With public sector organisations under ever-increasing pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency, an effective document management system is proving to be part of the solution to this ongoing challenge.
It’s well known that these are difficult times for local authorities, health organisations, police authorities and other public sector organisations as they are forced to do more with less. The combination of drastic cuts in funding and rising demand for services means the public sector has to look at everything it does to see where resources can be used more efficiently and savings can be made.
These organisations are increasingly seeing the benefits of moving towards a digital workplace, including moving files and paperwork online and introducing intranet software to manage these documents, therefore saving both time and money. One of the most obvious gains in doing this is the money saved in storage costs. Rooms of filing cabinets, paperwork and records take up huge amounts of space, and this space costs money. Also, it is often the case that organisations don’t have the space to store all of their records so are forced to send it to storage companies to hold instead, and this costs them even more money. This means it’s much more efficient for organisations to invest in a document management system that allows them to access their data online, therefore freeing up this valuable space in their buildings.
Of course, saving time means saving money and by having paperwork stored electronically, it’s possible to retrieve the information that is needed much more quickly than the old-fashioned method of having to search through boxes of records and filing cabinets, often without knowing for certain that what is being looked for is even there. Plus when external storage companies are being used, this also slows down the process as there is a delay while waiting for documents to be retrieved and delivered to where they need to go. Similarly, document management systems also make searching for specific documents easier and quicker through the use of searches based on criteria such as keywords or phrases, creation dates, subjects or authors.
Data Protection and Security
Electronic document management also means public sector bodies are better able to fulfil their information management and document retention responsibilities required under legislation such as the Data Protection Act. It makes it easier for them to track what data is being stored, whether it’s up to date and whether it needs to be destroyed. Equally, it can improve responses to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act, making it possible to identify relevant documents much more quickly so that it’s easier to meet the request deadline and also help to ensure that nothing important is missed in the response.
Document security is also improved when an online management system is in place, especially when a full digital workplace environment has been introduced and fewer teams are office based. It means that when employees are working remotely, or visiting clients for example, rather than have to take paper files and documents with them, they can access the documents and information they need online through a remote device. If the worst happens and this device is accidentally left behind, because it is password protected and encrypted it is far less likely to cause a serious data protection breach or a confidentiality issue than if paperwork has been lost. This is particularly important because public sector organisations are often dealing with highly sensitive data, such as child protection or social care information. Document management systems also provide an audit trail so it’s possible to see who has viewed a file and who has edited it. Plus, by using electronic copies of documents it is much more difficult to completely lose a document as there is usually a back-up.
Effective business continuity is vitally important in the public sector as so many of the services they provide have an impact on everyone’s day to day lives and their work affects some of the most vulnerable people in our local communities – it really can be a life or death situation. In the event of a fire or flood, for example, having all of their data and files stored electronically allows them to get back up and running much more quickly than if their documents were destroyed in the emergency. Also, if an office building has been damaged, intranet software can allow staff to work remotely, from home for example, whilst also giving them access to the information and documents they need to keep doing their job.
It’s clear that moving away from on-site paper storage and introducing a document management system instead can make a huge difference to the operations of any public sector organisation looking to improve its own efficiency, save money and reduce the burden on its resources.
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