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Tejon Ranch ropes together database, records management software

The sprawling Tejon Ranch in California worked with IBM, Oracle and Iron Mountain to rustle up a robust database and records management system.

An ongoing IT modernization and records management initiative at the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch Company in California has been successful thus far – and it all began with an effort to get Oracle’s flagship database to play nicely with IBM’s enterprise content management (ECM) software portfolio.

The sprawling ranch’s records management operation consisted of not much more than a collection of file cabinets three years ago when Richard Daley, director of records and information management, first joined the organization. Today, that has all changed.

The ranch now boasts a fully digitized operation based largely on IBM FileNet records and content management software, Iron Mountain Inc. archiving and security services and Oracle Database. The key to bringing it all together was building “a connector” that could seamlessly integrate the products, according to Daley.

“What we decided to do was build an Oracle connector that went directly into FileNet,” Daley said. “Even though we’re using Oracle on the back end, my users know that FileNet is driving a lot of how information is being used.”

Daley’s team evaluated IBM DB2 and Microsoft SQL Server, but ultimately decided to go with Oracle Database because the company had already invested in Oracle Financials for fiscal reporting.  Daley also felt that Oracle Database would scale most easily with the needs of the business.

“IBM is great at [enterprise content management] and Oracle is great at databases,” Daley said. “So why not bring the two worlds together?”

Located about 60 miles north of Los Angeles, the massive Tejon Ranch boasts all of the stereotypical trappings one might expect from a modern “agribusiness” – and some not so stereotypical. There are cowboys, livestock and about 240,000 acres of dedicated conservation land that is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species.

The ranch also runs its own water district, offers private hunting excursions and leases commercial real estate to shops and restaurants like Starbucks, McDonalds and Chipotle. It has an equestrian filming department, which contributed to Unforgiven and other Hollywood movies, and even has its own energy production plant, according to Daley.

“The fun fact is that it’s the only energy plant that Enron built that actually produces energy,” he said.

Compliance requirements drive ECM project

As a publicly-traded company, the Tejon Ranch was facing increased regulatory compliance concerns when it first brought Daley on to build the records management system. The ranch is subject to provisions of the The Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and audits by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“What they thought I was going to do was come in and buy some $150,000 records management system and say, ‘OK, now we can look at stuff on a computer screen,” Daley said.  “But what I explained to them was that they would need something a little more elaborate than that.”

Daley decided that the company needed something ‘more elaborate’ to efficiently manage compliance requirements and to streamline business operations. He accomplished that in part by combining IBM FileNet with Iron Mountain through a partnership between the two companies. As a result, users now have the ability to find older contracts and other documents stored within the company’s legacy systems. Users can also initiate requests for the delivery of archived contracts when hard copies are needed.

The IT team briefly considered standardizing on Oracle for both the database and content management software, but ultimately decided against it. Oracle acquired Stellent Inc., a content management software maker, back in 2006.

“Back in 2008 and 2007, Oracle was just making that merger and they were not prepared, so I went with what was leading the market at the time,” Daley said. “The biggest factor was that [IBM and Iron Mountain] already knew how to integrate in with Oracle databases and they already knew how to integrate in with Oracle Financials.”

In addition to Oracle and FileNet, the new content management implementation also makes use of IBM’s Datacap Taskmaster Capture software, which automates bringing document-based data into the system. The ranch also works with several third-party vendors, including enChoice Inc., which provides the user interface that sits atop the IBM ECM software suite.

Future plans include mobilizing ECM software

The new content and records management software is up and running smoothly and the ranch expects to generate a three-year return on investment of about $4 million. And Daley has no plans to ride off into the sunset just yet.

Tejon Ranch’s IT team is now in the process of building out a mobile application that enables Apple iPad users in the field to access important case management functions like contract verification and bond management. Daley said the “app” will eventually be ported to smartphones as well.

While IT professionals may be tempted to standardize on one software vendor such as Oracle or IBM for all records management and IT infrastructure needs, Daley it’s a good idea to try combining vendor offerings where it makes sense.

“Dare to be different,” he said. “Dare to challenge what people tell you it’s supposed to be.”

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