“What’s Your Super Power?” – A Cross Analysis to Combat Government Kryptonite

You can work hard, but if you don’t work smart you’ll work for the rest of your life,”

– Tony Stark, Iron Man.

Do remember being asked, “if you could have any super-power, what would you like it to be?”? Even more importantly, do you remember your answer? As kids, many of us longed to mirror the far-fetched yet undeniably “super” tools of our favorite heroes: the ability to fly, webs on-demand and car-crushing strength. We put on capes, grabbed make-shift cardboard swords and, just like that, had all the power in the world.

So isn’t it ironic that, as we mature and step into real-world positions of power, we become less confident in our abilities? Walking into any job, especially government-based roles, knowing there are countless people depending on the services we provide, yet we check our creativity and beliefs in what could-be at the door. The status quo becomes our kryptonite and we stay shackled to the enemy of routine, never questioning the power it has over us and, consequently, the public.

Realize Your Power

You may not have Superman’s ability to fly, Thor’s hammer or Spider-Man’s webs, but all government staff have an undeniable superpower: the ability to serve people. To make lives easier. To help.

And, just like our admired heroes, the first step is embracing a tool that compliments your power. How can I extend my talents to best serve my purpose? As with almost every government, it starts by doing more with less. So what tool do you want in your belt? The one with most functionality to do the most good.

OnBase is both a jack-of-all trades and easily attainable – no combat necessary. Best of all, only one belt notch is needed to embrace the aptitude of several superheroes.

Functionality United

When engaged in government settings, OnBase functionality channels the strength of several commonly sought-after super tools. And we’re no Joker – take a look at the cross analysis below:

Superhero Channeled Feature Description
Superman Ability to fly Enterprise content management (ECM) allows admins and users to oversee all records, data and workflow from a bird’s eye view. No digging for information in a variety of different places – everything you need is located in one central cloud-based system and only minimal clicks away.
Wonder Woman Lasso of truth With complete audit trails of who has made which edits to what document, the integrity of every record is kept intact while the transparency holds staff accountable for completing to do’s in a timely fashion.
Captain America Shield Compliance standards are in place for a reason, and occasionally checked up on. Shield your agency or organization from fines or denouncement by applying security steps and transparency features to prevent compliance wars.
Spider-Man Webs Swing from task to task with one-click ease thanks to OnBase’s organizational ability. With rules-based workflows and calendar reminders, staff stay on top of daily tasks and deadlines. Once completed, users simply click “send” to push the documents on to the next step and progress through their own steps.
Thor “Mjolnir” (AKA, the hammer) All the power and strength of this tool rests within your hands. With a customizable dashboard and wor kview, users wield control over their day-to-day processes and how they navigate through it all. Not to mention they perform each task in an impeccably “smash”ing manner!
Iron Man Self-made man Configurability and integration are two of OnBase’s most cherished features. Similar to Iron Man piecing himself together, as opposed to being born into power or the beneficiary of a chemical mishap, OnBase gives you control over business process management, and seamlessly integrates with other case or administrative systems. Both features allow users to plug in where needed, access necessary information and construct a system and process that works in their favor.

“What’s your favorite Super Power?”

Remember: a superhero isn’t defined by a movie – it’s determined by a mindset. So let’s revisit that very first question. Think about your day-to-day activities: who do you support? How? What bigger-picture difference are you contributing to?

More importantly, in the spirit of Iron Man, how could you work smarter – not harder? A helpful read when considering these things is Hyland’s “Superhero clerks and why public records are their kryptonite.”

We Want to Hear From You!

Who’s your favorite superhero? What OnBase functionality do you think he/she would like best?

Respond in the “comments” below or on our Government Solutions LinkedIn Showcase page. We read and respond – promise!

County Clerks and Public Records Requests: A Happier Ever-After

By: Katie Pusz, Copywriter, ImageSoft

Can we all take a moment to celebrate the county clerks who, at this very moment, are working to keep our local governments running? Just a month ago, Winter Haven, FL blocked out an entire week to applaud municipal clerks. From May 6-12, county clerks were showered with gratitude for the value that their work brings to the Winter Haven community every day. And rightfully so!

Like the thread that holds a king-sized quilt together, one of the most important roles of a county clerk is to ensure that elected officials stay in open and clear communication with the public they serve, typically by means of public records request. In this way, clerks serve as the gatekeepers of a county’s checks and balances.

As the efficiency and success of counties hinges on the quality and capacity of its clerks, it is critically important that they stay well-equipped with the most updated tools for processing information requests and maintaining open communication with the public.

To FOIA This, You Need to Forget That!

155_paperworkmountain.jpgTraditionally, a clerk’s office space is shadowed by mountains of paper files and records that they typically sift through for days just to process one records request. Even then, they may have to redact sensitive information, which includes making a copy of the original document, inking out sensitive information, and making another copy to send to the requester. If the documents need to be snail-mailed, that will take even longer to be received and will acquire postage expenses. Not to mention that FOIA requests are bound by time restraints, and clerks need to not only manage and prioritize the timestamps on their requests, but adhere to them.

In a world where information is being requested at record speeds, clerks could never acquire the capacity or space necessary to maintain offices that are both efficient and manually-operated. On the flipside, many counties don’t have the budget to keep hiring more people, buying or renting more space, replenishing paper and ink, or footing more postal fees.

In a nutshell, paper is out. So, what’s moving in?

ECM, You’re Up!

Enterprise content management systems (ECM) are taking counties and clerks by storm, swooping up every document and file and condensing it all into one, comprehensive digital world. Also called electronic document management systems (EDMS), these electronic document and file repositories leverage automation and digital functionality to turnaround FOIA requests and their many other callings in optimal time.

Why are ECMs trending as the preferred tool for managing FOIA requests? We can think of a few reasons:

  • Tracking in No Time: As we previously mentioned, clerks work within several time boundaries on any given day. Able to integrate with electronic workflows, ECM/EDMS will recognize electronic requests, track their progress, and electronically deliver the results.
  • Point-and-Click Redactions: With an ECM like OnBase, redacting sensitive information is as easy as point and click. Best yet, this feature also allows you to create a separate, redacted copy for the recipient while the original copy is maintained on file.
  • Audits, Access, and Answers: Have you and another clerk, official, or staff member ever simultaneously needed the same document? Fighting over paper is not only time consuming, but it diminishes the integrity of the document – it could be on anyone’s desk at any time, and very vulnerable to wandering eyes. With an ECM/EDMS, a file or document can be viewed by multiple parties at the same time. And since you’re accessing documents electronically, you are free to work remotely from anyplace with secure internet access. Complete audits of a document’s history also hold users accountable, so you can see who has viewed or edited a document, how, and when.
  • eNotifications = No worries: Electronic notifications keep clerks on track with looming deadlines and what they should be prioritizing. Especially valuable to time-sensitive FOIA requests, the notifications reduce stress for the clerk by ensuring that everyone has what they need exactly when they need it.

As The Paperless Process People, we’re all about efficiency. If you’re ready to un-shadow your office in time for summer and learn more about the easy adoption of an ECM/EDMS, feel free to ping us.

What part of handling record requests is the most problematic for you? What’s the one thing you with your current document management system could do to help?

 

6 Ways ECM Can Help Government Overcome Challenges – Part 5

By: Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft

Comply and Fly with ECM: Meeting Mandates and Regulations

153_waitinginline260 minutes. That’s just over 4 hours, which is about half of the average person’s workday. It’s also the amount of time government agencies spend per day just trying to meet public records requests.

When I say this, you may envision stacks and stacks of backlogged requests and impatient constituents lined up. This is true to some extent, but it’s really only half the battle. Not only are these agencies dealing with backlogs and back-talk, but they’re doing so while sweating under the urgency of mandates and regulations. Unfortunately for agency workers, such bold parameters box in almost all of their requests.

How Do They Manage?

Historically, not very well. Constituents with a request need to search the government’s website for the form, fill it out, print the document, and snail-mail it in. The paper document then needs to be hand-shuffled to the right desk, filed, and processed. All this alongside the hundreds of other documents that need the same, vital attention. Sounds fun, right?

Or, if the constituent needs it faster, they drive to your office, fighting traffic, securing close parking, finally get through security and wait in line for the pleasure of submitting the request in-person.

Someone Help These People!

Enterprise content management (ECM) is on it! Using its cloud-based storage, ECM allows public records across all departments to elevate their capacity and ability to comply with the ever-changing public records requirements without cramping their offices with added file cabinets.

Using an ECM system for public records becomes even easier when it manages your processes. For instance, you have dozens, if not hundreds of PDF forms on your website. Many of those are mandated forms that you cannot modify, which makes it hard (if not impossible) for electronic submission.

But an ECM solution, like OnBase by Hyland, comes with Unity Forms which allow you to design documents that will capture signatures, allow attachments and validate data to ensure that you’re collecting all the required information. Then, with the click of a button, the data is merged onto a government form that can be submitted online or printed and mailed. This not only ensures that all required information is filled out, but the constituent doesn’t have to worry about missing critical information and having gone through a ton of work just to have a rejected, incomplete form bounce back to them.

Once the form is in an ECM system, leverage its built-in workflow capability to route the form to the correct person, which is based on data in the form. Yes, it is a huge time-saver! Along the way, the ECM system can also capture those supplemental documents that pop up as work progresses. Automatic notifications at each step will also reduce calls into the office. Workflows can also track each type of form’s legislative requirements and mandates for processing times, and prioritize those forms that are approaching their limits.

As a result of all of this awesome automation, your completed process will not only have a complete audit trail for transparency and reporting purposes, but responding to record requests will be much easier because your documents are in one place and can be delivered in virtually any format. In other words, no more rifling through desks, endlessly searching for misfiled documents or printing a forest’s worth in paper.

I Can Help Myself? Don’t Mind if I Do!

While these features are undoubtedly speeding up the fulfillment of records requests, they’re also enabling a self-serving public through the use of search portals. This saves constituents all the time they would have spent driving to offices or preparing snail-mailed documents, and it saves the agency workers from having to manage and sort stacks of paper.

I’m Ready to Comply and Fly

As you can see, complying with mandates and regulations doesn’t have to be difficult. With a public record agency operating on an ECM, you can ensure all the information that is requested will be securely delivered on time, in proper format, and exactly where it needs to be.

Does your agency leverage an ECM? If so, how is your workload now compared to life before ECM?

Coming in Part 6: Eliminating Duplicative Workflows

 

6 Ways ECM Can Help Government Overcome Challenges – Part 3

By: Kevin Ledgister, Marketing Manager, ImageSoft

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You show up to work, get coffee, open your mail, open your email and check your phone and just like that, you have tens if not hundreds of requests for public records that you need take care of. Even if you can charge for it, the work is tedious, particularly if the records that you’re looking for aren’t where they’re supposed to be, or are covered in cobwebs and dust.

Virtually every government agency is bound by rules of transparency and openness to ensure public accountability. But short of allowing the public to come in and rifle through your files, search your network folders, or setup a new desk in your office, there just isn’t a good way to allow for self-serve access. Things get particularly thorny when you have to redact information or secure certain items from the public because of the sensitivity of the information that you are entrusted to protect. Those requests can take months or years if paper-based.

Public offices have tried to solve this by implementing some kind of image archive where staff can at least access that information faster – if they know what to look for. As an interim step, some offices have provided a kiosk in the lobby for the public to use but this still is not a very convenient solution. At ImageSoft, we hear these stories all the time.

Another challenge to transparency and openness is how to find the information when it has been converted to a digital format. Sometimes, things are not always indexed correctly, so finding the right information can also be an exercise in frustration. And if there is a legal proceeding and you find more stuff after you said that you provided everything, you probably won’t be having a good day.

An enterprise content management system (ECM) like OnBase, or what some call EDMS (electronic document management system) can help with transparency in several ways:

Read more about how ECM can address the challenges of various government offices.

Faster and more complete searches

While any system may have good metadata, a lot of useful information may not be stored as metadata but may be contained in the body of the content. For instance, a sub-contractor on a project may appear in a paragraph but the document may have been indexed using the name of the general contractor. A text search would be the only way to find what you’re looking for.

Easy redaction capability

Some documents should be available to the public but contain sensitive information that needs to be redacted, and at the same time, you need to keep the original. A good ECM solution allows you to create redacted copies for public consumption in the application while retaining the unredacted original securely without having to print, markup and rescan.

Online search access

Allowing the public self-serve access with both metadata and text searches frees up critical office resources. This method is only cost-effective if your ECM vendor offers some form of constituent or external user licensing.

Better tracking system

As we described, the process to track and handle the requests for which the public cannot access a record can be time consuming as well. We will cover more of this in a future blog post but an effective workflow tool that is integrated with your ECM/EDMS can receive requests electronically, track their progress and then electronically deliver results, which greatly reduces the burden on internal staff.

So, whether you store your documents in files and boxes, in network folders, or in an old archive, you can benefit significantly from upgrading to a true enterprise content management system that increases your ability to be transparent and open while reducing your staff’s workload.

If you’re not following our Paperless Process Blog, check out our blog series 6 Ways ECM Can Help Government Overcome Challenges – Part 1 and 2. In Part 1, we discuss the ways a digital workflow adds value to your operations. Part 2 focuses on slaying the paper dragons that want to take over your office.

Coming in Part 4: Meeting Constituent Needs

Juggling Public Record Requests – Keep Those Balls in the Air

 

Tim Zarzycki, Senior Account Executive, ImageSoft, Inc.

iStock_000011704687_MediumAmong the multitude of daily tasks performed by court clerks is responding to public requests for records. These records include case files, dockets/summaries of court cases and courtroom proceedings, records about defendants, criminal records, and long email threads, often with photos and videos attached. In addition to explaining court actions and decisions, these records are generally accessible to the public based on state sunshine laws, open records laws or public records laws. In an era of greater scrutiny and demands for transparency, clerks need better ways to handle public record requests.

It’s a juggling act that gets more complicated by the day.

Day-to-day challenges

Giving the public its right of access to public records can be a cumbersome challenge for paper-based courts or courts working without an integrated case management system. It clogs operations and requires scarce resources. In addition to coordinating and maintaining the case file associated with such requests, courts also face such challenges as:

  • Siloed data and documents in each department with incompatible formatting — hunting down documents from multiple departments, locations and filing cabinets puts a burden on government staff and leads to lengthy fulfillment cycles
  • Challenges of tracking and distributing requests, reviewing long email chains, making phone calls and hunting down documents; most tracking systems are spreadsheets that require manual data entry which further consumes staff time
  • Need for a consistent layout for the request packet
  • Need to maintain correspondence with requestor, additional departments
  • Inconsistent/poorly defined request methods
  • Audit trail requirements
  • Protocols for redaction
  • Retention times/discard times/destruction processes with certificates of destruction
  • Fee collection processes
  • Statutory deadlines for providing public records
  • Document security

The right solution

JusticeTech’s public records solutions create a complete package to manage the full scope of public records needs, helping courts meet their legal responsibilities for transparency and open government initiatives. The solutions help court clerks and staff retrieve and bundle documents to meet record requests, provide self-service access to documents and records, automate the request process and redact confidential information. These solutions:

  • Simplify request submission and delivery for constituents
  • Provide comprehensive search for complete request fulfillment
  • Improve process transparency and reporting for better constituent service

Read more about automating request for public records and keep that juggling act in the air.

How are you managing public requests for court records?

 

Court Document Retention

64_flipside

In the interest of full disclosure, let me say, up front, that I believe both ends of the Court Document Retention discussion will be laid to rest and ultimately forgotten over the next five to 10 years, if not sooner. By “both ends” I mean, first, the question of “In what medium (paper, microfiche, or digital) should court records keep particular documents?” and second, “What to do with court documents (regardless of medium) once the retention period expires?”

My reasoning is that societal and governmental trends vis-a-vis public records (and I think, particularly, court records), are rapidly and inexorably moving toward requiring perpetual retention of all documents, particularly as storage costs continue to shrink.

Notwithstanding my (admittedly rosy) prediction though, that is not the world courts live in today. Consequently, there is a lot of effort being expended to remove the paper/michrofiche requirement barrier. As previously discussed, that can’t happen too soon .

Beyond the anachronistic medium requirement, under current laws and policies, courts are going to have to continue to manage which documents to keep and for how long. And rarely considered, but extremely costly, is the flip side of document retention: document purging and disposal once the retention period expires.

Every court knows the pain, expense and conflict involved in purging documents. With paper documents, even the best systems are highly labor-intensive, and usually involve multiple checks, verifications and quality controls to assure that nothing is inadvertently purged that should be kept. First, there is the management to keep track of when files and documents should be purged. It’s not as simple as a one-time calendaring at the case’s conclusion: What if something else happens in the case later to extend the time?

Once identified, in some instances, some documents must be physically removed from the case file while others are left in. In others (if not all for some case types), someone must go through the entire physical file to make sure there is not some “keeper” filed inside by mistake.

Then there’s the question of what to do with all that paper. (By the way, microfiche, being also physical, has corresponding problems). You can’t just toss it in the recycle bin — there are confidentiality considerations. If you outsource (a common solution), the service provider usually has to be bonded, provide security assurances, etc. And, ahem, they charge…

A dirty little secret among many courts is that they don’t actually purge until they have run out of storage space, because the cost of storage space, while not insignificant, is a lot less that the cost of purging in a legally and procedurally acceptable manner.

Given these factors, consider this: Every paper document a court receives or keeps — even if the court does absolutely nothing with it — is creating a downstream expense. Think you’ll move to an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) system and then just go digital “Day Forward”, leaving as many old, sleeping paper dogs (I mean documents) to lie? You might want to take into account what those documents are going to cost to get rid of.

One of the major benefits of ECM, and one that I think gets far too little credit in up-front financial business case development, is that it massively cuts the cost of compliance with the current requirements for document purging and destruction. From the time of receipt or creation, the document can be managed for retention, and ultimately, purging. If the policies change, no problem; the workflow process will be changed and the document correctly managed under the new rules. When the time comes to purge, varying levels of review can be selected and administered. Destruction itself can be securely accomplished, monitored, documented and later audited.

While courts are permitted/required to purge and destroy old documents (and no one but me is predicting that won’t be forever), that fact in itself provides huge, if not independently sufficient, incentive to move as expeditiously as possible to ECM.

Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

The Swami

I recently responded to a survey that asked, among other things, what drivers might affect Paper On Demand becoming close to universal in courts by the year 2025. Given the difficulty of predicting what is likely to happen next week, attempting to make predictions over ten years out seems to be hypothetical in the extreme. Nevertheless, the exercise has some very useful attributes.

For one thing, it allows consideration of what happens after today’s current problems and challenges have been overcome. Quite naturally, we tend to focus on immediate, existing, and short-term barriers (and benefits). Things like anachronistic court rules, implementation expense, resistance to change, and so on dominate our planning.

Likewise, short term benefits – one of the most urgent being financial – tend to be the major areas of focus. Longer- term benefits, such as improved public service, also get attention. All of these factors are motivators that powerfully support the case for migration to paper on demand.

But the existence of good reasons does not always translate to the obvious result. In this case, beyond the known benefits, what reasons, if any, exist that make us believe that paper on demand might be ubiquitous in courts by 2025?

Donning my Swami turban, I came up with the following points:

• Laws and public expectations regarding access, searchability, selective and flexible redaction, and security (both existential and content) of public records will force courts – and all governmental (and most private) entities to maintain all records, including documents, electronically.

• Cost advantages, which are currently arithmetical (up to double the cost of implementation), are rapidly being realized to be geometric (several times the cost of implementation). In the very near future, they will be seen to be exponential (ten times or more of the cost of implementation). Others may disagree with this prediction; I would point out that the savings continue indefinitely into the future. Also, I believe that the changes will be that significant. In fact, I think every current estimate of savings will prove to be too conservative; but we’ll see.

The key driver here will be automated workflow, which is simply not practical with physical documents at anything like the scale of electronic documents. The efficiencies enabled by electronic document management with workflow will be disproportionately due to operational efficiencies made possible versus direct, document-related savings (like storage space, materials, labor-free access, etc.).

• Existent and emergent technologies will increasingly require electronic documents in order to be used, in the same way that online banking requires internet access or printers require electricity. A court still utilizing physical documents in 2025 will be like a court with no electricity in 1940, or a court with no telephones in 1970, or a court with no internet in 2013. It won’t be acceptable.

• Standards, already coalescing, will be mature and ubiquitous.

This list could easily be much longer. And, much as I’d like to think I will have a perfect prediction record, one or more of them may well be wrong. The great thing about surveys like this is that they generate disparate opinions and allow for reasoned discussion and debate. The point of speculating on the farther-out future is not to know in advance what will happen (other than death and taxes, generally impossible) but to get a sense for where things are headed. I for one will be very interested to see the opinions across the community. The consensus will be interesting; and I’m guessing that most will agree the question is not “Whether”, but “When and How” courts become universally paper on demand. As far as the drivers are concerned (as well as the longer-term implications, which I’ll discuss in a future post), if the past is any indication, the more outrageous the prediction, the more likely it is to come true.