How Local Government Boards Can Budget for a Records Management Solution
In the busyness of the workday, conscientious government workers often have fleeting thoughts about how great it would be if they could get a better grasp on managing their municipality’s records. Many offices have a rather haphazard approach to storing records, which makes records difficult to locate when someone needs one. Often, there’s no real organization scheme. There’s no consistency with how workers file documents. Documents aren’t very secure. Worse, if there’s a problem, there’s not really even a person or department that’s assigned to be responsible for managing records.
Filing and retrieving records manually is time-consuming and often frustrating due to lack of organization. According to our iCompass survey, the number-one concern for municipalities is having a heavy workload. It was the top concern across every department.
Recordkeeping is a central activity for every department. Most governments recognize that records management is a priority, yet they always seem to be pushing another matter in front of it.
Municipalities that can get over the hump of budgeting for an electronic records management solution and implementing the system will wish they’d done it years sooner. An electronic records management solution is efficient, user-friendly and saves municipalities costs related to managing records within a short period of time.
Cost-Effectiveness of an Electronic Records Management System
The time spent in identifying, budgeting for and implementing an electronic records management system will more than compensate for the time government staff spends in locating documents. Manual systems are subject to human error, which can cause documents to be misplaced or misclassified. Some documents may get lost completely. Our survey indicated that 80% of municipal governments said they didn’t conduct an annual audit of their records management program at all.
We also discovered that most municipalities don’t train their employees in how to manage records appropriately. They don’t review their practices or policies around records management and they fail to assess whether current processes are effective. Most staff just do the best they can with the system with which they have to work.
Not managing records can be costly for municipalities. When citizens request records under the Freedom of Information Act, municipalities must legally provide them within a certain time frame. Local governments can accrue fines if they take too long in providing requested documents.
While FOI fines can add up, municipal governments also have a great risk of falling prey to a data breach. Hackers are becoming savvy to the large amounts of data that municipalities have for their citizens. Municipalities have much to lose in the event of an unsuspecting data breach, which also comes with expensive legal and financial risks.
Points to Help Get Buy-in From the Decision-Makers on Investing in a Records Management System
Efficiency, cost-effectiveness and security are the top issues that surface whenever a municipality wants to add a new service or program. An electronic records management solution by iCompass ticks off every box for the needs of staff as they manage municipal records.
iCompass’s Records Manager incorporates all of the features that municipalities need. Staff can easily upload documents to the system and set the correct classifications, making them easy to organize and easy to find when needed. Records Manager also sets the retention schedules automatically according to regulations, which ensures efficiency and accountability. Files are organized consistently every time. When staff needs to pull a record, it’s as easy as searching through the appropriate electronic file or entering a keyword into the search box. Some municipalities find that certain documents are difficult to store electronically. With Records Manager, governments can manage most documents electronically, and also use the system to manage the locations of paper records stored in government facilities.
It’s much more secure to store documents in the cloud than on databases in the office or in a server room. Cloud storage reduces the risk of data breaches, which are so common today. Records Manager eliminates expensive server costs. There is also less chance of system breakdown, which means that it won’t detract from the normal workflow.
Technology helps government staff work smarter, not harder, and it frees time up for other important duties. Records Manager gives citizens the convenience of being able to pull up documents themselves by going to the Civic Web Portal, which they can find right on the government’s website. We found that about a third of municipalities wanted to increase citizen engagement, and this is a great way to get it started. Records Manager reduces time that staff spends on FOI requests and eliminates the risk of getting fined for not completing them on time.
Records Manager gives municipalities all of these capabilities, which saves time and money. It doesn’t take much convincing to get buy-in for a system that increases efficiency so drastically.
Planning and Budgeting for a Records Management System
Municipalities can expect to make an initial investment in Records Manager. The good news is that the system will literally pay for itself in less than a year. In our communications with municipalities, we’ve learned that just under half of them are planning to implement new technology over the next 12 to 18 months.
Now is the best time to steer the council toward investing in one of the most valuable electronic solutions available for recordkeeping. This gives decision-makers time to plan, coordinate and work new systems into the budget within the next 12 to 18 months.
There are a couple of other important reasons that make planning now for an electronic records management system urgent. Economic times are improving, and it may be more difficult to get buy-in if budgets tighten up later on. More importantly, technology continues to advance. An electronic management system will likely be a basic building block as new technologies emerge. The Internet of Things is making our world smarter. Cities are already beginning to look at how they can create smart cities where government staff can use real-time data for traffic control, emergency response, crime prevention and more. Better internet tools equate to better-informed decisions.
Municipalities have also informed us that they expect to experience staff turnover within the next 10 years. About 66% of municipalities in our survey said that they expect to hire younger, more tech-savvy, workers in the near future.
The reality is that planning municipal budgets takes time. It’s also a reality that investing in an electronic records management system will soon become a necessity because of the need for efficiency and the need for local governments to protect sensitive data. There’s no better time to get the process started than right now, so your government can realize the benefits of efficiency, cost-savings and security as soon as possible.