No matter how many meeting cycles you go through, a manual, paper-based agenda management process never seems to get easier. Last minute changes translate to hours of work for overburdened clerks, plus money wasted on reprinting massive packets of paper.
Want to know what you can do to supercharge this process? Read on for five paperless ways to assemble, distribute and publish meeting agendas.
1. Store and Share TIFF Files
File format must always be taken into consideration when working in a digital environment. TIFF, or tagged image file format, is a widely preferred format for two reasons: TIFF files can be read on nearly any computer and they can also be protected against unauthorized editing. These two characteristics ensure that TIFF files can be shared easily without compromising their integrity.
From an investment perspective, TIFF makes sense for organizations because it is an open file format, and therefore not vendor-specific. Catherine Fair, Director of Energy Assistance Programs at a Minnesota-based nonprofit, explains why TIFF made sense for her organization:
“Vendor lock-in is a big concern for the IT department. If you choose a file format that’s controlled by a single vendor, you invite a lot of unnecessary risk from both an IT and an information governance perspective.”
2. Allow Online Access to Agenda Items
Municipalities can better serve their tech savvy residents by posting city council meeting minutes and related documents online. Providing this information through a web-based portal—usually accessible through the municipality’s website—eases the burden of searching for paper documents, increases resident self-sufficiency and improves residents’ confidence in government transparency. Not to mention all the happy trees you save by “going green.”
The City of Saco, ME, summed up the benefits of an online portal in four simple words: online, not in line. “We had a vision of public documents available 24/7 without ever having to wait in line again,” says City Administrator Rick Michaud. The city implemented document management software and built an online portal called “Find–A–Doc” to help its residents find information and enable city staff to be more productive.
3. Make Your Meeting Agenda Mobile
Unless your council members think lugging around agenda packets counts as a workout, they’d probably prefer a lighter, more compact method of viewing agenda items. Digitizing agenda packets is the first step toward that goal; accessing those digital documents on a tablet is the second step.
A mobile application for digital document management can include useful features for council members, including page annotations, sticky notes and quick navigation between pages. Multiple people can also access agenda items simultaneously on their respective devices, streamlining council meetings.
4. Work Less with Workflow
Replacing paper documents with electronic ones saves physical space and reduces printing costs, but without an organized approach to managing those electronic documents, you don’t save much time on everyday processes. Business process automation routes documents from person to person, sends notification emails and files documents in appropriate folders—with minimal human effort and maximum time savings.
The City of Thousand Oaks, CA, automated its entire agenda management process with business process automation software. Agenda item submitters and reviewers enjoy a much easier process now that hardcopy documents don’t have to be edited, approved and compiled together. And because the software tracks where every document is in the review process, managers can monitor the progress of agenda items and the productivity of their employees.
5. Combine Computer Applications
Agenda management software as a whole can greatly improve manual processing, but it can be challenging to find one solution that meets every demand (and, of course, if you’re going to invest in new software you want it to be as cost-effective as possible).
Fortunately, many agenda management tools are capable of being integrated with each other, giving municipalities the best of both worlds. This is especially helpful for municipalities that have already invested in one agenda management system, but want the benefits of another. For example, Granicus, iCompass and NovusAgenda integrate with Laserfiche to offer municipalities complete document management from creation to archival. Integrated systems also have the benefit of limiting data entry and re-entry, as documents can be seamlessly moved from one system to another.
Want to learn more about agenda management automation? Get your free copy of the new eBook, “Five Steps to Agenda Management Automation.” and get started today!