March 29, 2016

ECM’s in the Public Sector

US capitol building

ECMs are a Business Process workflow tool, not a filing cabinet, and one of the environments where that is being taken to heart is the Public Sector, i.e. government entities on all levels. Documents are being captured, entering repositories as indexed case management components, being shared between departments, and distributed to citizens both as mailed communications and thru self-service kiosks. There are some interesting factors that come into play in this environment.

One of the most obvious factors is that the documents and records involved are very likely to contain information about individuals. As long as the information is held within the secure environment of a department’s workflow, sensitive information can be kept private; but with the increasing demands for workflows to cross department boundaries, or, in Freedom of Information (FOI) cases, to be released to third parties, that information cannot be kept private and other steps must be taken. That is where Redaction is used. Documents in repositories must be kept in their original condition but exported documents must be redacted to fully remove sensitive information.

Take the example of the self-service kiosk. If FOI rules require that meeting records be published, the original notes can be kept intact for historical reference while a redacted set can be created on a publicly accessible website that the public can navigate. This eliminates the previous requirement of having a public employee pull up the record in response to a FOI request, scan it for sensitive information, manually redact it and individually distribute it.

Another factor is ease of use. The smaller IT staffs found in the Public Sector do not have time for extensive end-user support of ECM tools. A tool, like CrawfordTech’s Riptide, that uses a familiar shopping cart user interface when integrated with IBM’s Content Navigator is an example of this ease of use. End-users can be accessing documents from different department’s repositories that are built on different ECM platforms. The documents can be in different native formats including ones that the end-user does not have installed on their computer. The end-user can require that the documents be assembled into a packet with a Table of Contents, indexed, annotated as to the key actions for the next workflow steps, and distributed to a dozen destinations each with a unique watermark. As complex as that sounds, it is drag-and-drop and based on a real life use case.

At last year’s AIIM conference, Carah Koch of the Metropolitan Council of the State of Minnesota pointed out that there was a value to be realized increasing transparency and that there was an expectation that government should be run like a business. She said that ECMs in the Public Sector would reduce the cost of delivering government services, improve security, access, efficiency, and compliance. Their utilization expands the confidence of the citizens in their government commitment toward more efficient management.

Further the deployment of ECMs would lead to a shift in thinking summarized by Michael Milakovich in his recent book:

  1. Move from simply improving administration to the pursuit of Digital Governance
  2. Better informed citizens
  3. Integrated operations across agencies
  4. Lower costs – Vis a Vis face to face services
  5. Improved effectiveness, trust, and quality of service by performing faster transactions which improves accountability

Personally, I am glad the Public Sector is being run like a business and adopting ECMs. I want to see the benefits above realized across all levels of government. I am a firm advocate of Information Governance and can’t think of a better place for it than in Government.

To learn more about Riptide and how it is a crucial part of your Enterprise Content Management, as well as, your customer communications and output management processes, click on the success story below to read about how a city government combines the power of the IBM FileNet Content Manager ECM platform with the automated document aggregation and output management capability of Crawford Technologies Riptide solution.

Case Management and Distribution

Citation: “Digital Governance: New Technologies for Improving Public Service and Participation” (2012)