There is a fundamental shift taking place in the government sector, which is increasingly realising that to provide services to citizens, it will have to go digital. While it is putting in place the necessary infrastructure, a more important challenge before it is to create the necessary content. In every citizen service centre (CSC), that are fast coming up in the country, there is need for information, which has to be digitised, then made accessible and later printed. Thus, while there is an opportunity in egovernance, there is also a challenge.
Most government organisations have now started using electronic workflow processes. But the challenge here is to make paper part of this process. One of the most important and crucial aspect of an organisation-whether in the government or in the private sector— today is knowledge resource building and sharing. Knowledge resides in two domains—the human mind and in documents. Documents thus are the lifeblood of any organisation. Companies of all sizes use documents to communicate ideas, share creativity, back-up work, or formalise contracts.
Here, one must remember that the government is the biggest user of paper in the country, in all the three areas of government to citizen, government to government and government to business services. In fact, it is the culture of decision-making that drives the use of paper. Almost all triggers for activity in the government start with paper. So, documents are an intrinsic part of any government office. This increase in documentation seems to be a hard reality and has enormous ramifications on issues like cost, transparency, security and efficiency. This challenge is inevitable as a lot of information flows to and out of offices on paper, requiring some methodology of electronically capturing and integrating it with mainstream information.
This is where document management becomes important. The term document management covers a range of systems for managing paper and electronic files. To work towards a paperless office, a more specific term is document imaging systems -it includes tools to help one convert paper records into electronic files. Document management controls the lifecycle of documents- how they are created, reviewed, published, and consumed, and how they are ultimately disposed off or retained. Document management solutions start with scanning and end with printing. The middle levels consist of storing, searching, securing, integration and publishing. However, document management is still in its infancy and the challenge lies in educating customers. Paper document should become a part of IT infrastructure as only this will bring in efficiency in the system.
A document management system (DMS) tracks and stores electronic documents or images, cuts down on the unnecessary use of paper, and more importantly controls the document flow.
The tools one uses for document management should be flexible, allowing an organisation to tightly control its life cycles, meeting its culture and goals while letting it implement a structured system. Documents should have authority levels for access and security. They should have history and audit trails; check-in and checkout controls, enabling one to know who is working on the documents; have the document been accessed, if so, how many times; and the security and authorisation levels of those doing so.
The term document management has an overlap with content management systems: people see it as a component of enterprise content management systems and related to digital asset management, document imaging, workflows and records management systems. A document management system (DMS) tracks and stores electronic documents or images, cuts down on the unnecessary use of paper, and more importantly controls the document flow. This, however, does not mean that one has to become a paperless office, one cannot!!
To do away with the movement of physical documents, organisations have already started using electronic documents rather than physical documents. There are three factors that are driving the need for a DMS. Firstly, organisations are increasingly feeling the need to control paper movement, i.e., paper coming in, paper moving and paper being used for printing. Secondly, companies are thinking about how cost should be reduced and how they can improve efficiencies. The third factor is environment friendliness. The whole printing process is considered as paper wastage. But here rather than fragmenting, one centralised multifunctional device can be installed and this will lead to cost-effectiveness and reduced power consumption, thereby saving on energy.
There are several common issues that are involved in managing documents, whether the system is an informal, ad-hoc, paper-based method for one person or if it is a formal, structured, computer enhanced system for many people across multiple offices. Today, while one cannot have a paperless office, one can surely reduce one’s carbon footprint by adopting services like DMS.
As the economy grows, organisations are facing challenge in terms of how to manage their content and information flow. Archival, retrieval, security, cost, etc., have become vital factors in taking any kind of decision. What has also become more important is how a document is flowing through an organisation and the time it is taking to reach the concerned persons. Document management essentially comprises of the following:
- Accountability and Speed
- Transparency and Security
- Archival and Retrieval
In essence, within the government or in any private enterprise, there are four points in paper movement, the first is ‘entry gate’, then comes the ‘flow of paper across the organisation’, the third is the ‘security point’, and last is the ‘output’. So there is for need for a document management solution, which can integrate paper movement in the form of electronic workflow; so that it is visible to the people who matter, is secure from where security is necessary, and is printed out only at the point where one requires it.
The basic principle of document management is that customer interface and decision-making need to be as local as possible, while processing of any information is as central as possible. What this implies is that all documents should ideally be stored in a central depository. They should have authority levels for access and security. They should have history and audit trails. They should have check-in and check-out controls which, in layman’s terms, means who is working on the documents, have the documents been accessed, how many times have they been accessed and who is authorised to view them. One should be able to collaborate these documents with various rights. For example, I should be able to say that only person A can view the document, while person B can view and print it, person C can copy it and person D can write something on the document or even delete it.
Information can also be required not just at one department or one centre but at several centres or several departments, which are interconnected. Therefore any document that is at any one centre as a physical document needs to be accessed by people sitting in other centres or departments. There has to be a mechanism that those authorised to access that document should be able to see it wherever they are. One should be able to send documents in a secure manner with various security levels. More importantly, such documents should carry digital signatures. And, digital signature incorporation is far easier on an electronic document than on a hard copy.
While it is true that risk and compliance continue to drive the demand for document management, especially in meeting regulatory requirements, the demand is increasingly being driven more by the desire to enhance and reinforce service delivery, by accelerating delivery, building user loyalty, and creating competitive advantage. Thus, while filing and storing systems are already in place in most offices, a document management system automates the whole process, which today happens physically. According to a global study, an enterprise invests about 1- 3 per cent of its yearly revenue on print and related infrastructure. This is a significant amount and by implementing managed print services solution, one can reduce this cost by as much as 30 per cent.
What further reduces cost, and what most corporates are increasingly realising is that to optimise and build higher competitiveness for their organisations is outsourcing the document servicing space. They are also realising the need for domain experts to manage processes and activities more effectively. Managed print services, which according to Gartner is: “the last great area of uncontrolled and invisible cost”, can help enterprises reduce costs and optimise resources. More importantly, users, especially in the government, have to realise that such services do not refer only to paper printing of documents. Such services help organisations shift from a capital expenditure model to an operating expenditure model, thereby optimising delivery. The success of such a deployment model pivots around convenience and change management for the end user. It is a critical aspect towards and there are well-established processes in place to help enterprises overcome any hurdles.
As the economy grows, organisations are facing challenge in terms of how to manage their content and information flow. Archival, retrieval, security, cost, etc., have become vital factors in taking any kind of decision.
Today, the IT industry sees automation and hardware as a big opportunity in the government sector. But, my take is that the second phase of IT reforms will be driven by document management systems, given the increasing digitisation of government processes. This will be the future way of working even within the government where one distributes or sends documents/ papers electronically and prints them only at the point where it is required. So within the government sector also printing would get decentralised and the work-flow would become electronic, thereby generating a much greater need for many more decentralised output systems.
The simple principle used in document management solutions is that customer interface and decision-making needs to be as local as possible, while processing of any information is as central as possible.