Technology and forward thinking, a recipe for smarter working

Guest blog By Robin Lewis, EDRM Domain Manager, Bristol City Council

Like a lot of councils, we’re having to think about how we shape ourselves for the future. Nothing ever stays the same for very long and the pace of technological change has not only transformed how we engage citizens but how they, in turn, want to interact with us. If we want to ensure we’re fit for purpose in the digital age, this means making changes to our processes.

A key part of moving towards the future is helping our staff do their jobs as efficiently as possible, and often this can be achieved by making better use of technology.  Wherever possible, our team is trying to think “outside the box”; looking at solutions  we already have available on our estate and thinking about how else their functionality can be applied to allow us to work smarter across the organisation.

A good example of this is how we’re using Ephesoft’s intelligent document capture tool.  Like a lot of councils we’re in the process of rationalising our property portfolio, but as we consolidate the number of offices we work from a key challenge we face is the amount of information still stored in paper format.

We already had experience of using a scanning company to digitise files and extract metadata for specific service areas on a daily basis, but what we needed for this challenge was slightly different – a process that could be used to deal with large volumes of documentation for any different team across the council at short notice.

What we’ve done is turned the process around slightly – staff in the business areas (who know their files best) add standard header sheets to their files containing all the metadata needed.  The scanning company can just scan everything exactly as they receive it and transfer it securely back to us – no need to pay them to search through files for metadata. Our Ephesoft tool is trained to recognise the header sheets, split out the files as needed and send them to the appropriate area in our Alfresco document management system with the metadata attached.  The beauty of this approach is that when a new team comes along needing to digitise files there is very little that the scanning company needs to change – instead we can just train Ephesoft to recognise files for the new team.

As we learnt more about the functionality of Ephesoft we have realised that it could be used to improve the efficiency of many other document-centric processes across the council.  A good example is our spending approval processes, where emailed forms are being now processed by Ephesoft and automatically routed to the correct location in our document management system for onward approval.  The product wasn’t originally deployed for these types of projects, but by thinking differently and expanding the number of use cases we’re helping to maximise the value we can leverage from the tool.

We’re putting down the foundations for a digital future. And everyone, employee or citizen, stands to benefit from that.

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