Correspondence Management for Government Agencies
By Kevin Briggs, Director US Federal Business Applications on February 10, 2018
Filed under Microsoft in Government
|Focus on: Modern Correspondence|
Putting tax dollars to good use with cloud-based correspondence management
Government agencies have limited tools to provide timely constituent communication. In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, that’s a big problem.
Citizens are accustomed to the high level of responsiveness and transparency they get from private-sector companies—and they expect the same level of service from government agencies. To meet today’s expectations, federal agencies are looking for new ways to connect with their constituents.
Organizations across government—the IRS, FDA, and Homeland Security, among others—are beginning to replace their legacy document and correspondence management systems with modern, cloud-based platforms that support the realities of today’s work environment.
The systems of yesterday—clusters of on-site, isolated systems that need ongoing maintenance and costly upgrades to meet evolving demands and regulations—brought on a host of challenges.
Key gaps within legacy systems include:
- Little or no automation for assigning actions to the right department, team or person
- No integration with third-party platforms that enable more efficient collaboration
- Limited or non-existent alerts and reminders to keep tasks on schedule
- Missing security capabilities necessary for protecting sensitive information, and compliancy for transferring permanent records to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
For agencies still trying to operate using outdated systems, processes are time-consuming and inefficient. Team members, for example, have to manually process information from a variety of unique sources (assuming the right information made it to the right department and the right team in the first place). Because systems are isolated, employees and managers have no visibility into the massive volumes of correspondence flowing in and out of agencies. As a result, it is nearly impossible for teams to coordinate and enforce rules and policies around information sharing: what information to share, which teams to share it with—and how best to share it.
Disparate on-site systems also severely limit the resources and services agencies can offer citizens. Self-service resources—like help centers or online forums, which reduce the number of basic yet time-consuming and repetitive inquiries from citizens—simply aren’t available unless communication applications are integrated. For the same reason, even outbound communications—like courtesy reminders, declined application notices, or other status announcements—can’t be delivered in a timely manner.
Using automation to improve efficiency, responsiveness, and cost management
The old ways of government business are inefficient and wrought with risk. Modernization efforts must start with a focus on improving efficiency and correspondence lifecycle management effectiveness. To keep pace with changing citizen demands, a rapidly evolving technology landscape, and an unpredictable regulatory environment, government agencies must implement solutions that can:
- automate request routing;
- increase correspondence efficiency;
- and improve responsiveness to constituents’ needs.
Cloud-based correspondence systems are ideal for meeting these objectives because they reduce IT overhead, provide exceptional service, support compliance, and maintain accountability and transparency. Specifically, combining Microsoft Dynamics 365 and SharePoint alongside existing solutions for federal, state, and local organizations provides an agile, efficient, and manageable ecosystem for accelerating service delivery—all while minimizing development costs and reducing security risks.
Microsoft Dynamics 365 shines at managing structured data—such as names, addresses, ID numbers, and other information—by incorporating third-party tools like scanning, optical character recognition (OCR) software, and redaction solutions that eliminate time-consuming and error-prone manual data entry.
While traditionally used as a system for managing contacts and customer accounts, the CRM has crossover applications for government teams. The applications enable automated data uploads to ensure the accuracy and veracity of the data—making case and record tracking much less demanding. At the same time, Microsoft Dynamics 365 supports automated, multi-channel outbound messaging through native integration. Popular email and communication platforms, like Microsoft Outlook or third-party apps, send reminders, approvals, or status updates as well.
Meanwhile, SharePoint facilitates more efficient document management and internal collaboration. It improves service delivery by eliminating constant back-and-forth emailing and providing a central repository for documents and other important content. Each file can be accessed, edited, and shared by authorized users from virtually any device through a familiar Microsoft Office experience, providing unrivaled ease of use.
Automation and simplified collaboration makes time and resource management more efficient and more effective. For example, the United States Air Force alone saved approximately $1.4 million annually by streamlining task management and communication among teams and departments.
In cases with stringent timelines, such as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, robust and easy-to-use dashboards provide users real-time visibility and direct insight into what actions are being taken, when and by whom—improving accountability and reducing missed deadlines by up to 30% within a year of deployment.
A modern communications infrastructure benefits everyone
With integrated Microsoft correspondence management solutions, agencies can enjoy a broad ecosystem of complementary, inter-operable tools that dramatically improve performance, cost management, and security of sensitive information.
For citizens, the benefits are even more pronounced. Anyone seeking assistance or applying for service no longer has to worry about whether their application or submission was received, completed correctly, or processed. They can get the answers they want and access the services they need faster—with fewer layers of red tape to navigate.
By using Microsoft Dynamics 365, government agencies can improve their operations to better balance interactions of people, processes, and documents. In turn, citizens can expect greater responsiveness and agility from the services their tax dollars fund.
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