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Improving Government Software with Collaboration Tools

 

Document management can be overwhelming for government agencies under normal circumstances. Now, with much of our workforce suddenly operating remotely, effective collaboration between employees across varying locations may seem impossible. 

While adapting so quickly to a remote work environment is certainly a challenge, especially in an industry with so many documents and forms to manage, it can be done.  This is especially true if the agencies in question are willing to consider innovative solutions to their existing software problems.  

According to GCN, adapting to a new normal after the current pandemic will “require smarter data sharing and cross communication between agency mission leaders and top IT managers.”

And, while the circumstances government organizations are currently operating under are certainly new, the desire for a more collaborative software system for government employees is not. 

In 2017, a  Government Business Council (GBC) survey found that federal workers were eager for more modern and effective collaboration tools to get their work done, share content, and increase productivity.

The ability to manage documents effectively across varying locations is, in fact, something that federal workers have sought for some time. In the GBC survey, 96 percent of respondents said they used email to communicate with team members in various locations. Another 45 percent used text/chat services, and 29 percent used document sharing.  So, what’s held government agencies back from making these long-awaited improvements? 

One survey respondent explained, “A huge problem is the inability to share large files or documents externally. We are restricted—due to security concerns—from using Dropbox or similar services; but that makes collaboration very difficult.”

Legacy software and processes may also play a key role, as existing technology infrastructure makes the prospect of change seem far too difficult and expensive. And of course, budget limitations have made it challenging for agencies to contemplate the move to a better system. 

 


The Search for Solutions

If government agencies are hampered by limited budgets and outdated legacy systems that restrict collaboration, what can be done to improve existing software systems for an unanticipated remote workforce? 

The current work-from-home environment demands that government agencies find a better way to manage documents, forms, and files. Fortunately, adding document management functionality into an application can be easier (and more affordable) than you might think. 

Rather than building new software from scratch (an expensive and time consuming prospect), application developers have the option of implementing digital document workflows using simple functionality integrations known as SDKs and APIs

Many workflow functionalities can be easily integrated to improve existing government software, including:

  1. Document Lifecycle Management: Creating, editing, sharing, approving, and converting documents to searchable file types can be time-consuming for government employees across departments. By standardizing these application-embedded document activities to a single interface, government organizations can accelerate workflow-related activities like eSignature approvals, annotations, and OCR of scanned files.
  2. Government Forms Processing: Public sector organizations must manage data collected through a multitude of forms. Forms such as court cases, license applications, and invoices can adopt standardized fields to aid in the conversion process. 
  3. Enhanced Applications-Based Document Routing and Approvals: Government organizations using Citizen Management apps to negotiate contracts with redlines and redactions can perform these tasks more easily in a single application. Workflows are visually trackable, so a document can be quickly rerouted. 
  4. Document Viewing, Annotation, and Redaction: Simple integrations can enable users to view, annotate, and redact information without using third-party applications like Word or Adobe Acrobat Reader. This enhances application security and facilitates project-related document collaborations.

Remote collaboration remains a challenge for government organizations, but if our current circumstances have shown us anything, it’s that the time to upgrade outdated systems is now. With the integration of powerful, self-contained tools such as SDKs and APIs, government organizations can boost document security and streamline key processes more efficiently and cost-effectively.