The complete picture and the technology to get it

Last time, I talked about the commitment of clerks and the challenges they face while striving to meet their public records responsibilities. Many clerks embrace technology to deliver paperless agendas and provide meeting video online, but the area where they are arguably the most vulnerable is not the legislative process, but the public records request obligation.

Trends suggest increasing numbers of records requests, a suspicious public and a rise in predatory records requests. On top of that, there are few avenues to recover the cost and staff time needed to meet this responsibility.

The mismatch between the number of requests and the staff available to fulfill them isn’t the only barrier clerks face. Unlike records management, a records request can ask for, and is generally entitled to, just about anything. Because of the wide-ranging nature of requests, fulfilling them in a timely fashion or even knowing if you provided all the documents encompassed by the request is difficult.

Consider these realities:

  • In a government organization, every staff member creates content, every day
  • Agenda and minutes solutions capture only a fraction of the items that constituents can request
  • At the time of creation, it is not known if a document will be a part of a records request
  • Almost none of this content is within the physical control of the clerk

Seeing the whole picture

When you add up these challenges, it is clear that clerks can’t see the complete picture in a world of paper-based documents. Nor can they control those documents, despite having responsibilities to fulfill records requests. The only reasonable course for clerks is to implement and encourage technology that addresses these challenges and restores control to the clerks who have this legal obligation.

If you agree, what should you be looking for? And what can establish an infrastructure that meets these challenges?

  • Instant capture

Ensuring you have the content means capturing and storing it immediately upon creation, whether through scanning, electronic forms, output from a data system or archiving correspondence, emails and attachments.

  • One central repository for all content

To make searching for files more efficient and comprehensive, you need one central location to look, with a range of search tools. You need to connect all data solutions and departments to a solution with enough functionality to be the single archive for your county, city or town.

  • Move requests online and automate the process

Speeding fulfillment and providing a complete understanding of outstanding assignments is a crucial piece of the complete view that clerks need. Moreover, today’s constituents expect business transactions to take place online. By moving requests to a web submission process, it is more convenient and requests are never lost, but are instantly routed for attention and tracked without manual steps via workflow management.

  • Use reporting dashboards

Once you automate your process, you can monitor it in real time, provide views for council and managers and use the analytics to identify bottlenecks or increase your understanding about what types of requests you receive.

You can find all of these capabilities in enterprise content management (ECM) solutions. ECM combines capture options, automation and reporting and a central repository for records in a single package. This means that a single investment can manage the agenda process, secure all your content, provide automation for records requests and additional processes, and even supply dashboards to increase visibility into the status of assignments and requests.

With capabilities that include the legislative process, video, voting and tools for records requests, you can make a single investment and meet the complete list of responsibilities you have. It can also improve every other department’s efficiency by eliminating paper and the costs associated with it.

With ECM, you create a complete view of content and processes so you can successfully and completely fulfill your legal responsibilities.

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