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Building a paperless government with digital policy management

Pave the way to a paperless government with a centralized platform to write, review and store policies.

Matthew Moloney February 24, 2023

With the push toward paperless governments, digital policy management has become more crucial than ever. By leveraging cloud-based technologies to draft, review and publish policies, government agencies not only reduce paper usage but also improve the rulemaking process. 

In this blog post, we look at what digital policy and procedure management can do for your paper-free government initiative. 

Key takeaways include:

  • By providing a centralized platform to create, access and store policies, cloud-based policy management reduces the amount of paper agencies generate, improves government workflows and enhances transparency
  • By reducing the reliance on paper-based systems, government agencies can streamline operations, minimize errors and reduce costs

What is digital policy management?

Digital policy management is the use of digital tools in the process of creating, enforcing and maintaining policies and procedures. Policies are a set of guidance documents and procedures that help organizations govern their operations, ensure compliance with laws and regulations and protect their assets.

A digital policy and procedure management system can be an effective entry point to your agency’s paperless project. After all, a centralized solution in the cloud can reduce the amount of paper used in government offices and promote a culture of paperless documentation

Benefits of going paperless in government

For governments agencies, the benefits of a paperless office include: 

  • Increased efficiency. By using digital tools to manage workflows, agencies can access and process data more quickly and efficiently. This can save time completing tasks, leading to a faster and more streamlined operation. As Gartner predicts, by 2025, more than half of all government agencies will have upgraded essential core legacy applications to enhance their resilience and agility
  • Cost savings. By reducing the need for physical storage, printing and other paper-related expenses, governments can save money and allocate their budgets to more pressing needs. In fact, paper forms cost the federal government $38.7 billion annually, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Improved data accuracy. In a paper-based system, it’s easy for information to be lost, damaged or misfiled, leading to errors and inconsistencies in data. By digitizing documents and processes, agencies can reduce human errors and improve the accuracy and consistency of data
  • Enhanced security. Digital technologies can help secure sensitive data, reducing the risk of breaches and unauthorized access to confidential information

Read our interview with former NYC CTO John Paul Farmer to learn how to digitize agencies’ workflows with government software.

Why you need a paperless policy management system

The average policy can take one year to complete, with many governments still relying on paper. By leveraging a suite of policy workflow and management tools such as Esper, agencies have realized a 25% decrease in the time needed to complete the policymaking process.

Esper’s platform is cloud-based, which means you can access it from anywhere you have a computer with internet connectivity. You can leverage Esper to draft, review, approve and publish your policies and procedures. Our solution eliminates the use of paper, makes it easier to track changes and ensures access to the most up-to-date version of a policy.

Watch our webinar to learn how to use Esper’s government workflow management software to streamline the policymaking process.

Challenges with paper-based policy management

A cloud-based platform helps to overcome the following hurdles of a paper-based policy management program:

  • When policies are stored on paper in disparate locations, it can be challenging for users to access them. It can also lead to the creation of multiple versions of the same policy, with different departments or individuals making their own copies. This can result in confusion and inconsistencies in policy implementation
  • Different versions of the policy result in outdated guidance. When policies are updated, it can be challenging to ensure everyone is working with the latest version. The existence of multiple versions of a document can lead to outdated policies being followed, which can be detrimental to an organization
  • Lack of collaboration. With paper-based policies, two people can’t work together on the same document. This can lead to delays in policy development and difficulty in coordinating updates and revisions
  • Manual processes to track deadlines and history of changes. This can be time-consuming, error-prone and challenging to ensure that policies are being updated and reviewed in a timely manner

Heading toward a centralized policy management process

A digital policy management solution provides a practical and accessible way to reduce paper usage while improving the rulemaking process. Top benefits include:

Automated workflows

A centralized policy management process helps to streamline policy creation, revision and approval processes with workflow automation. Stakeholders can receive notifications of changes in rulemaking and new work assigned to them. This automation increases efficiency because you can edit the text, leave comments and view changes in real time.

Single source of truth 

A paperless system in which all policies are centralized in one cloud-based platform helps to ensure consistency and boost efficiency. When you have multiple people working on the same policy, a single source of truth can enhance collaboration and version control, making it easier to track down changes. In other words, your employees won’t need to ask for the latest version of your policies.

Policies on the go

By implementing digital management of policies in the workplace, agencies can improve engagement. Policies can be accessed from any device with an internet connection, making it easier for employees to access the information they need and reducing the need for physical copies to be distributed.

Being able to access the policy library from everywhere is particularly important for remote or mobile workers. Consider the example of the New York Police Department (NYPD), which partnered with Esper in 2021 to move its policymaking process to the cloud. NYPD is the largest police department in the United States, with about 50,000 employees and a manual with 3,000 pages that requires frequent updating.

Giving each NYPD employee a physical copy of these documents would entail an enormous amount of paper. Officers on patrol, for example, need to have a quick and convenient way to access their policies, as they are required to follow specific guidelines to ensure the safety of everyone involved during police-citizen encounters. With Esper, NYPD was able to reduce paperwork and implement a scalable policy management program.

Explore our guide to discover the must-haves in policy management software for police departments.

Compliance tracking

By ensuring that all employees have access to the most up-to-date policies and procedures in the cloud, agencies can reduce the risk of non-compliance, too. Esper’s platform even identifies the last policy viewed by an employee. You can also track:

  • Number of policies searched and viewed by each employee
  • Last policy viewed by an employee
  • Policy length and average reading time 

These insights are helpful to better understand the effectiveness of your policies and track compliance.

Screenshot of Esper platform for digital policy management and public policy software

Ready to reduce government paperwork?

With Esper, you can focus on policy, not paperwork. Our government software makes it easier for agencies to draft, review and share policies. 

Discover why Esper is the best way to go paperless in your policy management strategy. Book a demo now.

Frequently asked questions

What is a paperless government?

A paperless government refers to the use of digital technology—such as cloud computing, digital storage and automated workflows—by government departments and agencies to process, manage and store information, conduct paperless transactions and communicate with stakeholders, instead of relying on paper-based methods. 

The interest in a paperless office strategy has increased with the pandemic and the rise of remote work driving trends of digitization in government. In fact, when asked about their top priorities for 2023, State Chief Information Officers (CIOs) cite legacy modernization (not only enhancing or replacing legacy systems but also improving business processes).

Reasons to go paperless include reduced cost and environmental impact of paper-based processes as well as improved efficiency and accessibility for citizens and employees

What is the Government Paperwork Elimination Act?

The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA) is a federal law to reduce the amount of paperwork generated by the federal government and promote online communication, digital documents and electronic signatures. The goal of the GPEA is to increase efficiency, reduce costs and streamline government operations by making it easier for people to interact with the federal government electronically.

How can government agencies go paperless? 

Government agencies can follow these steps to go paperless:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive assessment of the current use of paper in the office and identify areas that can be digitized, such as forms and signatures, payments and the policy management process. You won’t be able to digitize your entire department all at once, so you need to determine heavily paper-based workflows that could benefit from modernization
  2. Get stakeholder support. Engage with all stakeholders to understand their needs and gather input on the digitization process. You will also have to train your team on the new tools and systems. Getting their support from the beginning can help minimize potential resistance to change
  3. Select the right technology for your needs. You should look not for a vendor, but rather for a partner—a company that truly understands the unique requirements and challenges of government agencies

Looking for a model for a successful GovTech rollout? Read our guide on government software implementation for policymakers.

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