In a Ricoh-commissioned global survey conducted by IDC, respondents in government bodies indicate there is real opportunity in optimising document and information processes to reduce costs and at the same time improve constituent services.
Survey participants seem very aware they are struggling with inefficient document processes – only 35.9% of government respondents characterise their constituent-facing document-driven processes as efficient and effective, compared to 51.7% of respondents regarding commercial sector customer-facing processes.
At Ricoh, our perspective is that public sector and government organisations are under great pressure to cut costs and improve constituent services, by deploying innovative solutions based on optimised document and information processes.
However, the research also shows that respondents believe optimising constituent-facing document processes would reduce operating costs by 9.1% and non-constituent processes by 8.4%1.
Yet these opportunities for reducing cost and improving service through improved processes have not been fully exploited by the public sector. Paper-intensive document processes, in particular, continue to present significant opportunities for cost savings and improved service. For example, tax refunds and revenue collections are subject to high-profile incidents when not processed in a timely manner or incorrectly because of paperwork errors.
Significant benefits can be achieved by focusing on processes end-to-end, even when they cross over individual, organisational or agency boundaries. A key to success is a thorough and expert assessment of complex workflows to build the appropriate business justification for process optimisation and service innovation.
Government processes are more paper-intensive than processes in the commercial sector, and – despite IDC studies showing that paper-based processes are not necessarily less efficient than electronic processes – government document processes are also less efficient than document processes in the commercial sector. In a recent IDC study, only 35.9% of government respondents characterised their constituent-facing document-driven processes as efficient and effective, while 51.7% of commercial sector respondents characterised their customer-facing processes as efficient and effective. Government had one of the lowest ratings for document process efficiency of any industry surveyed.
Governments around the world have long been striving to reduce paperwork and facilitate improved document management. The U.S. Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, while focused on reducing paperwork burdens on citizens and commerce, created awareness in the U.S. federal government of both the high volume and the high cost of document management, and has been foundational to subsequent efforts to more efficiently manage paper-based processes. Likewise, in 2005, the European Commission issued a decree on the common provisions of document management in public administrative bodies.
However, today, fixing document processes may be less of a priority for government because agencies are under great budget pressure at the national, regional, and local levels to reduce spending. The resulting challenge is how to cut costs while still maintaining current evels of service to the public in the face of growing populations and demands for government services. Optimising existing workflows might seem to be a luxury, but our research uncovers clear opportunities to improve services in a cost-effective manner. Government respondents told us they could achieve significant cost savings approximately in line with savings obtained by commercial sector respondents by optimising document processes. This research finds that there is real opportunity to reduce costs and improve constituent
services at the same time.
This IDC global study was sponsored by Ricoh of 1,516 document-driven business process owners and information workers from organisations of over 500 employees across a broad range of industries. Respondents were asked about priorities, issues, and investments across 23 separate business processes, including customer/constituent-facing processes such as customer communications, sales, and support; back-office processes such as IT infrastructure, financial planning, and asset management; and compliance processes such as audits and business monitoring and controls.
Key findings for the government
- Only 35.9% of government respondents characterised their constituent-facing document-driven processes as efficient and effective
- Only 32.9% of government respondents placed great importance on fixing document-driven processes compared with 43.1% of commercial sector respondents
- Optimising constituent-facing document and non-constituent-facing processes would reduce overall operating costs by 9.1% and 8.4%, respectively
According to IDC, government agencies, even within an austerity context, have great opportunities to drive out costs and reduce spending while maximising service quality to the public. This can often be done by taking a more strategic approach to cutting costs, by leveraging existing technology and supplier partnerships, and with relatively little incremental investment. Indeed, governments can improve citizen services – so that citizens are happy and not frustrated with the services – while still focusing on cutting costs or containing spend. But governments must also overcome another challenge. Budgets not only are often limited but also are usually specific to individual units, departments, and levels of government. Addressing document-driven process issues often requires coordination between multiple departments, jurisdictions, levels of government, citizens, and even outside entities such as contractors.
As a result, governments often take the view that the workflows are too complex to fix. The challenge is understandable, and IDC’s guidance is that the hard work to go beyond the demarcation lines of an individual department or agency and coordinate with other departments and groups to focus on the end-to-end processes will maximise the payoff. Government units might even join forces to develop shared document services (either in-house or outsourced to a third party). No agency (or commercial business) is an island, and some vital document processes do require working beyond an organisation’s four walls.
Finally, we recognise that governments are unable to invest in IT solutions without first building strong business cases with benchmarking. To do so, any government unit can partner with an IT vendor that specialises in optimising business document workflows to conduct a formal assessment to build the appropriate justification.
1IDC White Paper, “Organisational Blind Spot: The Role of Document-Drive Business Processes in Driving Top-Line Growth,” Doc# 234430R, Sept 2012