New Year’s Resolutions Redux – Resolve to Manage Workload
2013 was a bumpy year for government. Local budgets and revenues may have stabilized, but continued uncertainty at the federal level can provoke paralysis at the local level. Recent federal budget progress may continue, but if it doesn’t, local government has to consider the possibility that the federal government will remain an uncertain partner through another year. Last year, I wrote a blog post about resolutions for local government. The funny thing is that these resolutions still hold true. And there is another compelling reason for you to embrace them as your plan for 2014 – workload management.
Chances are, you are now operating your local government at a 10 percent or greater reduction in staff and probably a much larger reduction in revenue. For the remaining staff, morale may be lower than ever while they continue to meet increasing needs and federal mandates. One of the strongest city and county management themes I have been hearing about is the need to manage the workload of remaining staff. It turns out that last year’s resolutions can be your action plan to help your staff cope with smaller government.
The days of paper are numbered. By eliminating paper and moving to electronic forms, document management and workflow automation, you save the time associated with filing, distributing, printing and copying which is critical to efficiency if you have had to reduce staff. Eliminating duplication of effort and tasks that are simply the burden of paper will serve government well into the future, but now is the time to reduce staff workload!
If going digital is transforming the core of traditional government, going mobile is the recognition that it is no longer viewed as a luxury to have the right IT hardware to do our jobs. Government can harness mobility and improve connectivity to get more field work done. And with the prices of handsets and tablets so low, it is cheaper than buying a desktop that field staff are seldom around to use. When field staff avoid the drive to the office or eliminate the collecting and re-filing of paper documents, it will change the backlog of work and improve your service. As you move to a paperless world, going mobile gets easier. It makes sense to couple your paper elimination with departments who need access to documents in the field so that you can increase the impact of these two resolutions by making them work together.
Some time ago, I wrote that I believed that one of the things we dislike about government is waiting – waiting in line, waiting on the phone, waiting for things to happen. I also believe that the availability of so many self-service options through services like online shopping or banking has put pressure on local government to offer the same experience. This is no longer just a “nice to have,” because the availability of the Internet, the “always-connected citizen” and the smartphone have simply changed the game. It is expected that everyone has a website with services, not just static text.
The good news for strapped government is that this trend has benefits in so many areas that it must be prioritized as you look at your IT investment for the coming year. If your most demanded paper forms-based processes were available online, people could do their business at their convenience. And, if they could see how this process is moving forward by visiting a portal, and receiving a text message or an email, they would enjoy this convenience over waiting for one of your overworked staff members to answer the phone during business hours.
Imagine if this could happen automatically so that you didn’t have to worry about an application languishing in a backlog or even getting lost in a mountain of paper on a desk. The advantage of a self-service government process is that it moves faster, keeps a constituent informed and relieves your staff of tasks – at the same time. And it all starts with going paperless and being aware of the tremendous opportunity offered by affordable mobile technologies that are now in the hands of many of our constituents.
Technology is always touting the next big thing and it can be difficult to choose and risk scarce dollars on a trend you aren’t sure about. However, these trends are proven to save money and time while embracing something that our constituents already expect. Going paperless, mobile and self-service are the essence of faster, cheaper, better government. And it will serve your community well if you resolve to make this your IT road map. How often do you find solutions that meet constituent needs and also decrease workload? That would truly be a happy new year for your staff!