Three reasons why public works needs document management

When I worked in Arizona, I visited my first “mining town.” These were communities built by mining companies to house their workers and the ancillary businesses and trades that supported those companies and workers.

But, because everyone who had built the towns had since passed, no one knew where the water pipes were, or even how the streets had been built. One town estimated that it leaked more water than it used, simply because they had no idea where the water pipes were.

Public works departments face a tough road. When their communities grow (which we love in government), they struggle to keep up. When budgets are tight, like now, they put off work to save money, and we mutter and complain about potholes. They are responsible for creating and maintaining the “bones” of our communities, but this struggle often makes it difficult to explore and implement ways to get better.

But when they do have time to look into those “ways to get better,” public works departments employ the use of technology. While it’s not just one piece of technology that makes them tick, I’m going to go through a few reasons why document management software should be one of them.

The longer a community grows and thrives, the more likely that the documentation describing its infrastructure will be critical. So the first reason that document management is critical is…

1. It preserves a digital image in a rational database.

Oftentimes in public works, the sheer physical size of documents was overwhelming. So, since they couldn’t fit into a file cabinet, they were usually found in piles elsewhere. With document management, an 11×17 piece of paper is no longer an issue. Documents are preserved, even if staff changes or many years pass. And, over time, the growing documentation can be easily managed, and more importantly, preserved.

Because infrastructure can be a critical public safety factor, a second reason for document management is perhaps less obvious, but even more important is…

2. Information sharing.

Imagine: quickly passing blueprints or plans to law enforcement or emergency management to respond to a problem. And then, imagine that happening in a second if the digitized image was already available through information sharing systems supported by an enterprise content management system. The best response is one that doesn’t have to be “turned on” – it’s the one that operates every day as a part of a document management system and information sharing between government departments or agencies.

And last, but not least, public works needs document management to have…

3. The ability to expand.

Good public works departments know that communities grow and change. And they plan streets, water and sewer systems to accommodate this. Document management software is no different. It should never limit the way a department operates – it should only help it expand. Think about being able to share documents across the enterprise for public safety and emergency response, to use workflow to automate processes like building permits, and to plan reviews and the benefit of taking that same application investment. Then, think about being able to use it for finance, human resources or agenda management in the government entity. This makes document management an investment for the future.

And, when document management can integrate to their databases – Cityworks, Accela, ESRI-GIS – they have done what they hope to do every time they add an asset to their community. They have planned for today’s needs while ensuring their community’s future by making a sound investment choice.

Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Wondering what goes into a document management or ECM software deployment in government? Terri Jones, Hyland's government marketing portfolio manager, has your answer. In her 10 plus years in both state and local government, she's managed IT departments, implemented ECM strategies and written legislation and program policies. If that isn't enough to prove her IT expertise in government, she has also designed and implemented data systems and websites to manage compliance and funding in excess of $90 million annually. Have a question for her? Contact her at terri.jones@onbase.com.

3 Responses

  1. Erin Joy says:

    I’m inspired by the possibilities the OnBase ECM application can extend to public works departments. Thanks for painting this picture for me!

  2. Terri Jones Terri Jones says:

    Erin,
    I am glad you found it interesting and helpful! I do think that the trick with IT and government is to have a vision of what you need to do your job and how you can better serve your constituents and to demand that from your IT vendors. Given our economic woes, government faces opportunities and challeneges and I am hoping that we are going to use this moment to make improvements in our systems!

    Please let me know if I can answer any questions and thanks for posting a reply!
    Terri

  3. Kelsay Foust says:

    Hi Terri,

    All of your articles on governments and technology are very enlightening! I was wondering if you had any Hyland case studies of document management helping a public works department? Thanks,

    Kelsay

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