How Laserfiche Workflow Increased One Community Action Agency’s Ability to Help Others
Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties is a state agency that runs the largest low income home energy assistance program in Minnesota. This organization helps people who are struggling to pay for heat and basic utilities.
“In 2009, we had more than 25,000 active applications stored in 30 extra-deep, four-drawer filing cabinets,” explains Catherine Fair, Director of Energy Assistance Programs at the agency. “Due to State regulations, we need to keep past applications on file for three years, so we had even more paper stuffed into two on-site storage rooms and an off-site storage garage.”
Paper files slowed staff down, but they also complicated the energy assistance program’s twice-yearly audits. Fair explains, “As a State agency, we’re regularly audited to ensure that applications are accurately processed. Files are randomly selected by the auditors, and it was a daunting task to find the ones they requested among 25,000 others! Something had to change.”
Fair began researching content management solutions and found that Laserfiche’s name kept cropping up. “The tech sites I visited all mentioned Laserfiche as the industry standard for government organizations.”
Fair notes that Laserfiche Workflow, a business process management tool that enables organizations to automate manual processes, was a major factor in their decision to purchase Laserfiche. “We knew that automating our application approval process would make us more efficient and accelerate our ability to help households in need,” she says.
Laserfiche’s use of the TIFF file format was another big point in its favor. “Laserfiche stores files in the TIFF file format, which all computers can read,” says Fair. The IT department at the agency wisely steered them away from closed-file formats like PDFs. “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.”
After researching its options, the agency settled on Laserfiche Avante, an ECM solution for organizations with fewer than 100 users, from Solbrekk, a Laserfiche reseller in Minneapolis. This model fits their needs since multiple staff members frequently need to access the system at the same time.
“Another important feature,” says Fair, “is that the functionality and appearance of the Laserfiche user interface is similar to Windows. The familiarity is comforting for our less confident computer users.”
The agency threw a party to get their employees excited about Laserfiche and created a movie illustrating the way things were before Laserfiche, showing how easy the new process would be. They also provided training on how to use Laserfiche workflow to empower their staff.
Now that Laserfiche has been implemented, the agency is finding that it’s easier to complete the work they set out to do: help people.
“We receive thousands of calls from clients anxious to know if we can help them,” says Fair. “Before Laserfiche, these kinds of calls were hard to field, since staff didn’t have the relevant information in front of them.”
“Today, the calls are much more productive. We can find a client’s application immediately by looking in Laserfiche, and can then let the client know exactly what he needs to do to complete his application.”
The Laserfiche Workflow has also significantly changed things around the office. “By digitizing applications and automating the approval process, we have significantly improved crisis response time,” says Fair. “When an application shows a disconnection in progress, we route the file to an expedited queue simply by changing a template field. We can also sort through income documents much faster to determine grant amounts as soon as possible.”
Fair also appreciates Laserfiche’s security features, such as Windows authentication and named user access. This helps to protect client information, such as social security numbers. “The agency would face hefty fines if we had a breach of data security. With more than 100,000 files in four locations, we were taking a big risk.”
“Laserfiche protects sensitive information while making our business processes more efficient,” Fair concludes. “It has helped us tremendously and we hope that other non-profit agencies that deliver federal programs can learn from our success!”