One Minnesota commissioner board has recently taken steps to improve meeting processes by switching from paper packets to an electronic solution.
The Steele County Board of Commissioners implemented a workflow management system designed to improve the board's transparency while removing paper from the meetings, according to the Owatonna People's Press. The system is being used by board members in order to condense massive agenda packets that regularly run over 100 pages. One recent packet totaled 164 pages. The length of the agendas made copying them for each member of the board an extremely lengthy process.
"When you produce 10 different copies, and then other copies that are requested, that gets to be a little bit spendy," Tom Shea, county administrator, explained to the publication "Then, on top of that you duplicate the same information two, three, sometimes four times because you have the staff initiative, you have the policy committee, then it might go to finance or HR, then it would maybe go to the Committee of the Whole, and then the board."
The reason why the board switched to a paperless solution
The county board of commissioners was in search of a system that would allow them to generate the massive agenda document once, and send it to each of the board members without ever having to print. With the new system, the workflow from agenda generation to meeting is completely electronic. With the program utilized by the county, all of the information contained within the agenda packets is organized.
Without the need to copy the massive paper agendas over and over, Steele County staff are able to generate new documents repeatedly at a rapid rate, and move them to where they need to be without taking an actual step. With everything so easily organized and copied, the board is able to save a significant amount of time and money by avoiding the need to copy hundreds upon hundreds of pages per meeting.
What Steele County's new system offers
The ability to effectively organize, move and regenerate documents that number close to 200 pages has the potential to vastly improve workflow. For example, if someone is looking for a specific item on the agenda, it is easy to find despite hundreds of pages.
"You can see the table of contents of everything there, and click on an item and go right to that without having to scroll through it," Shea said. "With [our old system], you had to scroll through the whole thing before you could find what you were looking for, and you really didn't know what you were looking for. It's to improve transparency."
County commissioners received a demonstration of the system last September, and it went live this month, the Owatonna People's Press noted. Not everything will change though. A PDF copy of the agenda has been available with the county board calendar for the last three years, and it will still be offered.
The new technology implemented by the board of commissioners also offers the option for lice streaming, in case it is decided that a meeting should be displayed for public viewing.
"They could timestamp the agenda item with the video, so [the public] could follow along," Shea explained. "It's very user-friendly."
He added that the City of Bloomington and Ramsey County have also utilized the system for their benefit. In fact, local government branches cross the country are adopting document storage solutions in an effort to make business processes such as meetings more efficient.
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