Budget effective ways to move to digital processes

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Keeping in mind that our budget dollars are earmarked for providing programs and services to meet public demands, what are some ways we can more easily make the move from paper to the electronic world without expensive tools?——————————
Bonnie Caven
Manager, Records Management
Government of Saskatchewan, Ministry of Justice
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You could speak with your IT department and ask them if they can set up a shared drive that will contain folders and PDF files In the folders. However, you need to be careful as to how you create the meta-data for the PDF file. Both the folders and the PDF files within it are searchable through the general search feature in the drive. Your staff can scan the documents either directly into the drive using appropriate software or to a desktop to be transferred to the drive. However, it would be a great investment if you were to contract a vendor to do this work for you.

Additionally, aside from the drive, if you had a records management software your staff can scan the documents and file in the software then provide access to the database to various departments To specific categories they are authorized to research and download documents from.

provide access to various departments.
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Jose Rosado
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That’s a very broad question with a lot of possible responses.

First of all, instead of looking at how much it will “cost” to do something, determine the cost of not doing something.  Costs might include labor costs for opening mail, filing paper, off-site storage, etc., or they may be risk factors associated with compliance, or they could be operational costs, like the costs of manually processing records for your clients, responding to audits, etc.  In what way(s) are your precious budget dollars being wasted due to inefficiency?  Where are you at risk of losing funding for non-compliance or incurring fines and penalties?  Nobody knows your organization better than you.

Once you’ve determined the problem, you absolutely have to have executive support to move forward with investigating potential solutions to your problem(s).  If not, stop now.

Once you have that support, you can start narrowing down your options, which may range from storing scanned and electronically created documents on a shared drive, to implementing a full blown premise based ECM solution.  In-between are a lot of affordable cloud based solutions to help you organize your records and change workflows to optimize productivity.  Many of today’s cloud based solutions require little to no IT support and there’s often a minimal amount of up front expense.

Going the “cheapest” route can often be more costly in the long run.  If you have multiple people scanning records into a shared repository that doesn’t have proper taxonomy rules and access privileges enforced, it can result in documents being indexed in ways that make them hard or impossible to find and you may expose confidential information to unauthorized users.  We’ve seen more instances of this than I care to think about.  The cost of fixing a “digital junk pile” will usually exceed the cost of getting things right the first time.

Define your problem, identify your internal experts and see if they have a solution, and consider reaching out to the local vendor community for help.  A good vendor will work with you in a consultative way to help you define the problem(s) and identify a solution that fits your budget and your needs.  It’s going to take some time and effort, there’s no “easy button”, but if the need is there, it’s worth the effort over time.  Otherwise you’ll continue to die the death of a thousand paper cuts!

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Greg Mennegar
Senior Vice President, Sales
Spectrum Information Services NW, Inc.
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Thanks Greg, some excellent considerations. I like your comments of the cost of fixing a “digital junk pile”, and the cost of not doing something.

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Bonnie Caven
Manager, Records Management
Government of Saskatchewan, Ministry of Justice
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@Bonnie Caven,

To add some Canadian-specific weight to Greg’s comments of the potential costs of NOT investing into appropriate technology as well as practices for managing records properly:

I had the opportunity to put together the enterprise strategy and framework for Enbridge for their ECM and RM​. This was post “Marshal Incident”. Prior to this incident, Enbridge had a grand total of 8 people across the 5 companies that make up the group that were identified as having ‘records management responsibilities’. After being publicly lambasted for an utterly dismal ability to provide accurate, authoritative, and complete records to the EPA and NTSB, Enbridge finally settled with $177M in fines and penalties, plus around $22M in legal costs, plus about $1.4B in cleanup and remediation costs, and estimated internal costs of $60M+.

In other words, our own Canuck version of PG&E!

By the time I worked with Enbridge on authoring those deliverables, the dedicated (FTE) records management staff had been grown (by directive from the CEO), to more than SIXTY (60). I like to think of THAT as the cost of not doing proper records management. And that does NOT bring in the ongoing soft costs for the vast amounts of time spent by staff and and other stakeholders looking for content, verifying it’s currency and authoritativeness, recreation of content, rework due to information and data inaccuracy, staff frustrations, and on and on. You could even throw in guesstimate costs for things like low glassdoor ratings from staff that exceed their level of tolerance with the organization’s unwillingness to address the information management issues, and what that means to inability to attract good talent. Apparently there are some calculations that your HR folks may be able to help you with on that aspect.

Since you’re with MOJ, there may be some really significant inertia from your director and above levels under the concept that, as a ministry, they are not at the same risk as a heavily regulated private industry org like Enbridge and therefore don’t need to pay RM much attention (and therefore budget). And, while I can’t say they would be explicitly wrong, even the DOJ can have their feet held to the fire by Federal Court, the Supreme Court, the Legislature, Parliament, and, ultimately, the electorate. I’ve worked with a fair number of gov’t entities in this country (across all 3 levels) and haven’t yet met an ED level person that wants ANY sort of negative attention from their minister (or above!).

If you are interested in help to address this, feel free to ping me, Bonnie.

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Lorne Rogers
Vice-Chair, ISO Trustworthy Content/Document Management
President/Senior Management Consultant
Aria Consulting Ltd.
http://ariaconsulting.net
info@…
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Lorne,

That’s a great example of the importance of records management.  Interesting that you mention HR records and energy companies.  It reminds me of a project we did a few years ago.

A large energy organization was faced with the challenge of providing timely access to personnel files (within 30 days of a request) from a paper file room with thousands of records and a staff of one person.  This wasn’t the only driver, they wanted to go paperless in the HR department to improve security and access to records, replace paper forms with electronic forms, automate processes, and integrate with their legacy ERP system.  We digitized thousands of personnel files and worked with a partner to help them go completely paperless.  They realized a number of returns on their investment including greater staff efficiency, improved compliance, and reduced risk.

It took a lot of planning and up front work, but it completely transformed their HR operations.

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Greg Mennegar
Senior Vice President, Sales
Spectrum Information Services NW, Inc.
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