This interview with Jay Vickers, General Manager of Legislative Solutions at Granicus is an excerpt from our recent guide, Your Guide to Productivity in Government.
Increasing demands and shrinking budgets across government have prompted a search for more efficient and cost-effective ways of operating. A growing movement is attempting to address these concerns by equipping employees with the necessary tools and resources that enable them to shift from doing manual, administrative tasks to higher-value work that is directly tied to agencies’ missions. This is especially true for clerks, who in many ways are the lifeblood of local government.
Clerks are the often overlooked backbone of government. Tasked with a number of responsibilities such as managing legislative meetings, administering local elections and ensuring municipal records are readily accessible to the public, it’s no wonder that clerks are pressed for time and resources. In addition to their many roles, they are also under immense pressure; one mistake can lead to a public disaster. Oftentimes, clerks have dozens of daily tasks to complete but never enough time.
During a recent interview with GovLoop, Jay Vickers, General Manager of Legislative Solutions at Granicus, discussed the specific challenges that clerks face, how clerks define productivity and how technology is empowering them to be more efficient and effective. Granicus specializes in empowering modern, digital governments with the latest in cloud technology to carry out a number of tasks, including agenda and legislative management.
Vickers has worked with hundreds of clerks to identify their biggest challenges, with the consensus indicating time as the biggest roadblock in completing their tasks. “A lot of times they’re looking for any tools that can help them get more hours in a day,” Vickers said. They’re just so rushed, so time constrained that they don’t have the opportunity to give each [task] the level of attention they really want to.”
To overcome these challenges, Vickers recommended two solutions: converting manual, paper-based processes to automated, electronic ones and conducting procedure reviews of workplaces. When combined, these methods have worked wonders for clerk’s offices, including those in Pinellas County, Florida; Keene, New Hampshire; and North Richland Hills, Texas.
“We see a lot of customers who try to reactively solve problems but end up bloating their processes and slowing down workflows,” Vickers said. “Oftentimes, processes are not well documented and not a single person in the organization can describe them.”
Vickers explained this as an internal disconnect between departments, saying that each person rarely understands the processes in their entirety, especially tasks that happen before or after their own responsibilities. One example is the disjointed process that many governments use to approve agenda items for board meetings.
“We’re able to help them document and understand their processes,” Vickers said. “Then we can find redundancies and opportunities for efficiency. We combine this strategic procedure review with electronic processing so that offices can know exactly where information is throughout the process.”
The results back up Vickers’ claims: In Florida’s Pinellas County, agenda item approval time was reduced by 75 percent, from three months down to three weeks. Additionally, meetings went entirely paperless. Similar results were seen in North Richland Hills, Texas. Using Granicus’ meeting and agenda software suite, the city saved one full day in preparation and assembly per public meeting, as well as paper savings of 12,000 sheets each month — or 18 trees every year — from not printing town hall agendas.
In addition to all of the time, money and paper that these changes can save, Vickers also believes that using streamlined, automated processes will allow for a significant increase in public interaction. Keene, New Hampshire is an example of that. Employees there saw a 65 percent reduction in time spent handling public meeting inquiries after putting more legislative information online in an accessible and searchable format. Even more impactful is that 90 percent of those inquiries were made self-service, which allows the public to access information quickly and conveniently and fosters citizen engagement.
As demands on government increase and resources diminish, changes must be made to accommodate citizens and government employees alike. The required increase in efficiency can be achieved by introducing automated processes and better managing procedures in governments across the country. Agencies will be more capable of achieving their missions, citizens will be able to increase interactions with government and clerks everywhere will be empowered to better manage time before, during and after meetings.