UK councils automating finance, benefits and housing, but missing out on additional efficiency gains

New Freedom of Information request initiated by Y Soft demonstrates where further productivity improvements can be made in local councils

London, February 12, 2018 – Local councils are missing out on efficiency gains according to the findings of a new Freedom of Information (FoI) request, which discovered that councils are only deploying productivity-boosting software in certain departments. Y Soft Corporation, which requested the information, sought to discover how councils are currently using technology to improve efficiencies, as well as what their future investment plans are.

The FoI request found that whilst 71% of councils currently use workflow tools to digitise scanned documents in some capacity, these workflows are only being deployed in specific council departments, and aren’t being used across the board.

Nick Parkes, Regional Sales Manager at Y Soft says, “The fact that 71% of councils use workflow tools to digitise scanned documents is encouraging and demonstrates that councils understand the benefits that these workflows can bring as part of a digital transformation strategy.” However, when asked what processes have been automated through scan workflows, councils answered:

Finance management – 43% Benefits - 34% Housing – 29% Planning – 20% HR – 7% Council tax – 5%

Parkes adds “Given that almost three quarters of councils use workflow tools, I would expect to see the tools being used both more consistently and also across a broader range of processes. Whilst it’s great that councils are taking advantage of the efficiency gains that can be realised through automated workflows to an extent, there is still a huge way for local councils to go in terms of realising productivity improvements. The vast majority of councils have already invested in this technology and with digital transformation the topic on everyone’s tongues, council’s may have been looking at how this can be part of a wider strategy. They should now look at how they can roll it out across as many processes as possible to ensure they get the most out of their investment, improve efficiencies as much as possible and work towards their digital transformation goals.”

An area in which automated scan workflows can really have an impact is in the HR department, but only 7% of councils using these tools are deploying them. As an example, a local council may need to receive a paper copy of a health and safety form from every employee, but needs to store a digital version of these forms in a secure location. Traditionally, the HR person managing this project would need to scan each form individually, receive it as an email file attachment, download each file, appropriately rename each file and save it in the correct place.

This is a hugely time consuming process, but with automated digital document workflows, the manager will simply scan all of the documents as a batch and through a pre-allocated barcode, each document will be automatically and correctly named and saved in the appropriate place, whilst those who need to be aware of the new document are alerted to its presence.

Parkes concludes, “Real productivity gains happen when automated workflows eliminate time-consuming steps. The FoI results clearly demonstrate that councils realise this, but in order to optimise existing investments, councils should now look at what additional processes they can automate and think about the bigger picture of digital transformation. Local councils should look at both customer-facing processes that can be streamlined, as well as aiming to automate digitisation of paper based documents, in order to truly increase productivity.”

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