The Municipality of the District of Guysborough in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada was incorporated in 1879 and had been using paper records ever since. While this may have worked in the past, it began to cause problems as the community grew.
The municipality is home to two provincial parks, Boylston and Salsman Provincial Parks, and it was having trouble responding to document requests in a timely and cost-effective manner. Why?
- Documents were very difficult to locate as employees would have to go to storage to find them and manually look for them. These documents were not stored according to any consistent records management system;
- Employees would spend a significant amount of time searching for files, especially when there was a complicated request and a lot of disparate documents were asked for. This was a significant drain on resources;
- If a document was misplaced or not put back correctly, it became nearly impossible to find. If a particular employee had a document then that employee would need to be tracked down so that the document could be retained. If they had left the organization or were on vacation, this became even more time-consuming;
- Some records could be very old or damaged and would have to be repaired before showing them to the requester so that they would be legible.
More importantly, workplace stress and difficulties were a constant concern.
- Employee time wasted. Employee hours were spent solely on searching for and retrieving documents. This employee time could have been much better spent serving the almost 5000 residents of the municipality. Government workers are often already overworked and searching for documents means that there are other, more important, tasks that are often pushed aside;
- Morale drain. Everyone will agree, this kind of process kills morale. Spending countless hours on tasks such as going through hundreds of records to find the correct one makes employees loathe the workday. Less satisfied employees are less productive employees and also more likely to leave the job. Employee turnover is an issue because recruitment and hiring are expensive processes;
- Negative PR. A more negative perception of the government by constituents who have to wait an extended amount of time for responses to their results. A bad public image can be fatal to a government and if this becomes a common problem then the government may even be replaced come election time.
The municipality realized that these issues needed to be mitigated and reached out to the market leader in deploying enterprise content management (ECM) solutions, Ricoh. Ricoh recognized the problem and decided to digitize all of the municipality’s documents and store them in a secure repository with an intuitive folder structure. Ricoh’s knowledge of local government processes means that it understands which records are important and which are not. Thus, critical items could go into the new system and were digitized while valuable time wasn’t wasted on records that may never have been looked at again.
Almost immediately, Guysborough saw the net effect:
- Search and retrieval became seconds instead of hours or days. Employees now find documents by simply typing in keywords. This simplified process has saved Guysborough significant resources in terms of employee hours, as well as potentially improving morale and reducing employee turnover, previously devoted to search and retrieval tasks;
- Elimination of the need for storage space and the costs of maintaining the paper records.
Ricoh has an expert level of familiarity with the legislation on compliance requirements across many different provinces and organized the data so that the retention requirements of the records were clear. This meant that records which currently fell under retention requirements were not able to be deleted. The new process is very secure and employee documents requests can be logged. This data can be used to further optimize the process as the system learns which records are most requested. Records are electronically stored so there are no issues of records being inaccessible because of people being unavailable to address issues.
Moving to an ECM system is a wise long-term decision because it means moving forward, everything will be properly managed. This process proved to be very effective for Guysbourgh and soon after it was implemented, a request came in where the municipality was able to produce 11,000 documents in 45 minutes. This example represents a task that, prior to the implementation of Ricoh, would have taken a number of months and likely tens of thousands of dollars to search. This was just one case of Ricoh saving Guysbourgh money and time. Into the future, it is expected that Ricoh solutions will add even more benefit. Guysborough recognized that it had a problem and made a wise decision in employing Ricoh to fix it. If your government is facing similar issues you should contact Ricoh as well and make your search and retrieval practices lightning quick!
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