GOVERNMENT TECHNOLOGY/Storing documents
Government employees have always faced the challenge of managing a storm of paperwork. But these days, the storm is more like a cyclone that is quickly spinning out of control for many government organizations. The reason: the rapid proliferation of electronic information and growing regulatory requirements that specify how governments must store, manage and make information available to the public. City and county officials have several technologies and issues to consider when looking for a way to manage electronic information.
Governments today are communicating and providing services electronically, which requires automated processes to manage documents, e-mails, presentations and other content. In addition, the Government Paperwork Elimination and Freedom of Information acts require municipalities to manage electronic documents in ways that make them easily retrievable. Today’s document management systems provide the tools governments need to store and search for documents, and the security and controls to ensure access to authorized employees.
They also can be integrated with collaboration technologies that help people work together online. Collaboration technologies include workflows to automate processes for document changes and approvals; content management software to publish information to a Web site; and instant messaging, online meetings and similar technologies. Those tools make it easy for people to work together with the information stored in a system, speeding communication and decision making. Cities and counties also can incorporate policy analysis and management into their systems, so that as legislation or regulations change, any required alterations in online processes are made to correspond with new requirements.
When planning to implement a document management system, security and disaster recovery are two areas of critical concern. Document management software should be maintained on back-end servers, which provide multiple layers of security for the system. That also makes it easier to integrate the system with office automation software, Web browser software and e-mail. Additionally, with the proliferation of wireless devices and PDAs, cities and counties need to consider the security implications of those technologies and look for a document management system that can offer secure access from them.
Local governments need to establish back-up plans for their document management systems. Having a centralized document management system makes it far easier to back up and restore important files, because there is only one system to back up, as opposed to having files spread across different computer systems or in file cabinets.
The new technologies available today, implemented with careful thought and planning, can enormously improve the way governments manage information, helping them to strengthen internal processes and better serve their constituents. Most of all, they can eliminate the most frustrating activity for workers in any organization: finding the right information when they need it. With the pace of evolution in new document management technologies, there could be a point when seekers will find the right documents without much effort at all.
The author is director of government solutions for Waterloo, Ontario, Canada-based Open Text Corp.