In part 1, we talked about the long history of the clerk’s role. With all the responsibilities putting pressure on clerks over the years, it is the fundamental task of producing agendas and minutes that dictates their workload and stress. Because these documents are the basis and record for the public legislative process, they are the hub of local government.
They are also highly visible and are a part of a clerk’s other key responsibility: public records stewardship.
Part of the dilemma clerks face is dealing with the modern constituent. This constituent requires government to have an online presence and this, in turn, requires digital, agenda, minutes and public records work. Unfortunately, most clerks don’t have time to evaluate and implement new solutions like agenda management or public records – even though those solutions can provide quick ROI while reducing workloads.
The new technology path for government includes websites that provide self-service and 24/7 access to key government documents, whether they’re the latest agendas, last week’s minutes or public records. Without a seamless agenda and minutes workflow and public records solution, the clerk’s new online responsibilities simply add to the already heavy workload.
Three keys to success
Last time, we talked about some key targets for your internal workflow analysis. This time, we consider how the three items below help you meet and exceed the expectations of both current and future constituents:
1. Packet and minutes creation
It is essential that you are able to easily create packets that are appropriate for the public. Before a meeting, you need to post the agenda and make packets available. After the meeting, you need to edit and publish minutes. Here is where a paperless process is instrumental.
The ability to seamlessly publish the work you do to the web to distribute to your constituents is an important piece of your agenda process evolution. In addition, the ability to distribute by email or mobile devices allows you to move away from paper and extra steps in your process.
2. Online portals
Where you put digital packets, agendas and minutes and the ease with which people can use the system is an essential part of a transparent government. It’s all about providing simple access for your constituents. A portal should also easily connect to agenda and minutes publishing, but it should also be able to adapt to your constituents’ needs.
Making sure the systems you – and your constituents – depend on easily adapt to the evolving nature of government work is crucial. Your portal should also integrate with your website and be flexible enough to adapt to your future initiatives.
3. Public records
It’s important to not let the pursuit of an agenda solution overshadow the broader responsibilities clerks have to manage public records. Preserving the proceedings of a legislative body is only part of the bigger picture of public records that clerks have safeguarded for centuries.
To effectively meet their needs, you must make the body of government documents considered public records easily available to constituents. You can improve the efficiency of retrieving these – along with their preservation – by moving to digital records. A single, secure archive allows clerks to fully search digital records and fulfill records requests. And, when you link this repository to a portal, constituents can access agendas, minutes and public documents at their convenience without consuming clerk staff time.
The digital path
Beyond helping clerks meet their core responsibilities, digital records have many benefits. They can survive catastrophic events like floods, fires and hurricanes. They can be accessed in the field, plotted on a map and even routed through processes with automation. Making digital records available online not only enhances transparency and helps clerks meet any legal requirements, it also contributes to the resiliency of a community.
So, we have shifted to an online world and are serving a different sort of constituent. This requires a comprehensive view of the technologies we select, and the features they offer must be greater than just a way to create agenda packets more easily. Like the longstanding role of the clerk, the solutions you select need to be sustainable and flexible, and they must encompass both your legislative process and your public records responsibilities.
Because public records are an enterprise responsibility, only an enterprise solution and a single document archive can truly serve clerks in their long tradition of excellence. Aligning to this path is the quickest way to success – for both clerks and their constituents.