Across the globe, government generates more paper than any other industry or field of activity. As consumers of government services, we take for granted that any process that is conducted by a government agency will be paper-intensive – and therefore may be inefficient, costly, and/or insecure.
The people in government who are responsible for document-based processes are even more conscious of their over-reliance on paper, and frustrated by it. In a global survey of 1500 owners of such processes, IDC found that fully 58 percent of constituent-facing processes and 46 percent of back-office processes are driven by paper – not by electronic information. Only 36 percent of the government respondents described these processes as efficient and effective.
Meanwhile, citizens are eager to interact with government agencies in more modern, technology-based ways. And a younger generation of digitally literate government employees is bringing its passion for new ways of sharing and applying information to the government workplace.
Why, then, does the gap between expectation and reality persist? In part, it’s because government agencies are chronically subject to tight budgets and competing priorities. They may know that their document processes are out-of-date, but they are less likely than the private sector to allocate budgets toward fixing them.
And even where government agencies have begun to deploy smart information technologies – such as tablets, mobile phones, and multi-function printers (MFPs) – in hope of improving process, they may be constrained from fully exploiting the new technologies by concern that the additional “touch points” will put them out of compliance with privacy or security requirements.
The opportunity to gain control of inefficient workflows
There is, however, a significant opportunity for government agencies to leverage the technology they already have to selectively replace the paper in their processes with automation. By leveraging their existing hardware with advanced document capture and workflow solutions, agencies can eliminate the “friction” and potential exposure that accompany paper; increase efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure compliance with privacy and security requirements.
This approach focuses on automating the manually intensive steps in many document processes, including getting information off of paper or out of email, capturing it within a document management system (DMS) or business application, and routing it to the appropriate folders, workers, or other destinations.
A new Nuance whitepaper, “Securing, Automating, and Mobilizing Government Workflows,” illustrates the speed, efficiency, security, and economy of the automated approach. Field offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were preparing and submitting bundles of N-400 forms to the agency’s Nebraska Service Center via an inefficient nine-step process. When an automated Nuance capture solution was used instead, the nine mostly manual steps were cut to four highly automated ones; the time required to prepare and submit forms was reduced by 50 to 65 percent; and the backlog of pending cases was shrunk from 300,000 to 150,000.
Adding a layer of security and control to their paper-based and electronic document processes enables government agencies to:
- Improve the quality of constituent service,
- Ensure that protected (or protectable) personal information is used and shared securely, and
- Accelerate the transition in government from “We have a form for that” to “We have an app for that.”
All of this helps government agencies gain more control of documents and workflows – so everyone works more effectively and productively and can better serve the public. Stay tuned for additional blog posts that will describe additional ways automation can help government agencies.