Government agencies have been using an in-house document imaging service for some time. Paperless processes save time, money, and resources; something that the federal government recognized some time ago with the passage of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995. Document imaging services are playing a more important role now than ever before, not only helping government agencies reduce the amount of paper they are generating, but also ensuring privacy and secure record-keeping as well as more efficient workflow and data storage procedures.
Industry estimates are that companies make on average 19 copies of every document. It costs $20 to file a document, $120 to find misfiled paperwork, and $250 to re-create lost paperwork. Professionals tend to spend about 10 percent of their time reading documents and 50 percent of their time trying to locate those documents. Government agencies that are concerned with efficiency have found that employing a document imaging service eliminates those costs by creating digital documents that are easier to organize, file, and share without getting lost.
So as with any operation, government agencies benefit from using a document imaging service to reduce the volume of paperwork and create greater paper-handling efficiencies. But what other benefits does document imaging offer to promote a reduction in government paperwork?
The Drive Toward Paperless Government
Government agencies can’t operate without paper, and while you can reduce government paperwork creating paperless government is probably unrealistic. Paper is still very useful, and provides a universal format that can be accessed by anyone without requiring a computer screen or batteries. When all else fails, people return to paper because it is reliable and provides a stable means of recording and sharing information.
If you understand that paperless government is not the goal, then you can approach offering a document imaging service with a different perspective; one that complements existing paper processes in a way that adds value and security. Paper and digital information work in tandem so information can be made available in whatever form is best suited to the task.
The Value of a Document Imaging Service
Even where paper processes are well established, there are specific areas where digitizing paperwork can be a huge benefit to government agencies, offering:
- Greater productivity from personnel who no longer have to hunt for paper files.
- Portability of documents via e-mail, electronic file transfer, and other electronic means.
- Better document collaboration within a department or between agencies
- Effortless archiving to secure digital storage media.
- Remote access to authorized users.
- Better security and disaster recovery.
These are just a few of the obvious benefits of document imaging.
For government agencies, being able to convert paper to digital format makes it easier to share or secure. Digital paperwork can be easily distributed for review, approvals, or even posted to the web for public comment. At the same time sensitive paperwork can be digitized for storage on a security-hardened server. Electronic files are the perfect complement to paper processes.
Security and Document Imaging
Naturally, security is one of the biggest motivators for government document imaging services. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, has multiple protocols for document management as part of national security. To support the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS), Homeland Security is required to temporarily store APIS information, and it needs to maintain records for its Global Enrollment System for trusted travelers. Without digital paper processes that information would be impossible to access in a timely manner when it’s needed most.
The National Archives also uses document imaging as part of its processes to protect paper records while making scanned images available for review. Many historic documents, rare prints, and fragile paper materials can be preserved by scanning them and using the digital images instead of the originals. Using scanned versions of documents also protects the originals from natural disaster or deterioration due to ultraviolet exposure.
These are just a few of the considerations that government agencies consider when assessing whether to use a document imaging service. Government bureaus have the same concerns as any organization dealing with paper processes, plus the added concerns of regulatory compliance, security, and transparency in sharing paperwork with other agencies and the public. When approaching any government agency about adopting a document imaging service, it pays to do your homework to not only determine what prequalifications may be needed (such as being listed on the GSA schedule) but also what specific concerns that department is facing in dealing with their paper processes.
What’s your first step in selling document imaging services to government agencies?