Unfolding plans 116 – A break through in bureaucracy

Having said that I’d made very little progress with reducing bureaucracy using digital technologies (see me mid-year scorecard Unfolding Plans 100) there has been a flurry of activity.  Thanks to Mark, we’ve finally made some sort of breakthrough.  I said that I’d been banging on about a couple of paper based processes that have really annoyed me and I finally got round to showing him what I meant.  Low and behold within a week there was something in my inbox which would help.

What was bugging me was that I had physically to sign some procurement documents.  In this day and age we could do better.  The guys in Procurement would create all the documents, such as an award of contract, send them to me electronically and ask for a signature.  I (or someone else) had to print them out, scrat around for a pen, sign them, scan them back into the system and then mail them back to where they started.  What happens to them from there I had no idea.  They may have been stored electronically or (worse) printed out and filed.  Who knows?

This kind of bureaucracy gets caught up in a spiral of confusion.  Procurement told me that it was Audit who said the procedures should be set up this way yet Audit told me it was a Legal issue.  It was something to do with the constitution.  Legal, however denied all knowledge and claimed it was a Procurement thing.  Somehow this has got lost in the annals of history.

And what is worse is this kind of perpetual circle gets payed out thousands of times per day.  It is not just with Procurement documents.  It covers nearly every aspect of our daily work.  Even now, someone will be printing a piece of paper and signing it to give someone else permission to proceed.  Who knows how much time is tied up in such process yet at least we have made a start.  How do you eat an elephant? A slice at a time and at last we’ve cut off our first bite.

So this is how it looks like it is going to work.  The documents are posted onto SharePoint and a link sent to the appropriate authoriser.  They check the document and can use a drop down box to ‘sign’ it.  There is also space to add any comment should they feel the need.  Authorisation is provided by your Active Directory log in (which you use as you connect to the systems) but just in case there is any who may be tempted to cheat the system an email is sent to the account of the authoriser.  The document is then stored with the noted authorisation for posterity.

This is good progress indeed.  Already we have enough to show at the next management meeting which no doubt will offer a few suggestions to make it work even better.  The guys in Procurement are excited about it.  It turns out that all this paper is a pain for them as well.  Audit is looking forward to it too.  The only people I need to speak to are in Legal.

This may be another nail in the coffin of unnecessary paper.

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