Online document management (Jirsak/Shutterstock.com)

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How can agencies improve collaboration? The answer might surprise you.

It is time to face facts: State and local government agencies are struggling when it comes to collaboration.  

There are many reasons why the focus on transitioning to a more open government has stalled. No other sector faces a tougher challenge when comes to improving internal and external communication. Agencies must balance a move to transparency and citizen engagement, while making sure that they are still guarding against the spending waste, data leaks and inefficiency.

Online document management is key to collaboration because it helps government employees better work with peers, partners and businesses by streamlining processes and helping them manage the massive number of documents needed for day-to-day operations.  

A recent study by the BPI Network, a San Jose-based market research agency, found that 83 percent of respondents agreed that the accelerated pace and connectivity of business will require them to produce, share and manage more documents in the coming years.  In the government sector, where every process and activity must be documented, those numbers will surely be even higher. 

Government agencies need a new approach to document management and collaboration in today’s connected world.  So what is the one tool that might be a government worker’s biggest ally in this new reality? 

The answer might surprise you -- it’s the PDF.  Agencies need look no further than the business world to see how organizations have leveraged PDF innovations to improve communications with internal and external audiences and streamline processes.  Most importantly, this recent surge in PDF innovation has made the standard business tool a key collaboration tool.

With these new capabilities, government employees can leverage PDFs across all areas of civil service, including the public library, police department, public works, city hall and court systems to improve collaboration. Early government adopters are taking advantage of PDF software for accessibility, forms conversion, searchable content and streamlined Freedom of Information Act requests. They have been able to improve critical functions like scanning, archiving and converting of documents and also to greatly enhance the way they communicate with their peers and constituents.  New PDF technology is making the process of sharing, discussing, annotating, editing and improving documents more streamlined, efficient and productive.

Here are just a few ways new, connected PDF solutions can help agencies improve collaboration:

  • Multiple users can be part of a single document review, allowing all parties to see each other's comments and respond.
  • Employees can share content quickly and easily by generating a file link and sending it via email.
  • Agencies can track the usage of any document and view business intelligence information to see who accessed the file, what they looked at, what actions they performed, etc.
  • Readers can automatically be notified when a new version of the document is available.
  • Dynamic commenting tools allow employees to provide feedback to documents through annotation and text markup tools, and document creators can better manage comments within documents.
  • Search and redact capabilities enable safe sharing of information while keeping confidential information private.

As great as all this might sound, the inevitable question becomes how utilizing these new collaborative PDF tools will effect security. 

As it turns out, these new connected, collaborative PDF solutions have actually become a security asset for those agencies using them. Because of the improvements in the PDF technology, documents become more trackable, controllable and secure. This has been done by embedding PDF documents with an identity and connecting them in the cloud, giving agencies more control over their documents and confidential data -- even after a document leaves the premises. In fact, creators can track the usage of their document, and security features will follow it no matter where it goes.

The PDF is already government's preferred format for documents. But agencies continue to use old versions of the technology that were developed before the internet became ubiquitous.  It is time for the government sector to adopt innovative PDF technology that provides new collaboration and sharing tools and a more secure and controllable document.

About the Author

DeeDee Kato is senior marketing director at Foxit Software.

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