The transition from paper to pixels is an ongoing challenge for businesses and government. According to a study conducted by the Association for Information and Image Management (AIIM), 68 percent of executives believe that “business at the speed of paper” will be unacceptable in just a few years.
One organization that embraces this thinking is Oneida County in New York State. “Paper deteriorates, burns and can be damaged by water,” says Anne Hartman, director of central services in the county seat of Utica. “It’s expensive to store and manage it, and it reduces speed and efficiency.”
Oneida County, with a population of approximately 235,000, currently operates a large warehouse with more than 7,000 permanent boxes, as well as other facilities that contain thousands of cabinets’ worth of paper files and documents. Many of the records date back to the 1800s.
“There are valuable historic records, as well as contracts, forms and various other documents that we are required to keep by statute and law,” Hartman explains.
Migrating to Content Management
To deal with this challenge, the county is migrating to a Laserfiche enterprise content management system sold by reseller General Code. The project, partially funded by the New York State Archives, is now going live across the county.
The District Attorney’s office, board of elections and health department are already using the content management software, and other departments and agencies will soon follow suit. In courtrooms, for example, the technology eliminates the need to transport paper, and it makes files available on computers and iPads.
The goal, Hartman says, is to scan and convert existing paper documents to electronic records, while adding automated workflows for newly generated electronic documents. That includes built-in routing and approvals, with a timeline and an audit trail. “We are attempting to reduce interoffice mail and email and build in a much higher level of efficiency,” she says.
Oneida County is converting the existing paper records into TIFF images. It’s a multi-year project that relies on both staff and outsiders to handle the scanning. In addition, it is using a forms package within various agencies, including local police departments and the D.A.’s office, so that reports and investigation information will be collected and stored electronically rather than on paper.
Hartman says that the transition to an enterprise content management system will allow the county to repurpose or sell an existing records center and perhaps save as much as $20,000 a year on environmental controls for the building. The system provides a high level of security, including the use of authentication and encryption. In addition, the software is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
The shredding and destruction of paper records will take place at a very deliberate pace. In some cases, it will be done under the supervision of a court.
“We are attempting to move into the digital age and ensure that documents and forms are handled and routed in the most efficient way possible,” Hartman says. “We want to make sure they are preserved and backed up so they cannot be destroyed.
“The end goal is to run government more effectively and to provide benefits and savings for agencies and taxpayers.”