Digitizing the contemporary court space can seem like a colossal task – but the reality is that courts around the country are going paperless every day. So what does it mean for a court to truly be paperless…and even then, how do you get there? Brad Smith, Senior Justice Consultant for ImageSoft, answers these questions and more, putting your paperless jitters to rest once and for all.Continue reading “Episode 006: Steps to Going Paperless in the Courts”
We probably found this funnier than we should have, but we’re a software company – what do you expect?
Whether you identify with the fax-fanatic or the defeated presenter, hopefully you also found some humor in this. As a paperless organization, it’s intuitive for us to type notes that are automatically backed in a cloud, transfer video files through an online portal, and give virtual presentations via Microsoft Teams. But, all too often, we’re reminded by our colleagues, clients, partners and friends that digital communication is still not the norm.
Burned by the Firewall
We can get a healthy laugh out of this cartoon because it’s satirical of our very existence, which involves the daily battle of digging people’s heels out of the ground when it comes to digitally transforming their painfully paper-heavy processes. To us, going digital makes complete sense: your data is more secure, communicating is easier, efficiency, accountability and visibility are all increased, a few trees and some sanity are saved… the list goes on.
We could talk to you about the benefits of going paperless until we’re blue in the face and, if you’ve had the pleasure of working with us, you know we will. But we’ve come to learn that no matter how many facts we present from every possible angle, we’re not getting passed anyone’s firewall until they turn down the heat. If someone is a stickler on paper and manual procedures, they will incinerate our points with the flames of their implacability before our words have a chance to hit even one ear. Trust us, it happens all the time.
“Why Are You Not Paperless?”
You probably cringe more at this question than the once-per-year holiday dinner where your extended family interrogates every aspect of your personal life. But before you start flame throwing responses like, “it’s much too expensive!” or “the process isn’t broke – why fix it?” we ask that you think about the real reasons behind your apprehension – growing pains and organization-wide changes are uncomfortable, and it requires a lot of preparation.
No judgment – we completely get it.
Take your time to research, talk to your industry’s thought leaders on paperless organizations, watch demos, and definitely consider the financial investment. Maybe read this article from the National Center for State Courts. But keep in mind that most organizations, and especially public-serving government agencies, are realizing they can no longer gamble sensitive information, data, and years of organizational know-how on the risk of paper, which can be lost, misfiled, easily neglected, or destroyed in natural disasters, like the tragic, unexpected California wildfires.
So What is the First Step to Going Paperless?
Be open to it. Understand what it means to “go paperless” (hint: it’s more than just emailing and/or eFiling). Take an inventory of your current infrastructure and procedures, and identify what’s not working or could be improved. Visualize the potential of your organization and set the goals to get there.
Once you have that, give us a call. We’ll partner with you to understand where your organization is compared to where you want it to be and work hand-in-hand with you to establish blueprints for your paperless organization – even if we have to fax the initial plans to you.
We Want to Hear From You!
As much as we like to talk, we’re also great listeners! Leave your answer in the comment section below. We read and respond – promise!
Which persona do you identify with in the cartoon above? What is or was your biggest hurdle to digital transformation?
Want to stay updated on the latest government tech trends? Find the news directly in your social feed by following the ImageSoft Government Solutions showcase page.
If you’ve scrolled through social media at all in the past few weeks, you’ve probably seen friends and family, celebrities, and even some of your favorite retail and fast-food chains participate in the #TenYearChallenge.
Many of them made us laugh.
Some invoked a tasteful sense of nostalgia while pointing to 10 years of stagnancy as a win for all.
Others took the opportunity to make a more politically-charged statement about a dire need for change.
While there were many creative statements made during the ten-year challenge, there was one, seemingly innocent decade-old comparison that made many stop and reflect on how much time has changed the way we interact with the world.
Maybe it wasn’t this exact picture. Maybe it was of a flip-phone versus a smartphone. Maybe a dinosaur computer versus a tablet. In any case, your reaction was probably the same – “Wow! I remember when…”
For example, anyone born before the early 2000s probably didn’t travel unless they a) had the route memorized, or b) plotted the route on a physical map and secured a co-pilot to keep them on track. Nowadays, we simply plug our destination into Google Maps and we’re off! Thanks to GIS integrations, technology will even re-route us if an accident or heavy traffic is delaying the original directions.
I’m not sure whether today’s kids are lucky or deprived for not having to endure hours on the road listening to their parents quarrel over a giant map outstretched on the dashboard.
While many of us put these changes in the context of our daily lives, we probably didn’t connect the dots to how technology has changed our jobs. For government departments, the evolution has been incredible.
Ten Years Ago…
You were still spending your birthday at the DMV (AKA, the Secretary of State’s office) renewing license plate tabs. Leslie Knope just started introducing us to the real struggles of the parks and recreation department. Leanne didn’t know she’d be the star of an “OnBase for Human Resources” series, and #GovTech know-how definitely wasn’t streamed into your daily LinkedIn newsfeed.
Ten Years from Now?
The #TenYearChallenge may have seemed like a gimmicky social media fad, but it actually forced many of us to reflect on how much time changes people, places and processes. What we know as normal today could be a polaroid picture of the past in ten years’ time.
With constituents at the forefront of every operation, government agencies need to keep pace with the changes of the world. Many are hopping on the tech bandwagon and doing their best to stay relevant, but the change will continue as consumers increasingly demand mobility, immediate gratification, and convenience – all of which your file cabinets, manila folders, and snail-mailed paperwork cannot offer. Staying connected to the people, driving community involvement and ensuring responsible citizenship means constantly adapting to and adopting the innovations designed to fulfill those exact needs.
If your department has no records management process, automation or streamlining capabilities in 2019, what will it be like in 2029? You have to walk before you can run, and if your department can’t walk with these tools today, it surely won’t be able to run into whatever the standards are for 2029.
So, what does a government agency that’s up-to-par with societal pace look like in 2019? A 360-degree view of all records and documents in one, secure location. A paperless workflow that gets the job done and in the right hands with just a few clicks. Integrations with the best-of-breed solutions that serve your niche government industry’s current needs and future goals. In other words, OnBase.
We Want to Hear from You!
Where would you like to see your department in ten years?
Answer in the comments section below or on our Government solutions showcase page. We read and respond – promise!
We’re excited to share this heart-felt guest blog courtesy of our friend and client Paul Ferguson, Clerk of the Circuit Court in Arlington, VA.
When the Arlington Circuit Court decided to move from paper to electronic files in 2011, our first step was finding a technology partner that listened to our goals, could help us achieve them, and be fun to work with along the way. We were fortunate to find all of that in ImageSoft, whose team was able to transition us over to a paperless system with ease and continues to support us with software updates and excellent customer service.
Benefits Beyond the Price Tag
“Project Paperless” has empowered Arlington to achieve all of its goals, and then some! Yes, the cost savings have been nice. We no longer need to worry about purchasing case folders, use much less paper, and have considerably cut our postage costs. However, the benefits of ImageSoft’s solution and support system have been much more than financial for us.
OnBase, the enterprise content management system (ECM) implemented by ImageSoft, allows staff to route filings and documents to the proper person and place in a matter of minutes. With validated permissions, judges, attorneys, staff, and the public can all access the same file at the same time.
After working with the solution for a while, it was only natural that we would have some feedback as to what we could build upon to better serve the needs of our office. Both our judges and staff have suggested various upgrades and changes over the years, which ImageSoft has always welcomed and delivered on in an effective, timely manner.
ImageSoft also introduced us to electronic filings, which is now our preferred way of processing files. Thanks to ImageSoft’s TrueFiling, about 20 percent of our cases are now eFiled. Just this one change has delivered great time savings for our staff, faster turnaround for the public, and convenience for attorneys.
If you would like to learn more specifics about our office’s paperless transformation, I encourage you to take a quick read through our case study.
While our system is meeting all our needs at the moment, it’s reassuring to know we have ImageSoft as a partner to call on for whatever and whenever our goals change.
It’s hard to remember what life was like six years ago before we knew “project paperless” was even a possibility. Arlington’s Circuit Court staff, judges, and attorneys appreciate the hand-in-hand support and forward-moving opportunity that ImageSoft has given us, and we are all very excited for what’s to come!
Clerk of the Circuit Court
Arlington, VA and City of Falls Church, VA
By: Steve Glisky, Practice Manager, ImageSoft
The criminal justice system holds prosecutors and law enforcement officers to unique statutory responsibilities which, when not honored, can lead to misconduct and disciplinary action. The effort required to ensure these protocols are respected at times take a backseat to the daily grind of pushing stacks of paper files through the justice system.
Jurisdictions that move from paper to electronic-based prosecution increase the speed and consistency of prosecuting cases. A solution that expands throughput while systemizing compliance rules helps improve justice and community confidence. As a blueprint feature of the Paperless Prosecutor Solution (PPS), statute compliancy has been built into the daily operations of prosecutors’ offices across the country.
You Ask, We Answer
As we walk through each of these compliancy features, think about your own processes and how you honor each of these responsibilities. Are you taking unnecessary time-consuming steps? Is your protocol safeguarding your cases as much as it should?
CJIS Security Policy
Passing a CJIS Security Audit goes beyond just getting your staff and partners finger printed and trained. A key tenant to CJIS security requirements is that any data exchanged between law enforcement and prosecution must be encrypted end-to-end and while at rest. Simply receiving sensitive information from law enforcement via a standard email is a sure way to fail an audit and incur penalties. The Paperless Prosecutor Solution is the Rx for CJIS audit anxiety because it uses an innovative and secure Law Enforcement Agency Portal (LEAP) for streamlining communication with the prosecutor’s office. Paperless prosecution is a great way to audit proof your office while enjoying a peace of mind that critical information is safe and secure.
It’s a violation of due process if the prosecution fails to disclose evidence throughout the life of a case. In the paper world, it’s often difficult to track and prove when discoverable materials are sent. Any missteps could result in a mistrial or a decision being overturned.
Paperless prosecution protects the office against these types of challenges by automating the discovery process, enabling the systematic redaction of documents at the time of intake, and providing a complete audit trail of when and to whom discoverable materials are sent. Updated discovery statuses and materials are always available anytime in the courtroom or office.
The prosecutor must notify victims about many things, including their rights to participate in the case, receive plea agreement recommendations, and attend the sentencing hearing to express how the crime has affected their lives. As all prosecutors know, failure to honor these responsibilities undermines justice by not giving the victim a voice in the outcome of the case.
PPS ensures that justice is served by automatically alerting the Victim Rights Coordinator to send out notifications to the victim based upon pre-defined rules of the office. This keeps the victim engaged throughout the case and helps uphold the public’s trust in their prosecutor and the entire justice system.
Prosecutors must properly subpoena witnesses prior to court hearings. If the witness fails to appear, it’s incumbent on the prosecutor to know the serve status of the subpoena. If the witness was properly served but failed to appear, a bench warrant could be issued depending on the circumstance. In a paper-based environment, it’s very difficult to locate accurate serve-status information at the time of the hearing.
This isn’t a problem, however, with PPS, which delivers real-time serve status updates from the LEAP portal to the Prosecutor’s electronic case file. Going a step further, this data-driven approach also equips the prosecutor with the number of attempts it took to serve the witness.
In-custody arrests are time sensitive for the Prosecutor. Typically, prosecutors have only 48 hours to make a charging decision. If the Prosecutor fails to issue charges within this timeframe, law enforcement must let potentially dangerous offenders go free. Unfortunately, mistakes and delays do occur, and inadvertent releases happen more than they should.
PPS protects the public against this threat by color coding in-custody prosecution requests red with high priority. If prosecution requests are not screened within three hours, an automatic alert is sent out to the assigned attorney and office administrator. Additional escalation alerts are sent to the Chief Assistant Prosecutor and the Prosecutor if the request still hasn’t been screened within a pre-designated timeframe. The combination of real-time data exchange with law enforcement and built-in priority escalation and alerts gives the prosecutor the upper hand in keeping dangerous felons off the street.
When a conflict of interest exists, prosecutors are obligated to lock out certain users from viewing a case file. This occurs when an office employee is closely related to a party or has some special relationship to the case that may call into question the person’s objectivity and how the case would be handled. PPS safeguards sensitive details from these individuals to ensure the consistency and integrity of the office.
For large offices or state-wide deployments, PPS manages policy and procedure administration from end-to-end through Document Knowledge Transfer and Compliance (DKTC). DKTC ensures all employees have access to the most up-to-date versions of required materials and that deadlines for review and acknowledgement are enforced. Compliance testing is available to gauge employees’ comprehension of distributed content via scoring reports and test certificates.
What We’re Really Trying to Say
PPS is a valuable tool for keeping the Prosecutor’s office and Law Enforcement Agencies compliant with state rules. Creating a digital environment with PPS also improves prosecution efficiency, consistency, and transparency. Jurisdictions across the nation are investing in this innovation and, as a result, better serving and protecting their communities.
PPS Cloud, a new tool for reducing upfront costs and deploy times, will also soon be available. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about staying statute compliant with the Paperless Prosecution Solution.
Voters in Oakland County, MI stepped up to the ballot in unprecedented numbers for the state’s 2018 primary elections. While so many voices symbolized a vote of confidence from the people, their strength in numbers revealed a weakness in the overall voting strategy: paper dependency.
As Michigan’s second largest county, Oakland County experienced an unforeseen wave of voters across several communities, which caught many precincts off guard. As reported by the Detroit Free Press, many afternoon and evening voters throughout the county were told “Sorry! We’re out of ballots.” Michigan’s Secretary of State, however, was quick to jump in and reassure voters that anyone who was in line by the 8 p.m. closing time would still be able to vote and should stay at the precinct.
“We’ve been in touch with the county, which prints the ballots, and we’re being told that there aren’t going to be any more available,” said Mayor David Coulter of Ferndale. “So we’re making copies of the ballots and also implementing our touch-screen voting machines, which create a paper verification of the vote.”
Ballot Blunder Parallels Common Paper Struggles
While running out of ballots may be a rare occurrence, managing paper is a very common struggle. Similar to Ferndale’s solution, government agencies across the country are consistently printing, copying and mailing millions of papers each day. Not only is this process tedious, time consuming and stressful, it’s expensive. When Washington’s Yakima County District Court went paperless, for example, it saw a cost savings just shy of $15,000. Best yet, much of the recovered costs are often recycled back into the workday. Prior to its digital transformation, the Arlington County Circuit Court was spending an average of 15-20 hours per week just locating files and documents. Now, everything clerks need is just a click away.
While reading about Oakland County’s ballot blunder, it’s obvious to see the parallels between their struggle to replenish ballots and the daily paper fiascos endured by government agencies across the nation. And while the expense of it all is an undeniable setback, there were two additional primary challenges (pun intended) that are often overlooked and accepted as “the way it is”: scrambling to transport paper where it needs to go in a timely manner and providing quality customer service to constituents.
From Driving Directions to Digital Routes
Oakland County Clerk Lisa Brown told the Detroit Free Press that “… county officials printed extra ballots and rushed them out to polling sites.” While this might have looked like mayhem to onlookers, it was probably just another day in the life of many clerks and government agency workers.
At prosecutor’s offices, for example, subpoenas, discovery documents, and crime lab reports are often driven around town by sheriffs, clerks, and runners just so that the paperwork can stay in motion. If mailed, someone is accruing postage expenses and the lifecycle of a case stands still while paperwork moves through the postal system.
With digital workflow, documents are electronically routed to the person who needs them with just the click of a button. And with features like TrueSign and TrueCertify, authorizing and authenticating documents takes only a minute, which is also the time it takes to push the documents forward to the next step. This is huge for time-sensitive matters – what would normally take hours of drive time or snail-mailing now takes just a few minutes.
Lifting the Paper Weight on Customer Service
“I think it’s great that we have such extraordinary turnout today, but we’d like to see a voter environment that’s 100 percent customer service oriented,” said Sharon Dolente, voting rights strategist for Michigan’s American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), to the Detroit Free Press.
Like Sharon said, many government agencies struggle to achieve even adequate customer service. And, like Oakland County experienced, it’s largely due to a paper obstruction. Many clerk’s offices are bottlenecked beyond their bandwidth and can’t find relief from continuous demands or legally mandated deadlines. Not only does this stress weigh on clerks and office workers, it diminishes morale across the board. Stressed out clerks can’t keep up with impatient constituents, who decry poor customer service and reinforce the entire agency’s low morale – it’s a vicious cycle. Worse yet, many document-centric offices try to hire more employees to keep up with the workload, but that only brings more people into the paper cycle and creates extra expenses.
By digitizing records management, many clerk’s offices have seen a serious boost in customer satisfaction and, consequently, office morale. By equipping agency workers with keyable searches and electronic workflows, they are able to manage a high-volume workload and then some. Not only does this make constituents happier, but the agency as an entity improves because clerks have time to tend to the tasks that have taken a backseat to locating files. By transforming your agency’s operations, you’ll elevate your agency’s customer satisfaction to a standard where five stars won’t be enough.
A Vote of Confidence for Paperless Processes
While Oakland County’s ballot blunder was exceptional, it’s a good wake-up call to the many paper-dependent processes that can’t keep up with society’s pace. We’re living in a world where time is precious, immediacy is a valued indicator of quality care, and meeting those expectations means empowering your office with the most efficient protocols for success.
For government agencies, prosecutor’s offices, courts, and all public-serving sectors, it’s an inevitable truth that paper has been outmoded for many logical reasons. So if you saw your agency or office in the primary election paper rush, maybe it’s time to start preparing for a paperless future.
Can you identify with wanting to be more efficient or improving your customer satisfaction? Which tactics have you pursued to fix those issues?
By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft
To be more specific, it was me – a 5’1” content writer — walking into the St. Clair County Courthouse, and I’m pretty sure it was the door security who had a good laugh as I uncertainly put my belongings on the conveyor belt to be scanned. Clearly, nervous me was the least of their worries, which helped to put me more at ease. I guess being small and nerdy does have its perks.
Smiling Click to Click
Once I made it past that rigorous security checkpoint, I was now walking into the prosecutor’s office. St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling and his support team were kind enough to host me for a few hours and walk me through the every-day applications of ImageSoft’s Paperless Prosecutor Solution. Again, I was greeted with smiles and light-hearted humor from all, and immediately felt comfortable enough to be myself.
Before touring me through the office, Michael took some time to chat with me about his perspective on our paperless solution. In our short conversation, I was already taken aback by how much value he was describing just from a prosecutor’s perspective. Much of his emphasis was on the digital workflow, which housed expert opinions, case notes, and other crucial information directly on the file. Best yet, the prosecutor had all this information at his fingertips in real time. Not only was this huge for court prep and general work on the file, but it was crucial to having well-informed conversations with victims or any of their loved ones who might call on a whim. Not surprisingly, just having these few efficiencies enhanced communication among the entire office and boosted the overall morale. Suddenly, the many smiles that greeted me were making sense!
A Very Millennial Assumption
Before I dive any deeper into all that I learned from my visit, I have a confession to make. I am a millennial, and because technology has been an instrumental tool for much of my life, I automatically conceptualize processes in a way that leverages the digital world. So when I learned that many law firms, prosecutor’s offices, courts, and law enforcement agencies are still so paper-heavy, I was shocked! After all, it is 2018 (looking at you, paper lovers!).
One of the St. Clair County clerks recalled the times before they were paperless and actually employed an extra person just to assemble files. And I do mean assemble, complete with manila folders, hand-written labels, and a lot of paper. That’s all this person did – all day! That entire process is now done in a few minutes with even fewer clicks, and it’s not buried in filing cabinets or collecting dust under a desk, and the most up-to-date file can be quickly accessed by all authorized parties. One workflow fixed at least three glaring problems that plague almost every office – who would’ve thought!
Becoming aware of my own assumption that all things are digitized also made me think about the opposite side of the coin: there are many people who conceptualize processes, legal and every-day, as paper-heavy, pencil-in-hand activities. As someone from the across the pendulum, I’m not passing judgment. But I do hope that reading this blog will shed some light on a few efficiency problems you may not have even realized were problems, and open you up to the solutions that can help you.
Behind the Scenes: Warrant Processing
My first stop was the warrant processing department. At the beginning of every day, the clerk looks to her electronic workflow for any in-custody warrants (conveniently highlighted in red) because she knows those need her immediate attention. Within the workflow, the clerk can assign each warrant a case tracking number (CTN), assign the warrant to the appropriate authorizing attorney and push it into that attorney’s queue. From there, the authorizing attorney can electronically send the approved or denied warrant back to the prosecutor’s office. If the warrant is approved by the attorney, it’s placed in an electronic work folder alongside evidence, police reports, search warrants, fingerprints, and other related information. As the clerk explained, anyone with access to the workflow can key that CTN and see all case information and related charges or felonies, and even generate a witness list.
Sometimes, people want to re-open a case that hasn’t been touched in years. “In the paper days, we would have to start fresh because the original file would have been shredded to make room for new files,” said the clerk. “But today, that’s not a problem. We simply key a CTN search and up pops all the case’s information.”
While most of these processes are generally done in a few minutes, the clerk did mention the longest part of her day. “PDF printing into OnBase, which takes an entire 10 minutes.” For those who aren’t familiar with OnBase by Hyland, the core of the Paperless Prosecutor Solution, users can store content directly from any application into OnBase by using Window’s print function, whether it’s a report from a website or data from another system.
Behind the Scenes: Subpoenas
Down another hallway, I chatted with a different clerk who managed subpoenas. Fun fact: the entire office space where this clerk sits used to be dedicated solely to case storage. Imagine it: banker boxes and filing cabinets everywhere!
Once inside their case management system (CMS), the clerk keyed a swift shift + left click to pull a case file and could see all its related information and charges, including bench trial notes. Subpoenas that are ready to be issued are then electronically sent to the police cars that are nearest to the person being served. The officer can then print the subpoena straight from his or her squad car and potentially serve the person within minutes.
“Before we had this electronic workflow, we printed subpoenas and they sat in a pick-up box until an officer stopped by to grab it,” said the subpoena processing clerk. “Worse yet, if an officer had the subpoena but then went off shift or on vacation, the subpoena would just sit in the officer’s bag until he or she came back on duty. Often, the subpoena would get lost or forgotten about, and the person would never be served.”
Now, the subpoenas are immediately issued and typically get served right away. If they can’t be served straightaway, at least they stay top-of-mind in the officer’s queue. And with a full audit trail, the prosecutor can be confident in court when saying whether a subpoena has been served, when, and by whom.
Behind the Scenes: Discovery
When an officer has received evidence relating to a case, he or she is able to electronically upload it to a digital discovery portal where it is automatically shared with the prosecutor’s office. Police reports, lab results, photos and more are then included in an exhibit list and electronically sent over to the appropriate defense attorney.
If the clerks aren’t sure of the defense attorney on file, they can quickly key a search to find the P number on the case.
A Content Writer Walks Out of a Prosecutor’s Office…
And wanders around, half-panicked that my nerdy self can’t remember where I parked my car.
Eventually I find it though, and enjoy the lake view in my rearview mirror as I drive off, knowing that The Paperless Prosecutor Solution has maximized this county’s case processing efficiency and strengthened the safety of this peaceful community. My only hope is that more prosecutor’s offices can better protect and serve their communities by sharing in the story of “I remember when…” instead of the daily, “we need more paper again!”
By Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft
I’ll admit that sometimes I like to watch cheesy, B movies from the SyFy channel. Most of them follow the same script – some greedy corporation or government scientists make a mistake and suddenly we have oversized snakes, sharks, or some other creepifying animal terrorizing an island or a city.
I write this because for some government departments, it feels like a science experiment gone wrong and paper is piling up everywhere, terrorizing the office. The shelves keep expanding, the boxes keep multiplying, and the mounds of paper that have to be processed and stored are ready to drive workers out of the office screaming onto the streets.
In Part 1 of this series, 6 Ways ECM Can Help Government Overcome Challenges, we looked at the power that comes when your department or office transitions to a digital workflow to manage the work. Here we’re talking about those paper dragons and how to slay them.
Reducing paper is one of the first considerations that opens the door for people yelling “help!” But before you run into the arms of the first dashing archiving software hero to knock on your door, you must think beyond that moment when your immediate problem is solved. That brave hero might be great at slaying paper dragons and archiving digitized documents but could become an awful life partner because he or she doesn’t possess the workflow skills required for a long-term partnership. You might want to check out our infographic before saying “I do.” You want to settle down, not settle for.
Back to paper dragons.
Reducing the amount of paper we use is a worthy goal for any government agency. Most people don’t think of the overall cost of living in a paper-based environment because the tools we use to deal with paper are so ingrained in our psyche.
For instance, consider the tens of thousands of dollars to purchase and maintain a few copy machines and then add the costs to feed those monsters with toner and paper each month. Frequently, you have to stick your hands into their jaws to remove paper cavities. If you have four or five of these medium-sized units around the office in their second or third generation, you have likely already bought and paid for an ECM system, like OnBase, to store your documents.
How Much Does Your Storage Cost?
The other cost is obvious – storage. If you have fifty shelves or filing cabinets at $1,500 apiece, that’s $75,000 or more depending on which unit you’re using. If you’re a county or city, imagine what that storage cost looks like across all your departments. You just bought another ECM system.
And then there is office space. Where do you put all your workers? Are you thinking that you have to build another building or move to a larger office in the next few years to house both your staff and your paper? Now you’re faced with options of a budget challenge to justify spending millions on a new building because you’ve outgrown the old one, spending hundreds of thousands on new office leasing, or searching online for double-decker cubicles because things are getting tight. Not only can an ECM system reduce your storage requirements, but with workflow automation, it can increase your processing capacity without increasing your headcount. That’s pretty powerful.
Getting a handle on headcount increases and real estate are your two biggest budget items. An ECM helps avoid the challenge of too much government at the end of the money.
Backing Up the Back Up
But there is one more storage cost to consider – backup. To protect against the loss from fire, flood, earthquake, or other catastrophe, it’s not unusual to send off the original to an off-site storage facility while the staff makes photocopies of files to keep on hand. That’s a tremendous number of hours spent by your staff to reduce risk or to have convenient access. And if the only copies of your documents are the ones in a file cabinet, then you need to assess the risk and cost if critical records are lost and you need to recover them. Think land records, executed contracts, invoices, warranties, receipts, tax documents, reports, and any other document where no electronic version exists.
An ECM system with a good backup strategy eliminates the need to create copies for off-site transport and storage. In the event of a disaster, you can recover files much quicker with little to no loss of data. And potentially shield yourself from expensive lawsuits.
The point of reducing paper with an ECM solution is to increase efficiency, access and redundancy so that you can drive out those paper monsters and the machine that feeds them. And leave the real monsters to the SyFy channel.
Where are you seeing too much paper in your office?
Coming in Part 3: Increasing Transparency
By Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft
Do More with Less Money in Less Time
In government, budgets are tighter, technology is aging and constituents are demanding more and are upset when things seem slow or when they can’t get timely updates or resolution.
One of the top strategies that agencies use to address this is to go paperless. Paper-driven processes are inherently inefficient because only one person can work on a document at a time. To overcome this, staff will adjust processes around the limitations of paper such as making multiple copies of a document which makes it a nightmare for maintaining official records.
The great irony is that many government agencies with slick public-facing sites are converting digital submissions into paper to get the work done. And to provide your constituents with online updates or access, someone has to turn the data or documents back into an electronic format again.
So how does going paperless with an enterprise content management platform (ECM) make government do more with less?
There are three key factors that have the potential to dramatically improve services to the public that you serve:
Reduce the Time Spent Organizing and Sorting Your Inbox
In a production environment, a significant portion of time is spent by employees organizing their day and figuring out what they have to do next for each file in their inbox. It’s not unusual to see paper files being carted around and handed out to employees to work or workers using bins under their desks. And if someone is out of the office, transitioning the work to someone else is complicated if not all the notes are in the file.
An ECM platform manages the incoming work by sorting them into buckets using pre-configured rules, balances out the load to prevent cherry picking and presents the various workers with the tasks they need to accomplish specific to the file. Whatever time was spent organizing and rifling through files, whether it’s 10-30% of their day, can now be focused on work. And when an employee needs a file to respond to an inquiry, files can be retrieved in seconds on the same call rather than taking minutes or hours and playing phone tag. And if someone is out for the day, all notes and files can be distributed to other staff with the click of a button or dragging a file to a user’s icon.
Now there’s no excuse for not having a clean desk.
Reduce Time Finding Supporting Documents
When looking at an application, you may need to view supporting information submitted by the application or accessing past case history. By having all the information there, automatically organized and sorted by the document type, you can make decisions quicker instead of digging through an old file box or suffering another paper cut by flipping through a file.
A big part of this is linking the ECM platform to your core business solution. This allows you, with a button click, to retrieve the documents related to the case you’re viewing in your core application. It also allows decisions recorded in the ECM system to update your core applications so you’re not duplicating your efforts and risking keying errors.
Let the Computer Do the Work
An ECM system without the ability to automate tasks is like a car without an engine—you end up having to do all the work. The real value in an ECM platform occurs when you can configure the system to do some of the mundane, repetitive tasks that rob you of the time needed to do the work that only people can do.
For instance, what would life be like if with the click of a button, an application is approved, automatically generates and prints an acceptance letter, updates a core system’s records or portal and notifies other individuals within an office or another agency for follow up? What took an hour before could be reduced to a few minutes or seconds. Boom! And now you leave the office at the end of the day having processed more cases but with a smile instead of a frown. And people are happy to see you on the street because you helped them and exceeded their expectations.
So how much can an ECM system improve your processes? It depends on the process and how many steps are involved. In a typical project, we see efficiencies go up anywhere from 25-75% (and sometimes a lot more).
For example, we reduced the time to locate employee files for National Heritage Academy from half a day to immediate access and reduced audit times by 54%. When faced with budget cuts forcing staff reductions, we saved the Prosecutor’s office in Ingham County, MI, $450,000 annually in labor savings while they were able to maintain the same workload. And we reduced the time for judges to sign child support cases from five days to one in a county court.
So, while there is some benefit to a basic ECM scan, store or retrieve, the real power comes when your department or office transitions to a digital workflow to manage the work.
How has an ECM platform made your life easier?
Coming in Part 2: Reducing Paper
By Dave Hawkins, CEO, ImageSoft
I attended the Inc. magazine GrowCo Conference in New Orleans last month. Somewhere between the seafood gumbo, the crawfish étouffée, and the jumbalaya, Steve Case of AOL fame served up a prophetic message based on his newly revised book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision of the Future. The title refers to the evolution of the Internet. The First Wave fostered the creation of the Internet with the requisite infrastructure – servers, cabling, network switches, portals, service providers, and the like. Companies such as Cisco, NetGear, CompuServe, Prodigy, NetScape and America Online rose to prominence, while Microsoft, Intel, HP, Gateway, and Dell grew rapidly by virtue of the new demand for personal computers and related software.
The Second Wave consisted of all the apps built to run on the Internet. This wave included tech firms providing new types of networking and social media services previously unavailable anywhere, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. It spawned new Internet-only retailers, most notably Amazon, as well as new ways to buy things, such as the online auction service provided by eBay. At the same time, the Second Wave saw the meteoric rise of eCommerce from brick-and-mortar chains that transitioned to online retailing. Department stores, booksellers, pharmacies, and even automakers discovered they needed to forge new online identities to keep their customer bases from dissipating.
The Third Wave will involve the transformative integration of the Internet into all facets of everyday life. In the future, calling a device “Internet-enabled” will sound as silly as calling something “electricity-enabled” today. Steve Case highlighted several major arenas in which the Third Wave will bring revolutionary progress: education, healthcare, transportation, food production and city management. In healthcare, for example, Third Wave technologies will facilitate much greater precision in medicine, allowing doctors to edit genetic code using the power of genomics and data analytics. Fitness trackers will evolve into hardware and software for capturing a full range of vital signs on a daily basis, collecting and analyzing the data to alert patients and their doctors of potential health issues before they happen. When you go to see the doctor, they will already have this data to help answer their diagnostic questions such as “When did it start bothering you?” The implications for disease management, home health care, and epidemic tracking are astounding.
But what about the justice industry, which is ImageSoft’s primary area of expertise? What will the Third Wave bring in the way of improving the American justice system? Today, even courts that go “paperless” still use paper at some point in the case-processing chain. They may, for example, offer eFiling, but print the file once received, or perhaps keep it electronic until a judge needs to sign it, and then have it printed at that point. In the Third Wave, courts will seamlessly integrate tools to keep case records electronic from start to finish. On the front end, lawyers, police officers, and even self-representing litigants will have the ability to eFile documents to initiate a case, and may utilize automated document package creation to expedite their initial case filings. These tools will be particularly helpful for the poor, the disabled, the medically incapacitated, and incarcerated persons to give them much greater access to justice than is available today. New tools will also allow simple cases such as traffic violations to be handled remotely; imagine being able to contest your speeding ticket without needing to take a half day off work to go to court.
Once a case is initiated, the documents can remain electronic throughout the court process via document management and workflow tools to enable access for all parties to a case as well as the related court personnel. Closing a case can also stay electronic, as new eSignature tools are structured to focus on speed and reduce cumbersome repetitive steps, which were impediments associated with older products.
Case cited three factors which will be of utmost importance during this Third Wave: partnerships, policy, and perseverance. As I listened to him speak, I contemplated the changes that are already taking place in the justice technology arena. Forward-thinking court systems are partnering with technology vendors to integrate best-of-breed solutions to automate all aspects of the court process. As for policy, institutes such as the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards, or OASIS, have piloted policy initiatives to standardize eFiling compliance nationwide. Through it all, perseverance will certainly be required to bring the justice system’s “late adopters” into this next wave of technological advancement.
ImageSoft is working alongside our partners Hyland (makers of OnBase for enterprise content management), Mentis (which offers aiSmartBench and other court tools), and Court Innovations (which provides Matterhorn online dispute resolution system) to reshape the court technology landscape to meet the demands of the Third Wave.
By the time I left New Orleans, I was “jazzed” thinking about the possibilities. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with others to create a better future for our courts and their many constituents.
What do you think of Steve Case’s vision for the future?