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A Million Sheets Of Paper Every Day

By Expert Author: Donald Nason

A million sheets of paper every day... that’s the output from the government’s Crown Prosecution Service as highlighted in a number of articles which appeared this week, including in The Independent and The Spectator.

The articles are based on findings in the report 'Smaller, Better, Faster, Stronger: Remaking government for the digital age', which looks at the amount of money government departments spend on paper-based systems and which could be saved.

The report also includes stories of how at the Passport Office, application forms which have been filled in online are then printed and posted back for applicant signatures, and that every day the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea receives two articulated trucks full of letters and paper documents for processing.

The paper has been produced by the Digital Government Unit of the Policy Exchange, a UK think tank and charity set up to ‘develop and promote new policy ideas which deliver better public services, a stronger society and a more dynamic economy’. It proposes that by making greater use of technology the government could reduce department annual overheads by £10bn a year, saving £70bn by 2020 – although The Independent points out that the response from Francis Maude, Cabinet Office minister, was that while he welcomed the report, he estimated savings would be around £1.2bn by 2015.

Various conclusions are summarised in the report as necessary to contribute to these savings. A key recommendation is to:

"Eliminate paper for all interactions within and between government departments."

With over 100 central government addresses around the country, staffed by around 400,000 civil servants, and with 39 percent of the public sector workers interviewed during research for the report saying that they had difficulty keeping track of paper documents, the report’s authors explain:

"Moving paper around the country is slow, expensive and a waste of valuable staff time. Taxpayers deserve better than public servants struggling with mountains of paper and data entry when they could and should be doing their jobs."

A second recommendation reads:

"When it comes to interactions between government and citizens, the guiding principle today is digital-by-default, as set out in the Government Digital Strategy."

Francis Maude told The Guardian earlier this year that virtually all the processing at the DVLA could be done digitally, but that a vast amount was still paper-based and he referred to “huge numbers of people running a clerical paper processing factory."

Document management software can automate document intensive business processes, through from document and data capture to seamless integration of data into clients’ line of business systems, ERP, HR and CRM applications.

eForms provide a simple, cost-effective way of capturing data, and workflow can automate time-consuming, people-intensive processing. Content is available 24/7 – from anywhere in the business – and business intelligence (BI) reports help pinpoint problem areas as well as identify trends and shifts.

By removing paper and manual processing from business operations, organizations can reduce cost, improve efficiency, enhance business control and achieve legal compliance – and in their paper, 'Winning the Paper Wars – capture the content and mobilize the process troops', AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management), says that businesses now put the creation of better records for compliance and audit trail purposes as a more important reason for moving to a paper-free solution even above the faster response and improved productivity gains.

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