As government begins to turn the corner on budget woes, local government has a golden opportunity to transform their processes and position themselves for quick return on investment – and a conscious movement towards the government that our future constituents will want and expect. It is, at times, overwhelming to look at the potential IT solutions you could implement. But it helps to look at the core processes of government and target your attention, your technology to make these processes more efficient.How do I define efficient? Pretty simply, I see it as taking staff less time to complete processes. Even more importantly, looking see it as ways to reclaim staff time by using technology to eliminate tasks that were previously necessary because government had to rely on paper to get things done.
Document management is a key piece of technology for government. But I often get asked, “Where should we start?” and “where does it make sense to expand document or ECM solutions?” My answer - accounts payable.
Why start in accounts payable?
My first answer is the massive volume of paper processed by accounting departments. But it really comes down to how the paper slows the process of paying all those bills. And it only gets worse if you have been forced to cut some of the staff that works in your accounting department.
My next answer is the speed of retrieval. Your accounting staff needs to find critical information, answer phone calls from vendors or colleagues, figure out whether a bill should be paid and determine whether the goods or services have been received. With the hundreds of thousands of transactions that agencies do every year, finding these answers by going to the file cabinet or going through an inbox or inter-office mail envelopes is not sustainable when your budget and your staff have been cut.
These are reactionary reasons. How about something that will position you for the future?
The best reason to use ECM for AP is transparency and self-service. By digitizing the documents, you not only solve the two dilemmas above, you create internal and external transparency. Internally, the process is entirely transparent. Staff can find invoices and documents they submitted as well as where they are in the process of approval or payment. Managers and submitters can receive emails that tell them when they need to review and approve purchase orders or invoices and they can approve them right from Outlook.
Internal transparency certainly helps, but what if you also met growing constituent demand for transparency using the same solution that help with the challenges above? By digitizing documents, you can make them available online so constituents can see how money is being spent without having to travel to your office or make a public record request. This saves their time and your clerks time too. Some agencies are even using their digital documents and workflows to create vendor portals so vendors can view the status of their invoices without making a call to your staff – using self-service to keep them working on processing instead of answering the phone.
Using document management in your accounting department creates that rare moment when the same investment can solve today’s challenges while also answering a future need.