The following article was written by AINS CEO Moe Goswami and is Part 4 of a 4-part series on digital transformation in government agencies and Offices of Inspectors General (OIGs).
To view the original article, click here.
Over the past several weeks, I’ve explored the challenges and risks that digital transformation poses to government agencies and Offices of Inspectors General (OIG). In my last article, I discussed how OIGs have come to rely on email for requesting records for contract audits and how even though email helped make this process a little faster, it actually led to unintended—and costly—consequences. This is the risk of poorly executed digital transformation. Digital transformation is not just about digitizing manual processes the way we tried to do with email. Digital transformation is our opportunity to do better, and industry should empower agencies to rethink their reliance on legacy systems like email and the digital waste these outdated processes create.
Email tried to digitize the process of sending physical records back and forth. But this is antiquated, legacy thinking. We don’t need to “send” documents anymore. When your processes are fully digitized in an end-to-end solution, every stakeholder can work with the same information (subject to access rights) and communicate only what’s necessary. Consider the contract audit problem in eCase’s secure and adaptive audit environment. Rather than send numerous emails back and forth, the auditor could request subject contract records from the CPO or contracting officer with one click. The CPO or CO would then receive a notification of the request via their own personalized and secure environment where they could review and approve the auditor’s access to the requested documents. The approved documents, displayed to the auditor as part of their case file, could then be used for the case and linked to the audit findings as necessary.
When you remove legacy thinking from the equation, you open doors for greater transparency and better results. With emails, just like with hard-copy documents, there are a number of risks involved with regards to data management. But with a platform like eCase, every process and action is automatically monitored and tracked within the system, so nothing falls through the cracks. Agencies no longer have to worry about the liability and bottleneck risks associated with retaining duplicates of the same document within email and other siloed systems.
The Department of Education (ED) OIG has already taken the first steps in this transformation by implementing our COTS audit and investigations software solutions, realizing significant improvements to efficiency, transparency and consistency as a result. Having the same user interface across multiple applications provides a consistent user experience and ease of training. Streamlined time tracking has driven enterprise reporting across the OIG. In addition, because both solutions are built on eCase, ED OIG required a single Authorization to Operate (ATO) which significantly reduced the time and resource burden required to otherwise implement separate applications. The next step at ED and other agencies is to bring the solution to program offices and the agency as a whole. As new applications are added, the agency will continue to realize exponential benefits at a fraction of the cost of other solutions.
Agencies need peace of mind as they invest in digital transformation. With a low-code/no-code platform like eCase, agencies can tailor their systems to meet their objectives and goals without being locked into outdated and siloed legacy processes. Our platform also provides a centralized and secure stage for enhancements, including integrated review, bulk processing, indexing, hyperlinking, analytics, and AI tools (for instance, by pre-marking pre-approved documents for access by auditors). These tools, useful for agency personnel interested in constantly improving productivity and process management, will become critical for maintaining high-level processing and continuity of operations. It’s hard to predict the future challenges that will occur in a digital processing government, but we can at least prepare ourselves with an adaptive end-to-end solution.
Consider, for example, how COVID-19 is affecting FOIA processing right now. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other agencies have and will continue to see a surge in FOIA requests related to COVID-19 response and communications. If agencies operated under an enterprise architecture like eCase (as some do), gathering releasable documentation from all program offices would be instantaneous. And with the addition of eDiscovery tools like FOIAXpress EDR, the agencies could be processing these requests even faster and more efficiently, minimizing backlog and maximizing the accuracy of their redactions.
COVID-19 is just one example of an unforeseen circumstance disrupting government processing in regards to the FOIA office. With eCase, each office can manage and report their own activities according to their needs, and thanks to no-code configuration tools, agencies don’t have to rely on the vendor to configure the software as business processes change and grow.
We understand that security is one of the most important digital transformation concerns, particularly for OIGs. Our company was one of the first small businesses to achieve FedRAMP certification, enabling secure SaaS deployments through our data center as well as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and on-premises. As I explained in my last article, we’re able to restrict and grant access between two separate environments with firewalls and role-based permissions. Our solution limits communications as a one-way transmission through secure services so that an OIG can pull documents from a program office, without the program office being able to go into the OIG environment. Through our experience delivering software solutions for the most sensitive business processes and information, from OIG investigations and audits to FOIA redactions and processing, we have developed a reputation as a strong and capable security partner for government agencies.
AINS is committed to helping agencies embrace the promise of digital transformation. With eCase, you can confidently and securely focus on fulfilling your mission, now and into the future, without worrying about limitations in your IT system. An IT system you barely have to think about? Now that is digital transformation.
AINS, Inc. has provided innovative adaptive case management products and services since 1988. Our case management platform, eCase, is deployed at over 400 installations, including federal agencies and offices, state and local governments, educational systems, health institutions, and commercial customers. Unlike BPM products that were retrofitted for case management, eCase was built for case management from the ground up, enabling faster prototyping and production of solutions across diverse business processes. By leveraging the power of eCase, AINS excels at analyzing client business requirements and quickly configuring (not coding) scalable solutions that adapt to the needs of our customers.