On a recent visit to a customer in the public sector, the conversation turned to the topic of paper. The team we spoke with admitted that their facilities housed the equivalent of 15 football fields worth of documents.
Can you picture it? I’d guess if you can, you probably work within the state and local government and education (SLED) market.
In a world of mobile boarding passes, telehealth, and ChatGPT, it’s no great secret that the public sector has fallen behind in the push toward digitalization. Paper-intensive SLED agencies are notorious for and hindered by robust, physical archives.
At least part of the hesitation to start a paper-to-digital journey are some persistent myths that I’d like to dispel.
Myth 1: Paper is best practice
That paper records have long been the lifeblood of the public sector is unsurprising. These physical archives once were the only means to maintain data about the people, places, and things that comprise our society—from tax filings and land deeds to environmental statistics and police reports.
Paper-first might once have been the best practice. Today, however, paper records present a growing threat to security, to progress in improving citizen service experiences, and to the data contained in the documents themselves.
Many paper archives are stored in poorly-maintained facilities, vulnerable to everything from an innocent misfiling or spot of mildew to something as dramatic as a fire or a flood. Relying on a physical location and a manual filing system to maintain these sensitive records makes them vulnerable to unauthorized access. All it takes is a door left ajar or a key misplaced.
At the same time, the lack of a digital copy of these records presents significant challenges for authorized individuals looking to access this data and utilize it for reference, planning, or insights critical to optimizing value delivery to citizens. This is particularly true as employees across industries continue to migrate to more work-from-home and hybrid models.
In short, for many agencies and organizations still reliant on their paper records, the risks of not digitalizing are far greater than the challenges posed by the digitalization process itself.