Five ways content services supports compliance in government

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It’s said that 60% of an average employee’s day is spent on document management. For government employees? That number may be even higher.

Regardless of an agency’s specific mission — public works and asset management, courts and justice, health and human services and so forth — effectively managing documents and documentation is a major part of keeping the agency running efficiently and correctly.

The best way to ensure that efficiency and accuracy is via a modern content services platform (as an evolution of an enterprise content management [ECM] or document management solution), which should be integral to the strategy of all government agencies … especially compliance-driven agencies.

But because compliance is more a way of operating than a reason for operating (like a mission), very few agencies refer to themselves as compliance-driven, or even recognize that they are (or should be).

Is your agency driven by compliance?

So how do you know if your agency is compliance-driven? Consider the following questions and whether they are drivers in your agency:

  • Do you receive funding from county, city, state, federal or nonprofit entities? When your agency accepts funding from others, that funding normally comes with a set of requirements that you must follow. More importantly, you must diligently document your adherence to those requirements.
  • Do you decide eligibility for a program? Delivering services to your constituents often starts with an application, followed by supporting documents, annual check-ins for continued eligibility and the ubiquitous file checklist. Losing track of these documents starts the process all over again, and worse, it erodes your customer service with delays and requests for resubmitting documents.
  • Are you audited by outside agencies or funders? You endure annual (or more frequent) reviews of your files, your processes and whether you adhere to your stated procedures for making decisions.
  • Are you judged by the completeness of your documentation? Those annual audits include third-party reconstruction of your decisions and processes by what they see in the files and according to their own file checklist.
  • Do you hold the permanent or historical records for your community? Records management is often a combination of where documents are held during a process and — just as important, if not more so — who is charged with managing them and what that responsibility looks like now and into the future.

If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you indeed work for a compliance-driven agency.

See if any of this sounds familiar: In many ways, these agencies can seem frozen in time. The programs they run were often developed before the infiltration of technology (that includes personal computers — we’re talking way before) and were set up to manage hundreds of millions of dollars before those dollars were digitally tracked in accounting and data systems.

Because of where government funding comes from, because of judging eligibility and because of audits by those funders, government agencies tend to pursue, manage and create a massive amount of paper (or disconnected digitized documents that might as well be paper).

But what happens now, in an era of affordable document management technology and reduced staff? The compliance-driven agency faces some dilemmas!

3 challenges for the compliance-driven agency

1. Resources

Especially in times of tighter economic conditions, compliance-driven agencies do not have enough employees to sustain paper-driven systems — the filing, the photocopying, the archiving and securing of sensitive information.

2. Timeliness

Government officials and constituents will no longer tolerate the delays in retrieving documents. This is particularly the case when a decision is questioned during an audit or increasingly frequent public records requests. Those files, which you are struggling to maintain, should be your source of truth: The proof that you did or did not follow regulations, rules or laws. If documents are not filed in a timely fashion or are lost due to the pressures of caseload and reduced workforce, you could lose funding.

3. Turnover

As agencies are asked to do more with less (staff), they lose knowledge workers with years or decades of experience running compliant programs and institutional expertise for compliance.

So, the paper that signaled your compliance has created a system you can’t maintain due to funding cuts. And you can’t risk being out of compliance or you will lose even the reduced funding you absolutely need to continue receiving.

Sounds like a no-win situation. But content services can help.

5 ways content services can solve compliance challenges

Compliance is a concept that cuts across government agencies, levels and missions. The records that demonstrate or describe how decisions were made are the cornerstone of every government.

Unfortunately, treating this cornerstone with the reverence it deserves feels nearly impossibly when agencies are reducing headcount, cutting costs or both. How can your agency sustain and support its current compliance responsibilities, let alone improve processes, under these conditions?

With a modern, cloud-based content services solution. Content services supports government compliance in five key ways:

1. No more filing, copying or duplicating

This is a crucial efficiency improvement for agencies because these tasks are traditionally considered low-value. In fact, they exist because of our reliance on paper and manual processes. By moving away from paper, you not only save paper and printing costs — you avoid tasks that do not serve our constituents directly. If your agency has already done away with paper but deals in digitized documents that don’t act much differently than paper, you’re in a similar position. Digitization is not digital transformation.

2. A central repository allows simultaneous access

When people think about how to “speed up government,” one easy way is to remove the need for files to travel between people or departments. Allowing easy (or automated) access to documents increases efficiency and reduces the probability of error.

3. Multiple retrieval tools mean no lost documents

No lost documents may be the single greatest contribution that document management can make to a compliance-driven agency. But what about finding documents? Analysts routinely estimate significant dollar costs and hours wasted as employees search for documents. This can be eliminated with content services and enterprise search. How fast could your team move if they could immediately access documents related to the data record they are reviewing within the case management system they’re already using? With content services, the benefits of no lost documents are only superseded by the speed and flexibility of your staff’s retrieval options.

4. Intelligent automation can identify missing documents

Many agencies use file checklists as handy reminders of what constitutes a complete file. Sometimes another department is created to test files for completeness after they are assembled by first-line employees. While this might address the needs of our funders (and their funding is important!), this is another place where committed staff time has little impact on constituents. What if intelligent automation could apply those checklists to the documentation automatically, and alert the team of any missing documents or components?

5. Exception reporting supports internal compliance reviews

If your agency has resorted to internal auditing, quality assurance or compliance departments because of the complexities of complying with their funders’ wishes, you’re likely wasting valuable time and resources. A content services solution helps reduce the number of people or hours committed to this function through simple exception reporting. One great use case is a content services platform’s ability to tell you if a document is missing across the files of many or all your projects or clients. Imagine you have instituted a procedure that requires collecting a new form and you need to collect the form retroactively. After the collection process begins, you can periodically run a report that examines your files and identifies who has not submitted the form. Or imagine using a workflow process that automatically notifies employees of a needed document or when a document is received, and that same workflow “holds” an application until all needed documentation is received. This would allow continuing quality assurance without requiring you to staff it, reducing workloads while enhancing compliance.

A digitally transformed compliance-driven agency begins with the power of content services. The power of a modern, cloud-based solution allows you to manage your files quickly and automatically while your team focuses on providing better customer service to your constituents. That is how government will survive the “new normal”— by improving how it does its day-to-day tasks and letting technology, like content services and intelligent automation, take some of the burden.

Compliance is a theme that cuts across most government efforts. It has been present, and ever-increasing, for so long that we underestimate the effect it has on the allocation of time and resources in government. Agencies will continue to struggle to fund and staff outdated compliance methods until they fully understand — and invest in — the idea that compliance-driven does not have to mean paper- burdened.

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Terri Jones is an enterprise advisor with Hyland’s Global Services team. Before coming to Hyland, in her 10-plus years in both state and local government, she’s managed IT departments, implemented ECM strategies and written legislation and program policies. As an enterprise advisor, she uses her background in IT deployment, change management and strategic planning to lead workshops that help Hyland customers get the most from their solution investments.
Terri Jones

Terri Jones

Terri Jones is an enterprise advisor with Hyland’s Global Services team. Before coming to Hyland, in her 10-plus years in both state and local government, she’s managed IT departments, implemented... read more about: Terri Jones