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Publications & Results
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Paperwork. Few words evoke such a negative picture of government operations. Yet government is an information-intensive enterprise with a legal obligation to create and maintain huge volumes of public records. The paperwork problem exists in part because these records are caught up in processes that are antiquated, slow, error prone, and expensive. Document imaging and workflow management systems merge several technologies to convert paper documents to electronic images. However, they are expensive to implement and nearly always require extensive analysis, business process reengineering, and organizational change.

This report presents the results of a prototyping project that demonstrated document imaging and workflow solutions in the vehicle title operation at the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The process of building the prototype answered a range of critical technical, managerial, and organizational questions.

Lessons Learned

The following broader lessons of the project are of value to any government agency considering workflow and imaging technologies:

Business process analysis is an indispensable first step in the design and development of imaging and work flow applications. Much, if not most, of the value of a new system can be derived simply from rethinking and redesigning business processes.

Flexible, modern information tools can be successfully integrated with existing mainframe-based information systems. Adding a PC-based front end to legacy mainframe applications in a client-server architecture can be a powerful enhancement to staff productivity and an effective way to prolong the value of old, but indispensable systems.

Imaging and work flow systems are deeply embedded in organizational context. They directly affect employees, work culture, and work processes. To reduce organizational resistance and improve prospects for success, the people affected by these changes must be full participants in their design and implementation.

Prototyping is a flexible, low-cost, low-risk approach to expensive and significant technological change. Once defined, the DMV prototype was constructed in only four weeks. It gave the agency an opportunity to learn about new technologies, to test the reaction of key organizational units, and to learn important lessons before proceeding to full system design and procurement.

Public demonstrations, presentations, and careful documentation of prototype projects can turn one agency's investment into learning that benefits many others. The DMV prototype demonstrations generated well-informed enthusiasm for imaging and work flow applications and gave many agencies their first thoughtful look at the attendant costs and benefits.