Why Government Agencies Must Change
How many pieces of paper are on your desk right now? How many hours do you spend “pushing paper” daily? For far too many public servants the answer is too many!
While some state and local government agencies are moving toward a paperless environment, many others are still mired in the paper quagmire.
Constituents want mobile and cloud services, self-service and greater transparency. Politicians and government workers agree. So, what’s the hold-up and just how does a typically slow-moving bureaucracy transform?The Why and Why Not of Paperless
In 1998, the Federal government lead the way toward paperless government with the Government Paperwork and Elimination Act. Like the Federal government, state and local government agencies have long been burdened with unmanageable amounts of paperwork. Clerk’s offices, public works departments, social services, police and fire departments and motor vehicle registration offices are just a few of the agencies at the state and local level that are responsible for accepting, processing and filing millions of documents and forms every year. The reason for the push to paperless is to eliminate paper, speed processing, improve efficiency and provide better service.
While these are all great reasons for the push to paperless, the very nature of bureaucracy requires and equal amount of time and effort exploring the negatives of an issue, and those negatives can be equally powerful:
- Fear of change
- Concern about costs
- Insufficient understanding about the technology
- Inability for all stakeholders to agree
So, let’s address the concerns one at a time.
Fear of Change
We all experience fear of change to one degree or another. When an individual is hesitant to change, fear is usually eliminated or reduced by acquiring additional knowledge about the change, discussing with friends and weighing the pros and cons. For an individual, this process can move quickly. But we liken changing the way a bureaucracy operates to changing course in a large sail boat. Anyone who has sailed knows what I mean: (1) You have to plan well ahead; (2) you have to know what you’re doing; (3) the wind can change direction at any time
Government agencies face the same challenges when they need to change course, so finding a vendor with state and local government credentials, who understands the importance of paperless applications and Electronic Content Management (ECM), and who feels strongly about the need to provide better service to constituents can go a long way to toward aiding your planning and providing the knowledge you lack. It’s kind of like hiring an experienced captain to man (woman) your sail-boat.
While no amount of experience can control the direction of the wind – or political policies – experience can make it easier to take change in stride.
Concern About Costs
One if the biggest (and most pleasant) surprises that government agencies find when they go paperless is that, despite initial costs for implementing the technology and converting the paper documents to digital, the cost savings resulting from the improved efficiency usually outstrips the initial cost. Tax payers love the savings as well!
Insufficient Understanding of the Technology
It’s not at all unusual for individuals or organizations that are not in the technology sector to lack knowledge about technology. Technology changes so rapidly that sometimes even the IT department is not up on the latest innovations. This is particularly true when moving from paper to paperless technology. Paper-based technology relies on extensive manual data entry, hardware servers and departmental silos of information. Your IT people are great at handling this type of hardware-driven system, but when you move to paperless ECM, it’s wise to follow the lead of experts in digital workflows and Cloud storage.
Inability for all Stakeholders to Agree
Admittedly, this is a tough one, but we’ve found that agreement is easier when stakeholders can experience the new technology for themselves. That’s one of the reasons that we offer to set up a demo using your own documents and workflows so you can see the difference paperless technology can make for your mission.