Broadly defined, digital transformation encompasses all the activities and processes of integrating and adapting digital technology for new and existing business workflows. There is no department or objective within an organization that wouldn’t benefit from the overall intent of digital transformation initiatives in any industry. However, public sector entities can benefit from modernizing and automating their processes and accessing their data.
Here are five key use cases to guide, help and support digital transformation efforts to better serve constituents and government employees:
1. Mailroom Automation
Automating workflows for manual mail ingestion, processing and sorting represent the enormous potential of digital transformation efforts for large governmental agencies. What could be an incredibly time-consuming, human-driven series of steps for moving incoming mail and all its associated data to where it needs to be within the organization can be streamlined for cost and time savings. Technology for automated mail identification, sorting, indexing, classification, data extraction, document routing and application integration touches all aspects of digital transformation: workflow automation, application interoperability, advances in machine learning technology, and more.
In early 2020, the Department of Veterans Affairs embarked on an overhaul of their mailroom operations on their path to modernizing the agency. What was once an entirely human-driven workflow was replaced with centralized operations, high-speed scanners, intelligent document processing and data extraction and automated mail packet routing. A crucial component of this revamped workflow was the method by which incoming documents were automatically recognized, data was extracted, and information from the forms used to power the workflow process.
Another example is a large, federal agency that modernized and centralized their mailroom and correspondence processes as they were handling over 61 million pages annually. Deployment and processing time went from hours to minutes, they increased productivity and they were able to scale operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
2. Digital Modernization
The top priorities for the DOD’s Digital Modernization Strategy are: Cybersecurity; Artificial Intelligence; Cloud; and Command, Control and Communications (referred to as C3). And in the wake of this global pandemic, it is likely that government agencies will see an increase in IT cloud spend while departments transition from in-office work policies to remote work with an emphasis on work-from-home protocols.
To support a scalable, flexible work environment, intelligent capture solutions needed for the first step of any digital transformation project can be hosted in the cloud, hybrid or on-premises. Automating public sector document-centric processes in the cloud offers flexibility with the benefit of business continuity and without the added burden of server management.
3. Internal, Agency Operational Efficiency
Internal operations – rather than externally provided services – is an area ripe for digital transformation. According to KPMG’s report Digital Transformation in the Public Sector, “improvements to organizational efficiency, processes, intelligence, visibility, and worker development” are a priority for agency survival and growth.
Roughly translated, state and local government agencies identified the need to transform their internal operations before they’re able to offer improved or innovative services to their constituents. One example of operational improvement is re-thinking the Procure-to-Pay process. Whether public or private sector, all businesses are subject to the pains of processing invoices and vendor payments. Having repeatable, complex workflows in procurement or accounting departments are ready for a digital transformation-style makeover.
Unfortunately, more than half of all KPMG’s report survey respondents cited limited funding as their main concern that digital transformation initiatives would fail or never launch. The strains on government offices as a result of the pandemic are sure to exacerbate budget concerns. However, by overhauling procurement and accounts payable processes with automated invoice processing and digital payment approval workflows, public sector organizations could turn AP into a profit center.
4. Becoming a Smart City
Commonly defined, a smart city is a municipality that utilizes electronic Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to collect data and then use insights gained from that data to manage assets, resources and services efficiently. If digital transformation implies the drive toward application interoperability and data standardization, smart city initiatives walk hand-in-hand with digital overhaul efforts.
Collecting data from devices and sensors are merely the first challenges in a many-stepped process of using data to enact change and efficiencies for a city to the benefit of its businesses and residents.
Take traffic cameras and street light sensor-tracking of foot traffic, as an example. The data rendered from this kind of technology allows businesses and city planners to accurately identify highly trafficked areas in a city for the purposes of sidewalk enhancement, business permit applications, and more.
But without a data analysis tool like a Business Intelligence application or other analytics engine, that data is useless. Strategies must be in place to incorporate unstructured data from documents and records to gain insights, otherwise governments will not have a comprehensive view of their information to make informed decision making. Intelligent content capture tools fill the gap to provide crucial and supporting data for governmental processes.
5. On-boarding and Background Investigations
As is the case with commercial organizations, government agencies must contend with the repetitive, often manual processes of employee on-boarding and applicant vetting. However, in federal agencies where information security and privacy are of great concern, the vetting and background investigation process for new employee on-boarding can be rigorous and onerous.
For instance, applications for any high-to-low levels or secret security clearance needed to be cleared upon tentative acceptance to a government job. To start, the applicant fills out Standard Form 87 (SF 87) and supplies the myriad of supporting documentation required for information corroboration. After reviewing the application, comparing it to provided information, running background checks and vetting the supplied applicant data, the human resources department possibly organizes in-person interviews and phone calls to corroborate personal histories, and more.
It can be a lengthy, tedious process with an enormous amount of paperwork, all of which must be maintained and archived in perpetuity. But what happens if the application is a duplicate? How far down the path of background investigation does an agency go before realizing that an application has already been vetted? What happens if there are undisclosed links to previously denied applicants? Employing some combination of intelligent capture technology, case management and collaboration solutions save government agencies time, money and resources on the whole on-boarding process
Federal, state and local government agencies are the foundation of our society and culture. By eliminating burdensome processes and tasks, the public sector can focus on larger issues facing the country. Using technology to access data and accelerate responses to constituents, vendors, applicants and other stakeholders will ultimately benefit society, communications and create more meaningful work for employees.
Campbell is the Director of Business Development, Global Consultancies & System Integrators at Ephesoft