Only 15% of local councils have plans to invest in workflow solutions according to a new Freedom of Information request. The request was made to discover how councils are currently using technology to improve efficiencies, as well as what their future investment plans are. Y Soft Corporation, which requested the information, believes that the results paint a worrying picture for productivity levels in local councils, and is indicative of the levels stated for the UK as a whole.
The Office for Budget Responsibility has repeatedly, and inaccurately, predicted that productivity growth would return to pre-crisis levels. However, by October 2017, it stated that it was preparing to downgrade its initial estimates.
The Freedom of Information 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, dealing with benefit requests, filing council tax, etc. Furthermore, only 36% of local councils are increasing their IT budgets next year, and a mere 15% have specific future investment plans for scan workflow solutions.
The fact that such a small percentage of councils are increasing their workflow solutions shows that there is a lack of awareness of the impact specific technologies can have on productivity improvements. If current productivity levels are so frequently labelled ‘poor’, why aren’t more councils considering boosting productivity with technology that allows workers to do an existing activity more efficiently? I often come across organisations not realising the true benefits of digital workflows. Many often simply scan to email – a process that still requires a lot of manual input and doesn’t take advantage of the full scope of digital workflows.
Automating certain processes through software removes the waste of human resources that involve time and money. These processes have the ability to improve productivity by removing the chance of human error, and by providing a return on investment in terms of workers hours saved through efficiency.
A recent report from AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) found that the three biggest drivers for scanning and data capture are improved searchability/shareability of business documents, improved process productivity, and reduced physical storage space.
Automated document workflows are an effective solution to combat lacklustre office productivity. Office based admin is a notorious drain on time and resources, and digitising workflows across councils in the UK would streamline time-intensive tasks. Activities like scanning, uploading and emailing large amounts of files – something that is particularly evident in local councils.
It comes as no surprise that the Autumn Budget focuses on increasing productivity through technology when looking at the small number of councils planning on investing in workflow solutions.
Robert Chote, chairman of the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) recently stated: 'The fall in business investment during the financial crisis – in both intellectual property and physical assets – has depressed productivity growth.'
Councils should be looking to boost productivity levels, following the OBR’s report. The freedom of information request has yielded intriguing results, and councils may come to realise that the answer to productivity lies in the solutions they choose to invest in.