A Freedom of Information request finds that local councils are not realising productivity improvements through automated workflows
A third (32%) of local councils in the UK have had their IT budgets decreased in the past year, and a further 21% have had their IT budgets remain the same. This is according to a new Freedom of Information request, which also found that only one fifth (21%) of local councils have future plans to invest in workflow solutions, representing only a 6% increase on the same findings from December 2017. This demonstrates that councils are still missing out on significant efficiency gains in various departments, according to Y Soft Corporation, which requested the information.
Freedom of Information requests were sent to 78 local councils across the country in order to discover how workflow tools are being used to improve efficiencies such as digitising scanned documents and the benefits that these workflows can bring. 64 councils responded within the given time frame.
James Turner, Regional Sales Manager at Y Soft says: “This hold on increasing IT budgets could be the reason many do not have plans to invest in workflow solutions, but this will, unfortunately, slow down any wider digital transformation projects. Automating core processes through software helps councils save money, improve productivity, increase security and improve the accuracy of their data by removing manual input errors.”
He goes on to explain why automated workflows are particularly valuable within the local government space: “A good example is the fact that councils are required to archive specific documents so that they can be searched and retrieved for years to come. By using an automated workflow with Optical Character Recognition (OCR), paper documents are converted into searchable PDF/a, suitable for long-term preservation, and are routed to the correct location in the document management system repository. For someone processing a number of these types of documents, this saves huge amounts of time, enabling them to focus on other, more pressing activities.
“Furthermore, when you consider the time taken to retrieve documents in multiple, disparate DM systems – reportedly taking up to 2.5 hours per day per person, causing frustration and delays to projects – it has to make sense to automate and control this as much as possible.”
Through the research, it was found that 61% are currently using workflow tools to digitise scan documents, which is promising, despite the lack of plans to invest in the technology further. However, the research also found that they are being deployed unevenly throughout various departments.
When asked what the most commonly automated processes were, councils answered:
- Finance management – 41%
- Revenue and Benefits – 38%
- Planning – 15%
- Council tax – 9%
- Housing – 9%
Comparing these results to the previous request issued shows that there has been a slight decrease in the use of automated workflows when it comes to finance management. While Revenue and Benefits have increased by 4%, Planning has dropped by 20% from the previous request.
James adds: “These results indicate that there is clearly still a lack of awareness and understanding of the various applications of digital workflows in different departments and the impact that these can have on productivity improvements. Councils, therefore, need to work harder to be more consistent and maximise their investments across various departments, enabling their workers to get away from laborious tasks, improve their daily routines and help improve morale and retention.
“Automated document workflows are an effective solution to improve productivity in any office environment, but especially within local councils which have many process-heavy tasks. Administrative tasks are often time-consuming and draining not only for the council but on employee’s productivity and wellbeing. However, with automated digital document workflows, an employee, for example, can simply scan all of the documents as a batch and through a pre-allocated barcode, each document will be automatically and correctly named and saved in the appropriate place, whilst those who need to be aware of the new document are alerted to its presence.
“Councils should be looking to take advantage of technology to really boost productivity and eliminate time-consuming tasks. This Freedom of Information request clearly demonstrates that while councils have already started noticing the benefits, they should now look at additional processes they can automate and think how they can achieve their digital transformation goals.”
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