do even more. It runs on top of Zope (which is itself a Python application). I use them myself, but not at the level of you describe, so I can't be 100% sure they'll work for you, but certainly they're worth glancing at.
posted by tommasz at 10:04 AM on November 5, 2004

Beyond looking for "content/document management" and "document workflow" products, you should also look at some of the intranet offerings out there. Many of them, like HyperOffice and offer similar features as part of their overall product.

Scope-wise, they maybe offer more than you need, but they're also generally cheaper than a lot of the off-the-shelf dedicated products.
posted by LairBob at 10:23 AM on November 5, 2004

Everyone I know who uses Basecamp is very happy with it, and I'm giving it a shot for a group project I'm working on right now, you might want to give it a look.
posted by lia at 11:54 AM on November 5, 2004

I've got a hammer and this looks like a nail, but I'll second the Plone recommendation. You would need some Python skills, but it comes out of the box with a powerful workflow system and a "file" content type.

Briefly, you create states and transitions so that when a person sees a file they can change the state (based on their permissions) through a transition (like "Publish" or "Reject"). You can even define worklists that will show the person the content they need to review.

It also comes with some pretty good stock metadata, and is configurable to track more (although you'll need to edit the HTML for the content editing forms).

A word of warning, Plone is pretty powerful at the expense of also being complex. There may be a simpler option to explore by searching around for document management or document workflow as others suggested.
posted by revgeorge at 12:10 PM on November 5, 2004

*sigh* Well, at least I know there's a market for the software that I'm in the middle of writing right now ...
posted by SpecialK at 12:56 PM on November 5, 2004

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