When the Back Office is the Place to Start – Bringing Technology to Purchasing

Many government customers buy document management software because of its use as a compliance tool. In my agency, we had some serious rules around the use of community development and affordable housing funds and we needed to keep our documents for 35 years and yet still have access to them for annual reviews. And that doesn’t count the annual outside audits from federal and state agencies that we needed to prepare for.

But what about the back office? First of all, as a former government worker, we don’t really think of our administrative and human resources staff as ” back office” but that doesn’t mean that the lessons of private sector document management deployments can’t be applied even if we don’t share the same name for those functions.

As government shrinks, it becomes more and more difficult to accomplish the basic tasks of tracking contracts, paying the bills, doing inventory or handling HR. Even filing may be a problem because administrative staff are often the first positions to go.


Because they are not match, meaning that the dollars spent on their position may not be match for much-needed state and federal dollars and, in these budget times, with dollars so scarce, agencies may be forced to cut these positions because they must spend dollars that act as match to the state and federal funds they receive. These cuts have nothing to do with the level of work, simply that there are not enough dollars to go around and the dollars first go to meet the match requirements of your funders.

So, despite the success of document management in meeting the mission of government agencies, more and more agencies that own own document management are looking at their accounts payable department or even, buying document management for these internal processes first because the staff reductions can’t be managed without a document management and workflow automation.

So, if your agency is grappling with staff reductions in administrative areas, now is the time to look there for your document management projects. And, despite the pressure to do things for your constituents, this may be the time to flip around and create the new government back office, leaner and more efficient by removing the paper. If we do this now, government will be better positioned to use staff for the necessary forward-facing work .

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