Speedy services, efficient processes and easily dispensable data are not often synonymous with what we think of when it comes to government agency practices. In fact, the image that comes to mind are stacks of papers and loads of file folders busting out of cabinets. Whether you’re a business submitting plans for new construction or a resident seeking information for a permit, the government is required via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to supply you with specific information needed for your project.

With so many requests coming in day after day, town halls, city halls, and county and state governmental offices are busier than ever processing and reviewing requests. What’s more, as requests come in, additional information must simultaneously be recorded, processed, distributed, reviewed and shared – talk about a manic cycle, especially when so much is done manually.

So how can government offices and agencies shed their poor reputations for slow processing and shift to one of efficiency? By becoming a digital environment.

Sounds simple, right? It is. The federal government is already working toward this type of ecosystem and recently enacted a requirement that permanent records be managed electronically by 2019.  What about the day-to-day flow of documents? Shouldn’t those be digitized, too?

The answer is yes.  Managing content digitally from the start – the minute information is received – helps offices run more smoothly. Not only can administrators find needed information more quickly via file search capabilities, but they can also use the information more efficiently throughout the lifespan of a project and then easily archive them when they are no longer needed. While existing paper-based records must be digitized by 2019, why not start transforming to a paperless environment today?

“…it is more than likely that those agencies – federal, state and local — that are not embarking on a digital transformation journey will be pushed into the digital era by their customers and younger tech-savvy workforce.”

– GovLoop, Paving the Path for Government Digital Transformation via the Cloud

Not sure where to start? Here are three areas where a government entity can make the most progress: case management, plan review and FOIA requests.

Case Management 

Wouldn’t it be great to manage all information associated with a case – data, documents and process flow – in an easy, electronic, efficient format? Since most cases, which includes anything from projects to investigations to contracts and more, have a lot of moving parts and involve numerous notes, tasks, reminders, conversations, documents, photos, activities and correspondences, it is critical to manage all assets in one easily accessible portal. With a digital solution, multiple spreadsheets become one master file, paper checklists/forms are archived in one place, paper documents are eliminated, and ancient databases (Lotus Notes) go by the wayside. More importantly, you increase efficiencies in accessing information, you gain greater control and flexibility over who can access data, and you benefit from greater file security.

Plan Review

Approximately 12 percent of U.S. state and local jurisdictions use technology in code administration and enforcement or building plan review processes. Do you?

We all know permits are required to build or make changes to a structure.  Plans must be filed and reviewed by a government entity for approval to ensure all building codes are enforced. Often, as a project progresses, architectural drawings are modified which then requires additional government approvals.

To help make this process as smooth as possible and to help get businesses back up and running quickly, government agencies should invest in electronic plan review systems, which provide greater visibility into project progress and create a paperless workflow. The overarching result:  a transparent and efficient approval workflow from application to permit to inspection to the certificate of occupancy. Imagine … no paper.

FOIA Requests

“Consumers and a growing mobile workforce expect the same type of connectivity and customer experience buying a business permit or paying taxes online as they do while shopping on Amazon or streaming content on Netflix.”

– GovLoop, Paving the Path for Government Digital Transformation via the Cloud

We have rights and expectations, and government entities are working hard – incurring overtime – to meet these demands.  If you have digitized your content and accept web-based requests, you’re already eliminating paper on the front and back end.  Fulfilling the request is a simple search and electronic delivery which saves time and money. Plus, the speed of response enables governments to counter all the bad press they get with “moving at a glacial pace.”

Managing information digitally is a massive time-saver for the requestor and the fullfiller, resulting in more positive customer experiences, greater efficiencies for staff and an increased likelihood of happy tax-paying residents and businesses.

Joanne E. Novak
Joanne E. Novak

is a program manager at Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. and is responsible for program development with the company’s Business Intelligence groups, including the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) practice. Her responsibilities are to build sales and customer-facing educational and thought leadership insights as well as strategic initiatives for ECM.