We continue our look at digital document management by discussing how solutions underpin any digital transformation initiative
As public sector organisations undertake their digital transformation initiatives, typically there are two key drivers – operational efficiency and enhanced customer service. In their personal lives, adoption of digital technologies is the norm and so customers are expecting similar communications methods and experiences from any service provider, regardless of whether they are private or public. Document management underpins any digital transformation initiative and a best practice-led approach is essential to delivering improved customer service.
The above is the view of Roy Russell, CEO of Ascertus, who says that document management is of paramount importance for the public sector if it is to deliver improvements to customers. “Best practice-led document management facilitates better communication with constituents through better access to information (encompassing records, documents, emails, text and voice messages, etc.), all in a centralised location and governed by the necessary security policies to ensure data protection. With complete visibility of a case or issue, the organisation can efficiently deliver services in a cost-effective and timely manner.
“Speaking as a constituent myself, nothing frustrates me more than when I call an organisation a second time and have to explain the issue to another customer service representative again. A single electronic customer case file for all communications and documents stored in a document management system (DMS) makes it easier for teams to work collaboratively with access to all past customer interactions, notes, emails, internet messages, scanned documents, etc. The DMS pulls all the relevant non-structured customer information together into a single central repository and provides a solid foundation for extending the functionality with workflows for document routing, assembly and automation. With artificial intelligence, the DMS can also automate classification and provide action and response solutions.”
Much is made of the need to drive enhanced service delivery via multiple channels – and this is another area where Russell says DMS can help. “A DMS can enable organisations to offer their constituents a variety of service delivery options – be that via a collaboration portal that allows them to leverage self-service features for information sharing or indeed the ability to consume services ‘on the go’ in today’s Smartphone environment.”
Tim Waterton, Director of UK Business at M-Files agrees. He adds: “One of the key digital transformations taking place in the public sector is the move toward greater usage of citizen online self-services. For citizens to be able to benefit from these online services, it requires organisations to put in place a system that enables information and data to be managed effectively at both the front and back-end, therefore limiting content chaos and the corresponding impact of this on customers. The challenge which comes because of this is that unlike many private sector firms, paper still reigns supreme amongst public sector organisations.
“A lot of tenants or residents still have limited internet access or simply aren’t tech-savvy, which means they want (and need) to deal with physical copies of important documents. Because of this, public-sector organisations need to have a strategy in place that enables them to digitise these physical documents and means to manage this information effectively.
“An intelligent information management solution allows companies to simplify how customers and staff access, secure and process documents. This means, customers can submit forms and documents online, and staff can access this information from anywhere using any device, regardless of where it is stored. Because of this, employees can reduce their time spent in the office managing paper-loads and instead be out in the field, spending time with the people in their communities making a real difference to their lives.”
The banking sector example
An example the public sector is being encouraged to look at is banking. Leonard Sim, Key Accounts Manager at KYOCERA, says that banking is a prime example of how DMS enables organisations to make long and archaic procedures quicker, easier and cheaper.
“Traditionally, if you wanted to deposit a large cheque it would require physically going into the bank and depositing it with a desk clerk,” he points out. “The desk clerk then sent the cheque off to a warehouse, where they’d file the cheque until the customer called for it. If called for, the warehouse worker would have to locate it manually and mail it back to the bank. The bank would then mail it to the customer. This long-winded process would take weeks and lost mail or human error would often occur.
“With a DMS in place, depositing and retrieving a cheque takes seconds. With time and money saved on postage, DMS has allowed banks to significantly enhance their customer service, improving those all-important satisfaction scores. And this extends to the public sector as well.”
Turning focus back to the public sector, Sim says many public sector organisations are adopting DMS to help them achieve digital transformation and improve their user satisfaction scores.
“The electronic processing of inbound data such as invoices helps finance teams save time and leaves less room for human error. Digital user records – particularly useful in the NHS and for councils – again saves valuable time and money, and storage space.”
But what about documents that don’t have the ability to transfer electronically? Sim points out that there are always some users of public services who maybe don’t have access to technology and therefore prefer to work with paper documents. For this, DMS can provide an easy way to scan, process and store this data digitally, helping you to meet compliance and again save on storage space.
“Customer satisfaction surveys are something that many public sector organisations need to carry out,” adds Sim. “They’re particularly crucial for universities trying to attract prospective students and investors. Come the end of the academic year, students fill these surveys out manually and then their answers are collected, processed and analysed by the university.
“Filling out these surveys may seem somewhat archaic for students who have grown up in the digital era, not to mention time consuming. Time that would be better spent working on their dissertation or revising for an exam. Using an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solution significantly decreases the length of time to complete the survey and to process the information and leaves less room for errors. Helping to improve service and those all-important satisfaction scores.
“Ultimately, every DMS frees up money and time to be spent more effectively in other critical areas. For example, in changing all council tax communication to be via digital platforms, councils can save thousands per year on printing and postage costs. They could then reinvest this money in furthering their own digital transformation journey, or in becoming a digital-first organisation.”
Never far from the top of any list of concerns the public sector has is security – which is something Russell says DMS can help to deal with.
“Constituents are expecting that their personal data is secure with the public sector organisations that hold them,” he comments. “GDPR increases the challenge, more so for the public sector than others due to the vast amount of data that they collect and hold on individuals.
“A DMS is essential to delivering against the demands of, for example, ‘Subject Access Requests’, which organisations are obliged to respond to within 30 days. The document management solution provides the ability to know where personal data is stored and track it to meet these requirements quickly and easily. Also, organisations mustn’t hold on to data that they don’t need to retain. They can ensure this by using capabilities in DMSs that help apply information retention policies to sensitive data. Organisations can automate and track the end-to-end process of data (both physical and electronic records) that is stored, right from creation through to disposition, supported by full auditability. All this tangibly contributes towards mitigating risk and enhancing constituent satisfaction, areas that are fast rising to the top of the agenda.”
Waterton adds: “As the public-sector deals with vulnerable individuals, it’s critical that documents are processed and managed in a secure and controlled fashion to ensure only the right people have access to this sensitive information.
“If staff are not provided with the right tools and resources to do this – especially when working from home or remotely – it risks them turning to less secure methods. The use of unsanctioned personal file-sharing apps at work by staff increases the risk of data breaches, adds to the content chaos, reduces the IT department’s visibility and can raise compliance issues, all of which are major headaches that public sector leaders must do their utmost to avoid.”
The challenges facing the public sector organisations are complex and delivering the highest level of service to citizens is hugely important. The good news is that document management solutions can help to deliver much of the necessary change.