The idea of a paperless office has been around for some time. As outlined in F.W.Lancaster's "Towards Paperless Information Systems," published in 1978, the concept was probably way ahead of its time. But with the increase in Local Area Networks and adoption of the internet by businesses in the 1990s, the idea slowly gathered steam. No doubt, the move to digital documents has been very slow—but it has been steady. Innovations in digital technologies like cloud document storage, Enterprise Content Management systems, collaborative tools that allow sharing and concurrent editing of shared files, and faster networking made it easier to store, edit, comment on and share documents. But organizations did not adopt these technologies overnight—it took a pandemic to dissolve the resistance to the adoption of digital and remote work methods.
The COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns forced everyone to work from home. As the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, noted in April 2020, "We've seen two years' worth of digital transformation in two months."
Two years into the pandemic, we are now looking at a hybrid working model—it's the new normal, it's here to stay, and we must adapt to it!
The need for government agencies to go paperless
Administration of government offices is a complex and critical task. Government processes have traditionally been paper-intensive. A large amount of paperwork is needed to service citizens' demands, and queries and their work directly impacts millions of people. Therefore, government agencies need to constantly improve their effectiveness and service quality and minimize the time and error ratio.
Rick Howard, Research Vice-president at Gartner, emphasized the need for government organizations to adopt more digitized processes to improve citizen services.
He said: "The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred the acceleration of digital innovations across the government sector around the world, presenting government leaders with new opportunities to use data and technologies to build trust, agility and resilience in public institutions. While pandemic-related challenges will continue for some time, technology trends have emerged that address critical challenges in areas such as security, cost containment and citizen experience."
Most government agencies worldwide work with legacy systems and processes they set years ago. However, given the shift to digital tools, communication channels, and payment methods, the need to modernize government processes is urgent and crucial.
Legacy processes threaten to limit the functioning of government agencies in the new post-pandemic normal and pose a risk to service continuity in the uncertainty of shutdowns and restrictions imposed frequently during the waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Government CIOs are accelerating the move to modern IT architectures. Gartner predicts that by 2025, over 50% of government agencies will have modernized critical core legacy applications to improve resilience and agility.
Government agencies and public offices will need to use paper for specific processes, but they can still adopt paperless processes in several areas and functions to reduce paper consumption. As we speak, governments are redesigning their offices and processes to suit hybrid working for their employees. Paperless solutions will aid remote work and help decrease turnaround time for citizen queries and service demands.
Going paperless does not benefit only government employees. They are also beneficial for citizens. More and more citizens have access to the internet at home or through their mobile devices, and they are becoming used to e-commerce in other aspects of their lives. As citizens increasingly adopt digital tools and technology, they expect government agencies to communicate digitally, offer paperless services on-demand, and provide remote and online support for their queries.
Benefits of paperless office solutions for government agencies
The benefits of paperless office solutions for government agencies would include:
- Automate time-consuming tasks: Paperless processes are amenable to automation. For example, when digital files are routed through a document management system, multiple people can access them concurrently and work collaboratively on the same document. This saves the time that employees would otherwise spend in sending files to different people and waiting for paperwork to be completed at each desk before moving to the next step. Digital workflows speed up processes. Employees can easily share work statuses, seek approvals and even set up automatic reminders within a digital workflow.
- Integrate related technologies:Digitizing documents and workflows allows several related technology services to be used. With document management at the core, government agencies can deploy an array of specialized digital tools to get a comprehensive and accurate overview of citizens' needs and demands and provide faster, more efficient citizen services.
- Reduce costs: When government agencies switch to digital, they save time and costs of manual data entry and physically managing files—going paperless saves significant costs associated with paper, printing and physical storage spaces.
- Save government employees' time: Filing paper, searching for paper documents when needed, and manually updating them is a tedious and time-consuming task. Accessing digital documents stored in the cloud instead of searching among stacks of files saves time for employees.
- Extract essential data from documents: Government agencies hold a vast amount of valuable information in legacy paper files. Automated data extraction technologies unlock this data. By switching to digital workflows, government agencies can use this data to improve their services to citizens.
- Enhance process efficiency: Digitization enables self-serve and on-demand options through web portals, e-forms, license requests, and chat support. It allows citizens access to information 24/7 from anywhere instead of going to a government office for information. Switching to digital makes government agencies more efficient in processing claims, applications, and licensing requests.
- Improve transparency:Digital workflows provide better transparency into government processes. Automatic status updates, real-time alerts on completion of each step of a request, and availability of public data online are all possible with digitization.
DRS Imaging: Transforming government processes and helping government agencies to go paperless
Government agencies typically struggle to keep up with digital technology advancements due to a lack of commitment to IT infrastructure modernization and budget constraints.
Some common challenges government agencies face as they go paperless include data security and data migration to digital systems.
We digitize traditional paper-based processes and transform and store digital documents on the cloud. DRS has helped many government organizations with information management, starting with document scanning and intelligent data capture methods.
DRS provides solutions for automated data extraction from legacy paper documents. We leverage automated workflows to reduce employee effort costs and manage the storage, classification and retrieval of digitized documents from all unstructured and structured data sources. Mercury, our best-in-class enterprise content management system optimizes storage costs, reduces compliance risks and helps organizations go paperless effortlessly.
Talk to our digital transformation experts for customized solutions to go paperless!