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INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Why going paperless matters, now more than ever

The drive towards digital transformation shows no signs of slowing down as organizations in all sectors recognize the competitive advantages of digitizing their manual or paper-based processes.

This new digital economy is forcing public-sector organizations to face up to how they receive, store, secure and manage their data. There’s an overwhelming need to get smarter about using all this data to deliver valuable insights, reduce costs and improve citizen relationships.

It's far from a single step from analog to digital information management, because  organizations are faced with a mixture of data collection methods -- some digital and others paper-based -- and lack transparency around the nature of the data, leaving many drowning in a sea of data chaos.

This situation is compounded in the public sector where digital transformation is not moving as rapidly as in commercial sectors because of longer procurement cycles and spending constraints that often prevent agencies from adopting cutting-edge technology. This is especially frustrating because the public sector recognizes the benefits of digital workflows,  but with limited budgets it remains adrift in a sea of data, unable to process, store, manage and analyse that data efficiently.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By focusing attention on specific areas, some of which are outlined below, agencies can gradually realize the value of transitioning to a digital world.

Accounts payable

Paper-based invoicing costs time and money for invoice preparation, printing, dispatching and postage. Digital invoice processing is one of the most advanced solutions available and can handle end-to-end processing in many cases without any human intervention.

Digitizing paper inputs in accounts payable enables the faster processing and easier control of payments, which allows agencies to take advantage of discounts and avoid penalties. They can also avoid the time-consuming and laborious practice of matching invoices with purchase orders and can reduce the time spent tracking and chasing approvals.

Forms processing

Filling out paperwork is widespread in the public sector, forcing public agencies to spend money on a slow and error-prone process  that can be easily automated. There are significant advantages to offering citizens a digital-only forms processing alternative (eForms, for example) or by digitizing and processing data automatically. Benefits include:

  • Streamlining the data entry process to speed up the entire business process.
  • Reducing the error rate compared to extensive manual rekeying.
  • Freeing up knowledge workers to focus on higher value tasks.
  • Accelerating data extraction from documents, helping staff to deliver faster responses and better outcomes.

Onboarding

Onboarding new employees, citizens or customers generates a considerable cost for most agencies. These expenses can include the manual administration and tracking of employee paperwork, manually provisioning a new contract and the rekeying of data when updating information into other systems across the agency.

The process requires far less work when it is digitized. Using the right platform, an organization can bring new customers on board quickly and smoothly, leading to increased customer satisfaction and a significant reduction in manual errors.

Records management

Government agencies must follow clearly defined processes and rules for handling and storing documents. Throughout the document lifecycle, data must meet compliance requirements and retention policies. The forthcoming General Data Protection Regulation, for example, which applies to any U.S. organization that handles citizen data from Europe, will overhaul how data is stored, secured and managed.

New regulations require process adjustments, additional validation and documentation, which makes records management a moving target and particularly hard to administer in a paper-based environment.

Through digitization, agencies can eliminate inefficiencies and time wasted on the direct and hidden costs of a paper-based system. They can also protect against disasters like fire, hurricanes and flooding, which can cause enormous damage to paper-based systems. It’s also easier to protect sensitive personal data in digital systems with  passwords, data encryption and two-factor authentication.

Other advantages include eliminating time-consuming manual processes, establishing ongoing operational cost savings, improving employee productivity and, crucially, maximizing tight budgets. Some analysts estimate that government digitization, using current technology, could generate more than $1 trillion annually worldwide. The process can be challenging, but the benefits of digitization are far reaching.

About the Author

Joe Yankle is public sector strategic alliance manager for Kodak Alaris Information Management.

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