In many ways, businesses who are in the process of going paperless are navigating through different ‘ages’ of digital. Steve Clarke, Public Sector Solutions Manager at Alaris, a Kodak Alaris business, argues that it’s far from a single step from analogue to digital information management, due to the complexity of this transition
For the majority of public sector organisations, data chaos is causing a fair few headaches. There’s a requirement to manage more data than ever before, the rate of data capture is accelerating at an unprecedented rate and there’s an expectation for that data to be used effectively in order to enhance service delivery. Crucially however, no matter how far along their digital transformation journey they are, organisations are currently having to deal with a mixture of data collection methods – some digital and some paper-based.
This challenging landscape often causes confusion and can hinder an organisation’s drive towards digitisation and, in many cases, paperless workflows. All too often, the public sector recognises the benefits of digital workflows but, caught up in the perfect storm of data management, fail to see clear ways to process, store, manage and analyse that data – and boost organisational efficiency.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way, as there are a number of routes that can be taken to go paperless and deliver enhanced services. From our experience, by focusing attention on specific areas, like those outlined below, organisations can, step-by-step, realise the value of transitioning into a digital world.
Invoicing costs money; eliminating paper from the process reduces the overhead. Invoice processing is one of the most advanced digital solutions available and can handle end-to-end processing, in many cases without any human interaction.
With no more piles of paperwork on the desk or shelves, files and documents will be far easier to find, access, and share.
Digitising paper inputs in an Accounts Payable process enables: faster processing and easier control of payment timing to take advantage of discounts or avoid penalties; the avoidance of costly and laborious efforts to match invoices and purchase orders as well as the ability to reduce time spent tracking and chasing approvals.
Forms are a staple of any public sector organisation’s work. Yet, processing paper-based forms is slow and error-prone. Hand-keying data into digital systems slows organisations down and incurs high labour costs. And let’s face it, when justifying the spend of public money, who really wants to be using expensive staff for tasks that can be easily automated?
Therefore, there are gains to be had from offering customers a digital only forms processing alternative (eForms, for example) or by digitising and processing data automatically:
- Streamlining the data entry process to speed up the entire business process;
- Reducing the error rate compared to extensive manual re-keying;
- Freeing up knowledge workers to focus on higher value tasks; and
- Extracting required data from a document is accelerated, helping customer service staff to deliver faster responses and better outcomes.
Customer onboarding requires far less work when it is digitised. Using the right platform, an organisation is able to bring new customers onboard more quickly and smoothly.
Effective digitisation needs to deliver organisational efficiencies and enhance processes by removing time-consuming barriers. The public sector can deliver better customer service by reducing processing time and eliminating manual checks and eligibility assessments, and removing the requirement for manual re-typing and storing of data.
The key advantages of digital onboarding include: reduced time to process, increased customer satisfaction, less time spent on lower-value administrative tasks, improved employee satisfaction, and the opportunity to significantly reduce errors.
Records management is a crucial activity for the public sector, so is therefore ripe for improvement via digitisation. By their nature, government organisations are heavily regulated, so they need to follow clearly-defined processes and rules for handling and storing documents.
Throughout the document lifecycle, data needs to meet compliance requirements and corporate retention policies. All while avoiding human-error from manual processes. Regulations require process adjustments, additional validation and documentation which makes records management a moving target and particularly hard to accomplish in a paper-based environment.
Through embracing the digital world, organisations can eliminate inefficiencies, time wasted and the added costs of a paper-based system. They can boost disaster recovery – fire and flood is a very real risk when hard copy paper-based documents are in use. Furthermore there is an opportunity to better protect sensitive personal data; digital information can be stored more securely with features such as password protection, data encryption, and two-factor authentication.
The benefits of digitisation within government are far reaching and, at a time when the public sector is being asked to do more with less, it’s an essential factor in the digital transformation journey. By reducing the time spent on the management of paper, employees can be empowered to work on more critical tasks to support the needs of their mission – and help organisations overcome the data maelstrom currently being experienced.