A Clerk’s Guide to Getting Council and Staff Using a Paperless Agenda
I started my position as an assistant in Corporate Administration at the City of Revelstoke in the summer of 2009. I was immediately overwhelmed by the amount of paper being used for the distribution of agendas. At that time there were Committee of the Whole agendas, Council agendas as well as In-Camera agendas for both meetings. I was required to assemble and photocopy 22 copies of each agenda for Council and the Management Team. I also recognized that other departments such as Development Services, Finance and Parks, Recreation and Culture were creating separate Committee Agendas with additional paper copies. The amount of paper was unreasonable and I was determined to find a more efficient process.
Considering a Semi-Manual Approach
I straightaway embarked on a better way to serve Council and management. Intuitively, I began to design a system that would reduce paper using PDF’s and email. However, I was still not convinced that this was the best solution so I continued to research software programs. During my research I received a call from iCompass. To my delight, the company not only offered paperless agendas but a way to store records, take minutes, organize follow up, manage tasks and make documents available to the public. I was very excited, but with the changes I had already implemented there was not much of an appetite for both the fee involved and further disruption.
Getting Buy-In: One Step at a Time
After some contemplation, I decided that instead of trying to sell the whole package I would present it in increments. After much persistence and a few carefully crafted presentations I was able to convince the administration team to try Meeting Manager. My sales pitch included; if we could get all the departments to use the same agenda template and store reports in the same spot – we would accomplish moving forward with transparency and better communications with clean, consistent agendas.
Implementing the System
I was successful! We signed on with iCompass purchasing the Meeting Management Solution and the process began, at which time I invited Administrative Assistants from each department of the City to attend the training sessions. However, having everyone in attendance for the training sessions and getting everyone to use the software was a completely different story. There were many excuses from “I don’t have time to change everything” to “what I do works perfectly fine.”
Again, I was forced to think outside the box, so I decided that Corporate Administration would spearhead the changes by converting Council Agendas, Administration Committee Agendas, and the Administration Staff Meetings onto iCompass’ Meeting Manager, setting the example and demonstrating the advantages. This idea worked and soon other departments started using Meeting Manager, with Corporate Administration assisting with support and training. I used the same format to incorporate the Minutes Module into Corporate Administration first, and other departments followed suit with support from Administration.
At this time we were still printing some agendas for Council but I had completely converted the Management Team over to the electronic agenda format. Management would view the agenda online and print only the reports they required.
In 2011, Revelstoke hosted a local government conference and I invited iCompass to attend and present their new app AgendaNotes. I asked the new Chief Administrative Officer to check out their demo table. He was completely convinced! Soon after, iPads were included in the budget for the next year for both Council and the Management Team.
Going Completely Paperless
Having been successful with two of the modules, I identified a need for improved communication between the Administrative Assistants. The CAO and I established a monthly Administrative Assistants meeting, where everyone would meet to discuss how to improve communications between departments using standardization and how the other modules of iCompass software could benefit each department. The meetings have been very successful and other departments are now using the Follow-Up and Action Tracking Modules. These tools help us to track action items following a meeting and ensure reports meet our design guidelines.
I am proud to say the entire organization is now on a paperless meeting management system. With this accomplishment I have increased efficiency, streamlined communications and saved the City of Revelstoke money!