City clerks have so much on their plate. Keeping city records. Administering elections. Recording city council meetings. And so much more. They are the glue that holds a city together.
Because the weight of so much responsibility falls onto their shoulders, city clerks need every minute of their valuable time. Yet, many city clerks lose time with outdated filing systems and manual processes.
Modernizing a city’s document management system may get shot down if nothing seems “broken.” Yet, many time-saving elements of a modern document management system can help city clerks do their jobs better and get more done.
Here are five ways a document management system can save valuable city clerk time.
1. Centrally storing documents.
It is not uncommon to find documents stored in a variety of places. Various computers. Various servers. Flash drives. Paper documents in file cabinets. When documents are spread out everywhere, they are difficult to find. What if an employee leaves, goes on vacation, or gets sick? How easy is it to access their computer to find a document? Some people even “store” important documents in email.
A modern document management system allows you to store your documents in a centralized place—one place to view the official, most recent version of a document. In addition, these document management systems provide you search capabilities (similar to using a search engine) that make it easy to find documents. City clerks will be able to access records easier, and in less time.
2. Easier document communication and collaboration.
Sharing emails about a document or record can get confusing, complex, and convoluted. With a modern document management system, you can work on documents together in one place. This allows you to:
- Share edits and comments in one place (rather than in multiple emails).
- Have multiple people look at the document and work together to finalize it, even in real time.
- Restrict access to only those people who you want to view and edit the document.
When everyone is working on the same document in the same place, then you can see all the proposed edits and comments, make needed changes, and finalize the document in less time than if they had to swap dozens of emails back and forth. Plus, you can receive notifications when edits or comments are made on a document you are watching.
Most modern document management systems will also be cloud-based, which means that people can access these documents anytime, anywhere—making communication and collaboration even easier and more time-efficient.
3. Automated workflows (including automated application of records retention schedules).
Automated manual processes not only save time but also greatly reduce the chance for error. It’s easy to overlook the burden of manual processes until they are lifted from you. A modern document management system can help city clerks in two ways:
- Creating structured workflows to reduce errors and make processes more efficient. With so many tasks to juggle each day, it’s easy to make errors by not following the same process each time for a document. Within your document management system, you can set up structured workflows for particular documents that require specific steps, rules, and information that must be followed or the process doesn’t move forward. For example, a city council agenda may need specific items always filled in, the review of the city clerk, and the approval of the mayor. Your document management system can require all these steps as part of the workflow of creating the document.
- Automatically applying records retention schedules to your documents. While city clerks know their adopted records retention schedules inside and out, it can be tough during the daily grind to make sure those schedules are applied to the many, many documents stored by cities. With a modern document management system, you can automatically apply records retention schedules to specific documents so that you can archive, retain, and delete documents. This saves city clerks lots of time and also reduces risk and liability issues.
4. Scanned paper documents.
Many cities still store cabinets full of paper documents, which are time-consuming to file, search through, and retrieve. While upfront time and potential costs are needed to scan your paper documents to convert them into electronic documents, that investment will save you a great deal of time in the long run. Imagine being able to search for all your current paper documents with just a few clicks. Plus, if you use optical character recognition (OCR) technology to scan your paper documents, you will be able to search for specific words in any of those paper documents. No more paper filing and searching through cabinets.
5. Document versioning.
We already mentioned that sharing documents through email can lead to confusion and wasted time because of how difficult it is to collaborate efficiently. A key failure of email-based document collaboration is that you often don’t know what’s the most recent version of a document. One of the most frustrating aspects of working on a document is making edits to what you thought was the most recent version, and then suddenly you receive a revised document that makes your hard work irrelevant because you edited the wrong document.
In a modern document management system, document versioning ensures that you are working with the most recent, up-to-date document. How? First, there is only one current version of the document at any given time. Second, let’s say you’re working on the document. That locks everyone else out until you are done. Then, once you finish, another person can step in and edit the document. This eliminates the problem of multiple people editing different versions of the same document at the same time, which leads to branched, separate documents and wasted work—a big time waster.
If you’re a city clerk who has been too busy to consider modernizing your document management system, know that many benefits await when you do—including lots of saved time. The benefits above may resonate with you if you struggle with paper documents, decentralized documents, manual processes, and confusing email document swaps. All those problems can be solved—and give you back many hours of your day.
Need help modernizing your document management system? Reach out to us today.
Original Date: 6/12/2019