Workflow systems in public administration
More and more government institutions decide to use modern information systems lately. Old solutions are being replaced with innovative tools in order to optimize cases and document management. There is a multi-functional tool that can meet all offices’ requirements and support work on many levels. It is a workflow system.
A workflow system is a tool that essentially has to fulfill two basic tasks – support and automate the processing of documents and support management.
Many public administration units can benefit greatly from implementing a process automation tool. However, the traditional organizational structure that often occurs in public administration can be a challenge while changing to process approach to operations. Fortunately, more and more managers working in government institutions take into consideration the modern way of managing work that includes defining, simplifying, standardizing and automating processes.
Workflow system for government institutions – how does it change the way of working?
The implementation of the workflow tool in a government office can bring many benefits. Providers continuously develop intelligent functionalities. Thanks to them, outdated procedures give a way to systems that provide:
- modern management method – after implementation management changes from structural to the one based on processes. The change increases performance and causes dynamization of processes, which directly contributes to greater quality of services and thus greater customer satisfaction;
- automated document flow – automation of registration, labeling and archiving of documents thanks to OCR functionality (optical character recognition), enables automatic recognition of information and inserting it into the system;
- control over the status of tasks – thanks to constantly updated tables and reports, it is possible to easily monitor work and progress on many levels – in all the departments, units, teams or check progress individually for every employee;
- documenting employee activities – thanks to constantly updated tables and reports, it is possible to easily monitor work and progress on many levels – in all the departments, units, teams or check progress individually for every employee;
- easier workload planning – thanks to full documentation of incoming queries and the current load of individual employees, it is easier to plan the organization’s functioning in subsequent periods.
Public administration units can gain a lot by using a workflow system. However, one can encounter obstacles while implementing these types of tools. A survey conducted by the Civic Network (Sieć Obywatelska) in 2019 in Poland. shows that 30% of the surveyed offices generally do not respond to requests for information that are sent by email. That is why it is so important to integrate the system in a way that allows it to become the main channel of document processing leaving behind binders, folders and piles of paper.
Problems one can encounter while implementing a workflow system are:
- information and technological inconsistency of public IT systems;
- legal acts that are not adapted to new solutions;
- the use of non-electronic forms of information exchange;
- procedural errors in tenders for the implementation of ICT systems.
Two types of systems
Large amount of personal data or data related to cases are processed in government offices on a daily basis. All activities related to the creation, receiving, sending and storage of documents within the organization are called office instructions. When the way these activities are performed is defined, it is called the office system. Traditionally, one can distinguish two types of such systems:
- journal system,
- non-journal system.
In the journal system, registration takes place continuously, i.e. with the recording of each step in a given case. Then the non-journal system does not record individual documents, but only settling of the case.
Regardless of the system selected, the workflow system records all actions automatically. A detailed register is created continuously while employees exchange information with each other. The managers can choose the level of detail in data logging.
Documents and data registered in the government office
Both data regarding correspondence and its senders are saved in the register. Data such as:
- date of receipt
- type of document
- document subject
- way of sending
- the date on a letter
- number of attachments to the letter
- deadline for reply
- symbols appropriate to the case
- case start date
- letter’s identifier
- settlement description
The system should be fed (manually or automatically) with data about the sender (if it is not in the list of contractors), such as NIP (tax identification number), whether it is a natural person, name and surname, REGON, address.
Though not all documents that are sent to the office need to be registered. Often there is no need to register letters that are publications, such as magazines, newspapers, posters, announcements, prospectuses, training offers. No wishes, thank you notes or invitations have to be recorded neither.
After all, there is a large amount of data that has to be entered into the system. This increases the risk of human errors. The workflow management tool must allow at least partial auto-filling of information forms based on incoming correspondence or attachments.
Workflow system in public administration – benefits of implementation
The implementation of a workflow system in an administration office can bring many benefits to every such a unit. Although the integration or change of old systems may seem difficult and time-consuming, there are systems with dedicated modules that significantly reduce implementation time.
A good solution can help with:
- saving time by automating repetitive and routine tasks,
- automation of analysis for decision making,
- automatic archiving of letters and documents,
- easy access to information from virtually any device with a browser,
- faster information flow.
The workflow system helps not only with handling cases
Handling incoming, outgoing and internal letters is the main task of such a tool. However, there are many other areas of the office’s operation that can be handled simultaneously. For example, it can be a great help while handling processes related to human resources. The tool can support the handling of vacation requests, working time registration, on-boarding, off-boarding, business expenses management or delegation accounting. IT processes can also be handled with a workflow system. It can help with incident handling, authorization or ordering new equipment.
Security is another area workflow tool can make more efficient. Since each of the offices has to act according to the GDPR General Data Protection Regulation, a workflow system can handle it at a time. It can help with managing privacy, providing the required rights to data subjects and make GDPR-related processes much simpler, measurable and more effective. The workflow system can support processes such as the register of consents, the register of processing activities, the register of data transferred outside the administrative unit and many others.
The workflow system allows for gaining control over all documents. It protects them against damage, destruction or loss. Thanks to automatic reading and creation a lot of time can be saved which later can be spent on other tasks e.g. on better customer service in case of complex customer matters.