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Paperless Government is Better Government

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How many hours per day to you spend dealing with paper? One hour? Two hours? For many in state and local government, it can actually be upwards of six hours a day! That’s too much time dedicated to printing, filing and searching for information when you could be doing more important, mission-critical tasks.

Fortunately, emerging technology is changing how we do our jobs and deliver services to constituents. At GovLoop’s State & Local Innovators Virtual Summit, Terri Jones, Government Marketing Manager at Hyland Software, explained why going paperless through utilization of enterprise content management (ECM) is the first step to building a modern and resilient organization.

With years of experience in state and local IT, Jones truly understands the importance of ECM (and admittedly feels a visceral personal annoyance towards overloaded paperwork). The economic downturn caused a massive contraction in the public sector that forced managers to rethink their current methods of business. Paper provoked sizable costs and when factoring in staff reductions, paper storage was increasingly unsustainable. Furthermore, paper-based activities – simply handling or searching for it, not reading or analyzing – takes A LOT of time, around 82 minutes per day! Going paperless can shore up this time for employees to focus on actual job tasks, Jones says.

Public agencies should strike while the iron is hot, she argues. Currently, government trends are moving toward mobile and cloud services – or “government-on-the-go,” as Jones phrased it. Citizens expect transparency, self-service, and the ability to get information digitally. Improved technology and increasing organizational buy-in further encourages this transition:

  • 90% of government leaders believe reducing paper would save their agency money.
  • 72% of .government leaders say reducing paper would enable better constituent service.

Before you can be entirely persuaded to go paperless, it would help to get a better understand of what ECM is in the first place. Jones described how each word within ECM adds a descriptive element of the overall product:

Enterprise: A product that is scalable enough for your agency to invest in one solution and have it stretch across the enterprise.

Content: Encompasses all the content you now hold on paper, and so much more – such as video, picture, and audio – all in an online format.

Management: Emphasis on automating, storing, and managing storage and access.

Further, Jones emphasized six areas of ECM to get an even better idea of what it’s all about:

Capture. ECM projects live or die by capture, so “use the biggest net you can,” Jones advises. ECM captures a high volume and variety of documents and the quicker the switch from paper to electronic, the faster the value of the investment adds up. Key benefits along these lines include elimination of filing, photocopying, and lost documents, and allow consistent indexing.

Process. Automation becomes possible when you use digital documents and this is where the rubber really begins to hit the road, says Jones. An electronic form/request can be submitted, will go into the workflow, and based on the information in the form, will automatically go to the right employee to service the request. Users can configure their process entirely to the preference of their agency. Plus, process times can be recorded for performance metrics. This can reduce workload, allow simultaneous work, ensure compliance by confirming all necessary documentation, and generate an audit trail.

Access. Going paperless is a paradigm shift for government. It expands data access options and allows for custom interfaces. Key benefits include access in remote locations, managing user experience, checking and revising documents from the field, managing transparency requirements by providing public access, and creating portals to submit vendor, transaction, or other information. 

Integrate. ECM can connect data and documents from current systems and be configured to leverage data for searches. This drives efficiency (reducing sifting through papers), breaks down information silos, requires low or no training, and can be extended to other solutions – such as accounting, instead of purchasing an entirely new solution.

Report/Measure. ECM solutions can provide dashboards that display the status of documents/forms and introduce process transparency. Is something being held up? The dashboard let’s you see where the bottleneck is so it can be resolved. This can increase effectiveness and process speed. These factors improve compliance and ROI considerations.

Store. Protect, secure, retain, and/or destroy data. Offsite paper storage is subject to floods, fires, earthquakes, and even rats! ECM, on the other hand, is resilient and secure and has redundancy built into the system to ensure all documents are backed up.

According to Jones, these areas cover the core features and functionalities of ECM that have tremendous value in government. They will also prove useful when looking to procure an ECM solution for your agency. With so many benefits from internal efficiency to external constituent service, “going paperless isn’t just possible, it’s essential to thing things government cares about.”

The full archived presentation is available here.

GovLoop recently hosted its State and Local Innovators Virtual Summit, an all-day, virtual event with six different online trainings, networking opportunities and resources to help you do your job better. Be sure to read the other recaps here.

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