City of Charlottesville, Virginia: The Commissioner of the Revenue Office
With the distinction of being named “Best Place to Live in America” (Cities Ranked and Rated, 2004), the City of Charlottesville’s Commissioner of the Revenue Office certainly has a high standard to live up to. The COR mission statement reiterates this merit as they strive to continuously improve themselves, their organization and their processes. When the burden of processing over 40,000 personal property documents every year became too much to carry, the COR office knew something had to change.
“Paper filing took too long to finish and way too long to retrieve—sometimes it would take days to put your hands on a file, sometimes you’d never find it,” said Rosalind Collins, deputy
commissioner of the revenue.
A complicated filing system (by year and also alphabetically) added to the high level of confusion and miscommunication within the office. Temporary help would misfile documents. Employees would not return pulled documents. Multiple copies of documents were made on a regular basis. Employees were forced to move files into storage prematurely causing even less effective customer service.
“Our customers wanted faster service than we were able to provide. As a result, morale for customer service people was very low and frustration felt by all of our staff was very high,” said Collins.
With over 45,000 paper documents coming into the office on a yearly basis, the COR office had a choice to make: expand their existing data entry and system management to an unmanageable level of detail or research and build a better way to manage their documents.
Because customer documents were previously stored and retrieved in paper format, any request for information resulted in the majority of an employee’s time spent searching and searching and searching…sometimes without any results. In 2000, a Laserfiche system was put in place by Unity Business Systems to capture and manage the overwhelming number of documents.
“A scanning process was put in place utilizing Kofax Ascent Capture’s Zone OCR to capture data off of the returns and automatically index the Laserfiche documents. Having the Laserfiche software on the employee’s workstations has helped file retrieval go from minutes to seconds per request, resulting in less labor time and improved customer service,” said UBS Technical Support Director John Geist.
When the COR office began their search for a solution, their main goals were to:
o Save time in document retrieval
o Provide more efficient customer service
o Develop a more reliable filing system (no more lost or ruined documents)
o Achieve the ability to compare document index data to tax data system
Collins believes they have achieved these goals—and then some. “Not only has [Laserfiche] saved us time in retrieving documents, it has also saved us time in depositing and storing those documents.”
Being able to use information from documents in a digital way has also been useful. The COR office can now compare what has been “filed” against their data system for additional information—to validate and to also find what may be missing.
“How would I ever have been able to tell who hadn’t filed a form in any given year prior to our Laserfiche system?” asked Collins.
Digital storage of documents offers not only the retrieval capability Collins enthuses about, but also provides a peace of mind because of the added security. Access and the ability to make changes to documents can all be easily locked down by user and group.
“A filing cabinet, unless locked, is not secure. A file room is not secure because so many people have keys. But a digital system is always secure by password,” said Collins.
Now that departments and organizations are looking into business continuity and disaster recovery plans, the benefit of having a safe, secure, digital back-up of paper files—that are in a non-proprietary format, available over a network from any location and can’t be lost on someone’s desk or destroyed in a flood or fire—is more important than ever.
“We love the Laserfiche product for its reliability, ease of use, quick learning curve and powerful flexibility,” added Collins. “We also love our Fujitsu scanners that, while expensive at the time, have proven their value and worked harder than any of us over the years!”
Now that the COR office has been using Laserfiche for over 7 years, they have improved and streamlined even more processes—using add-on modules and upgrading software. A recent upgrade to Laserfiche V.7 and the Quick Fields suite of products have provided a more solid product foundation and increased functionality.
“It used to be that we hoped to have all of one year’s documents filed before the end of the year, even though the majority came into the office during January and were used for tax billing in April. Now we have files up to date within a week and always before billings are sent,” said Collins.
Through centralized scanning, digital deposit (Snapshot), outsourced scanning and generally reducing the need for paper storage, Collins and company have finally been able to conquer their once formidable paper foe.