The Hope is in the Process: Collaborate to Speed Up Government
As government reels from shrinking revenues, you have to question what’s sustaining public sector employees. They’ve seen layoffs, bad economic times and program cutbacks while their workloads stay the same. That’s bad enough but then there are also calls for transparency, demands for services to be delivered in person and over the web, and slow processes that wind up frustrating constituents. For state and local governments, the fight to survive combined with the need for change is a difficult mountain to climb.
While governments try to manage the elements fundamental to its services, like forms, documents and processes, one thing that usually doesn’t make the list is collaboration, especially in larger government entities. It’s a shame because governments must transform documents and the processes that move them to survive the current economic crisis. If we can accomplish this transformation, our government organizations have a better chance of surviving the economic downturn and downsizing.
This is why technology that supports better collaboration is so attractive these days. The power of real-time data, instant information access and central repositories for documents, comments and mark-ups is made possible with recent improvements in enterprise content management (ECM) solutions.
To illustrate this idea, let’s look at two classic government processes that are highly important for communities and influence constituent engagement and satisfaction – the agenda process and planning review.
Citizens may not understand the behind-the-scenes work involved in creating the agendas they see posted outside of council meetings and online. First, submitters from departments throughout an organization send reams of paper to a clerk who must collate, paginate and create meeting packets that must be posted by legally-bound deadlines. During the meeting, the clerk keeps track of motions, attendance and votes and uses the information to create minutes.
Unfortunately, this process is not linear. Revisions and re-submissions take place that slow down the process because paper documents must be circulated for review, revision and approval. With reduced staff, tight deadlines and the requirement of legislative approval to move forward, the pressure to get everything on the agenda in time for posting is intense.
Plan reviews are just as intense and come with their own implications and potential for disaster. Whether a typical project or a new building, the related plans require multiple reviews by different staff members who review using varied criteria. Somehow, by the end of the review, all comments, changes and required revisions must be re-assembled into a response for the constituent who made the submission.
Typically the process is riddled with challenges stemming from re-submission and missing information that comes from working with different versions of documents. Oftentimes missing information has major legal consequences. A project that doesn’t meet code, for example, may have structural or other issues affecting usability, functionality and safety.
ECM streamlines these processes because it focuses on the concept of a central repository – like a secure digital filing cabinet – that serves as the common meeting place for users and their documents. When you add workflow automation and collaboration tools to this common meeting place your organizational processes speed up.
With dashboard views, easy retrieval of all needed documents and the ability to see your colleagues’ comments and revisions in real time. No more running back and forth to coworkers’ desks in order to collaborate with them on projects. Thanks to workflow, the process is transparent – you can monitor where plan submissions and agenda items are in the process.
An ECM system also records and tracks changes ensuring you’re working with the most current version. That eliminates the possibility of approving wrong versions. Because all versions, comments and markups are visible, you ensure staff has the tools necessary to work more effectively together.
Collaboration – leveraging each other’s expertise and experience – is essential to surviving staff reductions. With an ECM solution, real-time collaboration speeds up government process while increasing transparency and eliminating the likelihood of errors. The hope for better government relies on the processes where technology creates new ways for staff to work together. When government collaborates, it runs smarter and faster.