Since 1914 Family Service Toronto (FST) has been connecting families and individuals in distress to counselling, community development, advocacy, and public education programs – and used paper to keep track of its clients for nearly that long.

Three years ago, however, FST found itself in the same circumstances faced by many government-backed agencies, not to mention governments themselves: faced with a declining budget and rising demand, the Toronto-based non-profit had to figure out how it could trim its budget without reducing services, and settled on digitizing its records, which literally spanned hundreds of boxes.

“No one’s doing anything remotely like this… because with not-for-profit or government funded organizations the typical approach is, if it’s not broke, then don’t fix it,” Xerox Canada services and solutions consultant Maran Ravindran, who served as a consultant on FST’s digitization project and submitted the organization for ITWC’s Digital Transformation awards, tells ITBusiness.ca. “[FST] is kind of transforming it for them.”

In fact, like many government agencies FST arrived at its decision to digitize its records after conducting a 10-year cost benefit analysis, which indicated that investing in a digital document management solution would be a good idea, FST CFO Vani Visva writes in the organization’s nomination application.

“To be compliant with legislated requirements for record retention, FST had decades of paper records – client, finance and organizational – stored internally and externally,” she writes. “We could not move them to our new office location, and needed a massive purge. In addition, our Passport program was expanding rapidly, generating mountains of new paper records.”

With support from FST’s senior management team, the organization enlisted the services of Xerox Corp., whose team, led by Ravindran, digitized some 500 Bankers boxes of past and present paper records, storing them in Docushare for easy access.

To adapt their solution to FST’s various record types, Ravindran’s team was careful to design their platform’s file architecture and meta data structure based on the needs of FST staff, which changed based on the documents being processed. Its passport program, for example, is now completely automated.

“Previously, all Passport invoices and receipts came by faxes and emails which were printed, processed, scanned and shredded,” FST’s Visva writes. “Administrative staff did a lot of manual data entry and validations. The whole process was very time consuming and prone to human errors.”

Through Xerox, the organization purchased and implemented Docushare’s “eform” module, Ravindran says, allowing his team to configure and automate the processes. FST now provides secure online access to clients, allowing them to check their budget balances and submit their invoices online.

And to ensure the organization’s new record system remains digital, staff now use multi-function printers and desktop scanners to scan and integrate documents into Docushare, where all client databases are now linked, Visva wrote in her application.

Key to the project’s success, Visva writes, was the support it received from senior management, which included the appointment of a dedicated executive manager to lead the project and numerous consultation sessions. Education was also key, she wrote, with FST holding training sessions for grateful staff, whom she indicated were tired of chasing paper.

Most important of all, however, was the support from Xerox, which she calls “a trusted and supportive business partner.”

“As a not for profit organization, our focus was on improving our internal business processes and elevating our clients’ experience,” Visva writes. “We now have instant access to key documents. We achieved cost savings through reduced space, courier and shredding costs and time spent on locating documents. We now have better security and control, easy to purge through life cycle management, efficient electronic indexing and consistent file naming conventions. We also have reduced audit times and improved compliance.”

Moreover, the organization reduced its passport processing time by 60 per cent, thanks to the elimination of such activities as searching, checking, approving, following up, printing, and shredding, while increasing its service’s accuracy.

“Online client access allows improved efficiency, less staff time on data entry, faster processing and fewer enquiry calls,” Visva writes. “Overall, our client capacity and experience has improved immensely. We received very positive feedback from our clients.”

ITWC’s Digital Transformation Awards will be held on June 14 in Toronto. Be sure to check back with ITBusiness.ca for more nominees’ stories ahead of the event.

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