Creating order among data chaos

Steve Clarke, Public Sector Solutions Manager, Kodak Alaris Information Management examines three areas where local authorities can drive greater growth and efficiency

Local authorities today are drowning in data. Every day they are faced with exponential amounts of information flowing into and out of their organisations from various and disparate sources – and the challenge is how to process, store, manage and analyse that data.

Today, data chaos is most rampant at the threshold between physical and digital documents. As such, effective information capture is vital, and a combination of scanners, software and services can provide much greater levels of control across three key areas: mailroom automation, forms processing and customer/employee on-boarding.


The compelling case for the digital mailroom

The mailroom traditionally has been at the centre of local authorities’ paper-based communications. But the mailroom is transforming; as more organisations implement digital transformation strategies, they are taking fashioned paper-based correspondence digital – resulting in such benefits as improved return on investment (ROI) and increased customer (citizen) satisfaction.

Of course, digitisation in the mailroom isn’t totally new. The first wave of digitisation and automation in the mailroom came with the introduction of powerful document scanners and document capture solutions – that’s how we think of today’s typical centralised mailroom model.

In recent years, however, this model has been under pressure. The need to capture documents and mail at the earliest point of entry, leads to more hybrid and decentralised models. Central mailrooms mainly exist in large county councils, while smaller district councils and branch offices often have hybrid approaches. As always, it’s not a ‘this versus that’ story because each has its own deployment needs. Instead it depends on the regional and citizen requirements driving the organisation.

The key benefits of implementing a digital mailroom include: better mail traceability and compliance, considerably improved customer service and enhanced quality of data capture into downstream processes. In addition scanning mail at the point of entry makes it immediately available for both office-based and remote staff.


Smart capture methods for on-boarding

The problem with on-boarding whether it’s for employees or citizens is that all too often it doesn’t get the attention it (and the customer) deserves, resulting in a poor end-to-end customer experience, and even employee dissatisfaction. Paper-based processes, disconnected information silos, a lack of a strategic focus and slowness in the information workflows are often to blame.

Speeding up processes by removing time-consuming barriers will help local authorities to better meet customer needs. Digitisation will decrease processing time and save money by eliminating manual checks and eligibility assessments, and removing the requirement for manual re-typing and storing of data, enabling employees to focus on doing more in less time.

Getting rid of the paper is one of the ways to improve customer experience management. You can avoid duplication and save the customer time by digitising the procedure so the required information is processed rapidly, accurately and conforms to regulatory requirements.

Therefore, it is important to get the information into electronic form as quickly as possible. The sooner the information gets captured, ideally in a transactional context, the faster customers get on-boarded. Moreover, transactional scanning offers employees the possibility to focus on the customer and their demands and questions, rather than on all the paperwork.

If a transactional capture approach isn’t feasible, it’s still important to go for a rapid scan-to-process approach, for instance via decentralised capture whereby documents are digitised at local offices instead of being sent to a central location first.

In a centralised digitisation environment, it’s essential to make sure that scanning of required documents happens fast and accurately, but most of all that it is closely connected with the systems and processes for on-boarding, speeding up the full workflow.


Adding intelligence for automated workflows

In an increasingly digital world, local authorities are facing entirely new information management and data challenges. Even so, it’s easy to forget that many still sit on mountains of paper that need to be digitised and turned into actionable information. Document imaging and electronic imaging are crucial operations for most organisations, especially as they go through digital transformation.

When data is extracted from paper-based forms and integrated into electronic workflows, this removes manual data entry tasks and time from the process. The three companion elements of better automated workflows are: capturing data using intelligent document recognition, routing the data/information and processing, and integrating and archiving the data with other systems.

There are real benefits to document intelligence, beginning with the actual capture using scanners and with capture solutions. Optimised processes allow local authorities to reduce costs and, more importantly, focus on the customer experience. The end result. Better efficiency, increased speed and increased customer satisfaction.

While data chaos can lead to complexity and lost productivity in the workplace, it does however present an opportunity for local authorities to improve their processes, resulting in the frictionless flow of information, simplified workflows and more reliable data.

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