Helping the Department of Conservation to find the information they need, easily

Helping the Department of Conservation to access data quickly and easily with improved Information Systems

Project Background

The Department of Conservation (DOC) runs projects to protect, conserve, restore, and manage New Zealand’s conservation land and waters, including recreational opportunities in these areas and the protection of certain species.

DOC works with a range of organisations and individuals to manage more than one-third of New Zealand's land including 14 national parks, 44 marine reserves and 6 marine mammal sanctuaries.

DOC are proactive in getting New Zealanders involved in conservation efforts and natural heritage protection, and therefore place great importance on the provision of relevant and timely information.

DOC’s Challenge – helping users access the information they need, easily.

DOC is currently replacing its folder-based document management system.

Moving from a folder-based system to one that is folder-less is a marked shift for users; from a navigable structure, to a more search-focussed environment. Giving users as many search tools and entry points to the organisation’s documents and content is key to ensuring efficient use, interaction, and collaboration.

While users can add their own tags to content, it was recognised that automating this step as much as possible would be valuable.


DOC runs various information systems internally as well as collaborating with a number of external organisations and boards. The heavy flows of information between these systems and external groups means the information needs to be categorised in a uniformed way. Doing so allows a range of people operating different systems to interact with and use it.

Our Solution – Search & Auto-Classification capability

To enable the consistent classification of information, DOC had a specialised vocabulary designed. By using this vocabulary, not only in the new Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system but across a number of internal systems, there is a consistent way of referencing (and therefore retrieving) DOC’s valuable information.

Optimation provided DOC with Smartlogic’s Semaphore – a tool that not only manages DOC’s specialised vocabulary and allows it to be used within various systems, it also auto-classifies content.

By integrating Semaphore with the new ECM, content is auto-tagged on upload with a range of keywords that are meaningful to users when searching. This complements the search-focused environment DOC has implemented.

The auto-classification can also be leveraged to assist with the information processes required of the public sector, by Archives NZ. In the past, disposal classes were allocated at a folder level however by using Semaphore, DOC are now able to automatically apply classes at an individual item level.

Results of DOC’s Improved Information System

Semaphore has enabled DOC to provide its staff with enhanced search capability based on its own specialised vocabularies. This adds value to information at the point of creation and there is potential to use Semaphore with a range of other systems; increasing the consistency and interoperability across the business. 

Semaphore has also improved the ability to appraise records by applying retention and disposal classes on an item by item basis. This is a huge step forward in the approach to records management in New Zealand’s public sector.

Key Results

  • A managed ontology of 95,000 DOC terms developed in Semaphore Ontology Manager
  • Auto-classification (tagging) across the 2.5 million items being migrated to the new system using Semaphore Classification Server
  • Improved search and findability using organisation-specific vocabulary
  • A managed ‘source of truth’ to enable consistent terminology across the business and various systems
  • Automated retention and disposal class allocation at an item level.


Ontology example around the term “ Blue Duck”

  DOC Case Study final


By considering the specific needs and nuances of the workings of DOC, Optimation were able to provide Semaphore, a content intelligence tool that met the unique requirements of this busy and diverse organisation.

For more detail about how the Department of Conservation is embracing content as a service to engage and empower its broader community, you can click here.  

Our Information Management Consultants, work with a number of partners to integrate content intelligence tools such as Semaphore, the auto-classification solution from Smartlogic, to drive a better user experience and improve productivity. We are receiving tremendous interest in the use of content intelligence tools to provide the right information, to the right person, in the right context, in a timely manner.