The Status Quo
Managing information effectively is crucial to good government. Various standards and regulations on a national, state and local level are in place to articulate and enforce good information and records management practices. Government agencies across Australia and New Zealand must comply with these regulations.
However, despite best efforts, managing information effectively can be complex, especially as the amount of information government agencies deal with grows and expands through various channels. Agencies tend to use a variety of storage options including network drives, personal computers, thumb drives, cloud storage platforms, and legacy systems. With documents stored in a variety of places, complying with the various regulations becomes much more difficult, the efficiency of the staff suffers and the quality of the services that the agencies offer is compromised.
ECM Solutions Don’t Address The Challenges
Trying to bring all these disparate information sources together is all but impossible using legacy approaches. The resulting information and system silos can slow employees down, making it difficult for them to complete daily tasks efficiently and accurately.
Historically, organisations implemented records management systems to manage records and ensure compliance. However, this type of solution doesn’t connect data siloes, nor does it offer the functionality of an enterprise content management (ECM) solution. However, rather than leading with a more comprehensive ECM solution, organisations have focused on the smaller records management need. In many cases, the records management or ECM solution isn’t used to its full capacity but is merely adopted as a repository for final versions of documents as an archived record. This requires staff members to remember to add these documents to the ECM, and to know which folder or container to place it in to comply with long-term retention and disposal requirements.
This brings compliance risks. To address them, many government agencies have overlaid electronic content management (ECM) systems onto existing siloes. These systems attempt to reign in content and apply governance. However they often add more complexity, are cumbersome and hard to use, and slow to search. As a result, users find workarounds and the investment in the ECM system is wasted.
Workflows Are Inefficient & Error-prone
In government agencies, much of the information exchange is done via paper-based forms and documents, including fax. Although many processes have been digitised, the same inefficiencies exist because, in many cases, this is a matter of simply turning physical paper into PDF documents, which are still shuffled around using email, shared drives, and document libraries, making it difficult to track and manage documents and versions accurately.
These manual processes are time consuming and error prone. Documents can easily become lost and, when multiple versions are saved, it can be difficult to know which is the latest and most correct version. This creates additional issues around document management, information governance, and compliance.
Digital Transformation Is The Way Forward
Moving document management to digital and online is just the first step in addressing challenges around information management.
Intelligent Information Management (IIM) uses a set of technology tools to classify, and process structured and unstructured content. Incorporating metadata (which is information about data, such as the document date, type, and so on) and some elements of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the most modern and sophisticated IIM solutions dramatically streamline workflows related to data, and provide full visibility, control, and governance across all types of government data.
This whitepaper explores five ways government agencies can future proof their operations with IIM.
1. Intelligent Document Management That Goes Beyond Documents
Legacy approaches to document management focus on where information is saved. This means that, to find a document, the user must first know where to start looking. They can then spend significant amounts of time browsing through shared drives or hard disks to find the information, only to have very little assurance that the document they’ve found is the most up-to-date and accurate version. Even using the search functionality available in shared drives doesn’t always make this process faster or easier.
By, instead, managing information based on what it is (not where it resides), government agencies can gain quick access to business content and a 360-degree view of the information available. A modern IIM system uses AI and metadata to underpin powerful search capabilities that surface documents based on how relevant they are for the user, regardless of where they are stored. This eliminates issues around siloed systems, duplicate content, and version control, as users can be certain that they’re seeing all relevant documents.
Content can be automatically classified using AI algorithms so that the system knows exactly what kind of information is contained in each document. Moreover, the system manages more than just documents. It manages all government agency information, including customers, cases, projects, files, and much more.
This approach enables more effective and streamlined collaboration among internal and external teams. It improves information security and compliance by fulfilling the requirements of the relevant standards and regulations. It’s quick and easy to configure and takes agencies from content chaos and folder jungles to a centralised content repository with fast, powerful search options that present information in context. This is valuable because it serves up documents based on the context that the user is interested in not on where they’re stored. This means that all files and data about a customer, employee, project, case, and more, can be accessed in the same view without requiring data migration.
2. Improved, Future-proof Flexibility
As the COVID-19 disruption highlighted, government employees need to be able to work and be productive from anywhere. With a strong mobile experience, modern IIM solutions can deliver instant access to essential information on the go. Employees simply need a mobile device and an internet connection for quick and secure access from anywhere.
Strong collaboration capabilities ensure that operations run smoothly in any circumstance. Documents can easily be shared among employees without creating duplicates and real-time co-authoring allows for documents to be worked on by several team members simultaneously.
The IIM solution sits securely behind firewalls and secure internet gateways, minimising any potential security risks that could otherwise arise when accessing agency information from remote locations. This is a far more secure approach than emailing documents to each other, using an unsecured file share, or a free cloud service such as Dropbox.
3. Automation & Efficiency To Improve Customer Service
Government agencies need to provide excellent customer service. Better government services contribute to the overall growth of the nation. This starts small, with agencies being responsive, providing accurate information, and streamlining processes for customers.
Agencies must deal with different types of requests every day, from basic licence or permit renewals to complex legal matters. These processes can be automated through workflows that remove the human element from much of the process. This ensures matters are managed according to compliance requirements, that all participants are notified when they need to act and makes the status of each matter visible to everyone, and the whole process is completely auditable.
By removing the human element of workflows, agencies can speed up processes and dramatically reduce the incidence of human error. This will contribute to improved customer service and it will reduce costs, free up employees to focus on value-added activities instead of basic information management and empower agencies to deliver more advanced and targeted services to constituents.
4. Ease Of Use That Users Will Embrace
Legacy ECM systems tend to suffer from low adoption rates among employees because they simply add another layer of complexity to an already-complex environment. An IIM provides a single platform to create, storage and access all documents. This means users can find what they need, when they need it, without being distracted by irrelevant documents and information.
Modern IIM systems such as M-Files are so easy to use that new employees can become productive from day one. This is important as older workers, used to working with paper-based information, leave the workforce and take their knowledge with them. When younger staff members join, they don’t have this knowledge. However, by implementing a workflow system that digitalises the processes, this knowledge can be retained and easily passed on to new workers.
And existing employees are far less likely to seek workarounds since the system makes their job easier. With younger workers used to having correct versions of information at their fingertips, due to their use of programs such as Google, it’s important to give them a solution that avoids having to trawl through folders to find documents. Document management will, therefore, become seen as less tedious and mundane as users find more time for more interesting, creative, and valuable tasks.
All of this means that the IIM solution isn’t just one that ticks all the boxes for the IT team but offers a genuine solution that users want to engage with. Often, users are so excited by the potential they see in M-Files that they quickly begin to look for more ways to deploy the IIM system throughout the business to solve additional challenges.
One of the key drivers behind this is that users don’t need to change the way they work to accommodate the IIM solution. Rather, the solution adapts to existing ways of working, streamlining them and empowering users to get on with customer service-focused tasks.
5. Maximum ROI From Existing Systems & New Growth Opportunities
IIM systems connect to existing business systems across the organisations, including Customer Relationship Management (CRM), ERP, network folders, Microsoft SharePoint folders, legacy ECM systems, and more. They don’t replace these systems; they sit on top of them making sense of the data and breaking down siloes.
With the right IIM solution, government agencies can unlock the value of the information they control. Users can immediately access their critical data in context, in a single view, no matter where it’s stored. With data being one of the most valuable business assets, this is a key benefit of IIM systems.
Additional, M-Files IIM seamlessly embeds within leading digital workplace platforms, including Microsoft 365, Salesforce, and Google Workspace. This lets users remain focused on the task at hand without having to exit the applications they’re working on. Instead, they can stay in the familiar environment and continue working while the information they need surfaces as they need it.
In this way, the IIM adds value to these platforms through intelligent document management capabilities, workflow automation, and support for compliance and information governance. By connecting the strong collaboration capabilities of these platforms with the IIM system capabilities, government agencies will see productivity and efficiency gains alongside ensured compliance.
As the world of business and government continues to become more digital, and people live more of their lives online, the importance of managing information will only grow. Government agencies that continue to try to overlay legacy ECM solutions or let information proliferate in siloes will find it difficult to deliver the level of customer service required. They will also struggle to identify and deliver new services that benefit their constituencies. And, when staff members are tied up managing paperwork and information using cumbersome and unwieldy systems and processes, it will become more difficult for government agencies to attract and retain the most qualified staff members.
Adopting an intelligent information management system, such as M-Files, overcomes these challenges and lets government agencies continue along the digital transformation journey where they can achieve significant benefits.
The right IIM system is one that doesn’t add further complexity or require largescale document migration. Instead, it should be a sophisticated overlay that makes sense of data wherever it is, without requiring that data to be moved. Government agencies that incorporate an IIM system into their digital transformation strategy will gain significant benefits in terms of cost savings, productivity improvements, and better customer service.