When the back office is the place to start in government – Flipping around the document management decision
Many government agencies buy document management software first and foremost for compliance. In my agency, we had some serious rules around the use of community development and affordable housing funds. Documents had to be maintained for 35 years, but also had to be accessible for annual reviews and the annual outside audits from federal and state agencies.
So, in these very forward-facing areas, records management and workflow have strong support communities. Most people understand the value of the line of business systems they use – ESRI, Emphasys, Tenmast, Harmony, Curam, CourtView, etc. And, they get how enterprise content management can and should be integrated to make these systems really effective.
But what about the back office?
As government shrinks, it becomes more and more difficult to accomplish the basic tasks of tracking contracts, paying the bills, doing inventory or handling human resources. Even filing may be a problem because administrative staffs are often the first positions to go.
Because they are not “match,” meaning that the dollars spent on their positions may not be match for much-needed state and federal dollars. And, in these budget times, agencies may be forced to cut these positions because, for the most part, they only have dollars to spend that match the state and federal funds they receive.
These cuts have nothing to do with the level of work being done. It’s simply a matter of the fact that there aren’t enough dollars to go around – and the dollars first go to meet the match requirements of your funders. Moreover, since these positions aren’t forward-facing in terms of serving constituents – positions like caseworkers, police officers, firefighters, teachers – they seem like better positions to cut so that services can be maintained as long as possible.
These unfortunate realities are causing a new trend in government’s use of ECM. Someone has to pick up the slack for those staff reductions, right? Well, in many cases, part of the slack is being handled by technology. We’re now seeing that, more and more, government agencies are actually buying ECM to help close these newly created resource gaps in their internal process first. It’s only when they get the results they need in these areas that they move beyond to forward-facing processes.
So, whether your agency owns a full-blown ECM solution, or is just starting to consider one based on 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, that’s exactly what flipping around the typical document management deployment will do.
To many, this concept might seem topsy-turvy in comparison with the usual ECM approach. But consider this: if government agencies start by automating the “back office” with ECM, government will be able to focus staff on the valuable forward-facing work – work that serves citizens and betters our communities. Now that’s the real definition of “doing more with less.”